Yoga practitioners are uniquely prepared for activism. (And non-yogi activists could benefit from the practice, too!) The simple integration of breath and movement for mental, physical, and spiritual health establishes an optimal foundation for moving through political turbulence with hope, peace, and strength. And activism is a natural extension of yoga. Often defined as “union,” yoga is the uniting of body and breath, mind and spirit in asana practice. When we are mindful off the mat, we unite our consciousness with our actions. This is referred to as Karma Yoga.
I personally rely on my own spiritual practice or self-care practice to stay openhearted and grounded as I participate in the resistance in my own unique way. In those times where I feel absolutely overwhelmed as I see what is going on around me and want nothing more than to contribute to the necessary healing and change, the yogi in me calls me to step into my own self-care in order to free my energy up to serve others. In these dark times, a consistent self-care practice can help each of us refocus our spiritual lenses to the light, improve our mental and physical health, and integrate purpose into each day. For short-term calm and long-term sustenance, try any of these self-care practices.
Set and Share your Intentions with your Spiritual Community.
Try setting an intention for yourself each week—and sharing it with someone. It could be that you’ll take 5 minutes each day to breathe or to call your members of Congress. Make a deal with a friend to hold each other accountable by checking in each Sunday, say. Or join an online group of like-minded people like The Grit Lab, which helps to support its members with goal-setting and accountability.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Relocate your Breath.
In order to fully be able to resist and serve, we have to breathe—ideally long, sustaining inhalations and exhalations. When we are anxious, breaths are truncated and it is harder to hold on to a sense of calm. So just breathe—there is no special, yogic technique that is required. Just simply notice your breath as it flows in and out in fluid streams of nourishment and release. Noticing one’s breathing can deactivate their stress response.
Stand Up Against the Noise with Silence.
Our society is inundated with news and noise. It is imperative to make the time to indulge in quietude. Your mental health with thank you! By no means does this have to be a meditation session, for just sitting upright with a very soft gaze in complete silence will bring you back into your body and out of your headspace. It can look like this: stay in your car for a few minutes by yourself before racing into another meeting or picking up your kids from school.
Create a Purpose of Clarity.
I’m not necessarily talking your broader life purpose, for thinking that large could potentially overwhelm an individual even more so. Imagine as if your purpose is a small pebble that is tossed into a pond. In your mind, watch your purpose create ripple after ripple. We can all begin with something small such as asking yourself: “what is my purpose for today?” In times of crisis, getting through the day can be a struggle. Consciously determining your purpose for each day is a bright light that provides guidance and reassurance down those paths of uncertainty.
Serve Yourself by Serving Others.
A main source of purpose is selfless service. Seek out ways you can serve others. This can range from volunteering with a local nonprofit to acting with more intentional kindness to people you interact with throughout your day. We all need a little more light and love in our lives.