Is yoga actually a tool of liberation? I mean, I think so. So does Master Patanjali from what I have read, but let's not take it for granted.
A friend of mine sent me an article the other day suggesting otherwise. Yoga was described as a kind of cute navel gazing activity that helps people feel more comfortable with their privilege. If I am honest, that is not always wrong. I still think it's not entirely fair.
I can get with the idea that a person who's end goal in a yoga practice is perfecting their downward dog is not exactly leading the revolution. But, it is probably fair to say that no matter how superficial the reasons are that deliver a person to a yoga practice, most get more than what they bargain for.
Once we begin to still the mind, connect with the body, allow the breath to lead us, align ourselves, disconnect from struggles, we become profoundly better prepared to perceive the world. Being able to perceive the world can feel like turning a light on. When the world becomes illuminated for a person, things tend to change.
We begin to notice our connection to each other. It is unavoidably real. People do lots of different things with that information. Some seek more truth and justice. Others observe the world and carry their observances to another lifetime.
Our practice teaches us to grow roots, dig deep into the earth, find strength and grow in every direction. We take a look at what is in our way and patiently move it one breath at a time. We learn persistence.
The thing that happens in yoga that i think is the most helpful is the way we develop courage on our mats to stay in a moment no matter how difficult. We do things that are physically, emotionally, and intellectually challenging. We learn how to rely on our breath and stay. We learn how to fail. We learn how to come back over and over again. We practice discomfort.
Yoga is about dissolving illusion and living in union with oneself, with god, with each other (all the same thing in my opinion). Each of us do this in our own time with actions that we have the capacity to execute. Which reminds me of another thing that happens when we practice yoga. We become increasingly prepared for honesty, struggle, peace, enlightenment. We spend time experiencing the benign reality of various states of being. We create capacity for power. We also reduce our indifference to that which causes harm.
I practice and teach yoga. When I practice I don't always think of the big picture of liberation. In fact, I try to engage with my thoughts a little as possible. I focus on my breath, my energy, my alignment. I suspend the drama of attachment and outcomes and exist on my mat. When I teach, I offer instruction that I hope lead my students away from the turnings of thought and towards their breath. I hope this allows them to experience their life force, reduce attachment, build capacity, work through struggle and gain strength.
All of that is happening when I teach someone how to root down, balance, expand from the heart and stay with the breath. When I teach those things, I am building and army of liberators. The revolution must happen inside first. We come to our mats and then we take it to the streets.
I believe yoga is a tool of liberation. If you are skeptical, try it.