As I mentioned last week, I have invited guest speakers to write about this month’s theme. This week we are featuring Dianne Bondy, a yoga teacher and a leading voice in the diversity in Yoga. May we keep raising our level of consciousness.
As a person of colour living in North America, I am constantly reflecting on who I am as a person and my role or place within society. Most the time, I feel very isolated and alone as I navigate the up’s and down’s of everyday life in our western culture.
No matter where I go, I am often the only person of colour. As a result, I remain acutely aware of who I am as an individual, what I am personally capable of achieving, and the value that white dominant culture has put on my life. As I watch the latest backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise in popularity of politicians like Donald Trump, I know that North America and the United States in particular, still have a long way to go before achieving any form of legitimate equality for people who represent races or cultures other than the white, straight and cisgendered ‘norm’.
I am stricken with sadness and a sense of hopelessness as I continue to watch the brutalization, stereotyping, killing and villainization of people of colour for no reason other than the colour of our skin. It makes me wonder why it is so easy for us to give up our humanity and succumb to fear and ignorance. I am continually surprised by how people can turn away – doing and saying nothing to encourage equality or discuss the issues at hand. Watching people who look like you die for no apparent reason, without anyone held accountable for the tragedy, is a traumatic experience. A piece of your soul is diminished as your self-worth is continually reduced.
So how then, do we change this? The answers are both simple and yet deeply complex. The process towards change begins with each and every one of us rising to the challenge with a willingness and readiness to start looking deeply within. In the practice of yoga, we call this ‘looking inward’, svadhyaya or self-study.
Self-study involves connecting with the fullest expression of our humanity, both the light and the dark sides of who we are, and then ultimately connecting with the Divine both within and without.
Instead of denying our privilege, whether it be genetic, socioeconomic, or based on our skin colour and gender identity, svadhyaya begs us to lean into our individual bias and ask ourselves why we believe the things that we do.
Start by asking yourself hard questions like: what makes me biased and why do I continue to perpetuate such biases? and how are my perceptions hurting others? Then, after a thorough inward reflection, open yourself up to exploring the ways in which you can actively modify your behaviours so that they are more in line with what the Divine believes is true. At the heart of who we are, we begin to realize that we truly are all One.
In the epic yoga teachings of the Upanishads, we are taught the practices of equality, equanimity, love, and universal connection. We need to embody and personify these qualities if we are going to evolve as an integrated western culture, if we wish to improve the quality of life for all people, and if we are truly seeking to enhance our personal connection to our higher Self or soul. Ignoring the concepts and teachings of yoga philosophy, makes it impossible to end racial discrimination, sexism, ethnocentric egoism, and intellectual slavery to religious dogma and superstitions.
Unless we are willing to make that initial connection within and extend that connection so as to lift each other up, unless we begin to pull the people from the margins back to the center of humanity, unless we communicate with all souls and beings and identify their humanity and value…than our current culture cannot be considered a civilized species. We are not practicing yoga when we fail to recognize our individual biases, when we shy away from the hard questions, and when we neglect to change our behaviours in order to support our brothers and sisters. We are certainly not humane when we continue to do nothing and say nothing as we watch the marginalized suffering needlessly.
So the question then becomes: are you ready to start really practicing yoga by leaning boldly into your humanity? Now is the time to join together and raise our global consciousness. Will you join me?
Meet Dianne Bondy:
Dianne Bondy ERYT 500 – Writer, Motivator, Educator, Yoga Teacher, and A Leading Voice in the Diversity in Yoga, Yoga and Empowerment and Yoga of Inclusion Movement. Creator of the Yoga for All Movement. With over 1000 hours of yoga training in diverse modalities such as yoga therapeutics, restorative yoga, meditation, and Anusara Yoga – Dianne is passionate about including everyone on the mat.
She is the founder and Managing Director of Yogasteya online yoga studio that specializes in creating an inclusive safe space for students of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and abilities to practice yoga.
Dianne has developed Yoga For All Teacher Trainings which seeks to educate and empower teachers on how to teach to all bodies on the mat. She is one of the founding board members of the Yoga & Body Image Coalition. Connect with Dianne on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Periscope.