June 9, 2020

A message to the White Yogis who say “All Lives Matter.”

“Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.'” ~ Angela Davis


“Not all yogis are yogis.”

The words of my first teacher, Stacey, reverberate in my head.

Years ago, she gave me this wisdom as comfort and counsel as the whispers of ego and greed were beginning to seep through the cracks of a teacher training I was attending.

I am reminded of these words now more than ever as I see, repeated over and over, burned into the optics of my life, and seared into my brain the words, “all lives matter.”

These words are spoken by yoga students and teachers whose lack of melanin stands as a witness to their unspoken and unacknowledged privilege. And as I write these words, my hands tremble from the rage and sorrow that pours from me, a Jewish person and survivor of generational trauma born of fear and hunger and inaccessible resources.

I return now, to the practice. I return to the limbs for support and guidance. May all white yogis follow my lead:

Ahimsa. Non-violence.

The Buddha says it’s not enough to merely be non-violent. We must cultivate a life of anti-violence. Angela Davis says it’s not enough to be non-racist. We must cultivate a life of anti-racism. What is more representative of anti-violence than anti-racism? Standing against the injustice put upon black and brown bodies with such regularity that their names, when listed, overflow our Instagram graphics.

Satya. Truthfulness. Honesty.

We must open our eyes to the inherent racism living and pulsating in the words “I don’t see color,” and cultivate a life of radical truthfulness with “I see you.” I see your color and I recognize that actions done because of the color of your skin irreparably and completely changed the landscape of your experience in this world. An experience that, in my whiteness, I may only observe and never meet in the sinew and fibers of my body, and that is my privilege. To even talk about racism analytically is white privilege.

Asteya. Non-stealing.

It’s time to understand our role now as white people is to amplify melanated voices. It is not our turn at the microphone; we’ve had it for long enough. Just as we can google directions or google a recipe or google a yoga pose breakdown, we too can google how to be an ally and stop stealing the labor of black and brown people with our expectations that they teach us. It’s been four hundred years—it’s time for us to learn on our own steam. To listen. To be quiet.

“Not all yogis are yogis.”

We made a commitment as yogis to be more than the asana, the poses. We made a commitment to practice, to be eternal students. To sit with our discomfort and come back to the sutras. Back to the limbs. Now, more than ever, we must not use the practice on our mats as a magic carpet ride of spiritual bypassing.

To be a yogi is to be a radical. To grasp at the root.

To say Black Lives Matter.


Watch an anti-racism hour with Jane Elliott talking with Waylon Lewis of Elephant here.

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Jenn Armstrong-Solomon  |  Contribution: 155

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