Yoga And Social Justice Teacher Training And Conference At Laughing Lotus SF
By Kelly Krishna Dunn
Laughing Lotus San Francisco is a stunning sanctuary. It was a joy to visit the studio in San Francisco. Laughing Lotus New York City Yoga Center is also a gorgeous gem. It was a treat to meet both yoga studios east coast-west coast.
Joining in for the weekend conference bliss was Jasmine Tarkeshi, Dia Penning and Madeline Harmon along with featured experts in Social Justice and Activism. This transformative 3 day Training and Conference explored main themes of Yoga Philosophy and Social Justice through personal sharing, group discussion, pattern awareness, refining asana, pranayama, meditation and mantra. In order to invoke action, personal shifts and changes, transforming our inner communication and outer practices. We were shown how we can commit and serve our lives to benefit others, such as Seva, that our personal liberation is a mirror in the liberation of our fellow souls, to take steps to heal our communities. Together we created a courageous space to look at privilege systems, bias, and racism. Opening our eyes in ways to see and discuss what was deeply rooted and systemic cultural conditioning, as well as, highlighting practical ways in which we can use our conscious practice and teaching to create social change.
Yoga and Meditation are often looked at as an independent, individual and internal practice. Yet these practices can affirm positive social and personal developments that benefit the greater whole of community and have been instrumental in facilitating social change. The Yoga Social Justice Training offered practitioners and teachers an opportunity to explore various subjects such as sexual violence being a social justice issue. Sexual violence is a social issue and is committed against the most vulnerable in our society. It restricts the ability of people to live fully, to feel safe and to contribute to our world. Being sexually assaulted is not caused by miscommunication, a series of bad luck, or doing something half-witted. It is power-based, and gender-based. A social justice approach allows individual solutions. The criminal justice system is designed to follow, not lead. Although, they can seem well-meaning, ideas for preventions are an essential part of the oppression and most are restrained by the message that some of us have to be in control and some of us have to be controlled. Sexual violence can end and it is the goal of social justice by understanding why it happens, and how it is part of a much bigger system that includes other forms of oppression. Freedom from fear, the promise of social justice.
The Yoga panel discussion included an opportunity to explore the subject of how racism is a social justice issue along with Metta Movement Arts. Artistic Director of Black Lives Matter (#DignityInProcess) and inspired art-activist ChE invited the workshop group into an exploration of how identity shapes the way we practice, on and off the yoga mat. We investigated the relationship between our ancestry, our bodies, and our activism. We reconnected with ancestral tools of movement, writing, and ritual pouring libations, pouring of liquid as an embodied path to liberation. Together we made our way in the medicine of the ring for inter tribal healing and ancestral libation ceremony. An offering to spirit, or in memory of those who have passed on, it is also, an offering to connect with all that is, and to cleanse our hearts. It captures the state of wellness which is to ensure the oneness of all beings and things in the cosmos through preservation of this divine cosmic order which energetically translates to truth, justice, righteousness, order, harmony, balance, and reciprocity.
The ritual’s emphasis was upon maintaining the correct behavior towards all beings and things in the cosmos, and correct relationships with them. Similar to Ahimsa and its aim was to invoke the Ancestors. This led into a community celebration anchored in Afro Contemporary, Black Modern Dance, Step, Congolese Dance, Activism Celebration and Kirtan. The Kirtan was held with ChE, Jackie Sumell, Thea Mathews, Brima Jah and David Boyce of the Broun Fellinis playing sax. It was awakening!
We were also taught Yin Yoga and Social Justice by Dia Tschirki-Penning. This practice brings freedom and is a more meditative approach to yoga. It aims at cultivating awareness of inner silence, and bringing to truth and light a universal, interconnecting quality. It was an opportunity that explored the asana as a safe journey of next step intentions and inner energies.
Thank you Laughing Lotus for such an incredible event.