Can Yin Yoga heal the wounds of the world and bring about world peace? Probably not – at least not on its own – but it might be an important complement to other more familiar forms of activism. Allow me a minute to elaborate.
First, you might object and say that, like John Lennon, “I’m a dreamer.” I appreciate that, and while it might sound grandiose and naively utopic to raise such a question, I know “I’m not the only one.”
In a recent Monday-night sangha session, one of the members commented (my paraphrase): “If there is one spiritual community well-suited to take on and explore healing the uncomfortable truths of the world – its racism, its environmental devastation, its entire spectrum of pathologies of consciousness…it’s a Yin Yoga community. What better practice to train people to step into a zone of tolerable discomfort to stretch, and to expand, heal and harmonize their hearts?”
Amen, sister! I’ve long been interested in the relationship between contemplative spirituality and its influence on broader forms of activism in the world. In unanimous agreement with every teacher I’ve ever read or met, I hold the conviction that there is a direct relationship between the pathologies of the human heart (greed, hatred, delusion) and the horrific harms wrought by people upon themselves, upon others, upon animals and the environment… harms that all stem from a kind of “disharmony” or pathology of consciousness.
From its very inception, Daoism has acknowledged this relationship between the individual and the collective, offering a practical spiritual-philosophy that promotes collective harmony through the cultivation of inner harmony. In a sense, Daoism is the ultimate ancient articulation of the modern environmental activist’s bumper sticker: “Think globally, act locally.”
In The Thread of Dao, Dan Reid describes this interrelated axis of personal, political and environmental harmony:
“By bringing order and peace to oneself through non-effort, minimizing desires, and utilizing the course of nature, one will then understand how to bring order and peace to a nation.”
In lieu of sending our world leaders the quintessential Daoist texts, what if a grassroots movement were to take root? What if it’s already taking root? What if a loosely-connected but significantly-populated group of individuals, worldwide, were to practice and realize stillness and peace within?
Perhaps as Neruda put it:
a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps, in a Daoist sense, this grassroots collective might better understand the causes and conditions that support peace in the world.
Back to Yin Yoga and World Peace.
Yin Yoga has always struck me as an exemplary and near-perfect, if not perfect, practice for reliably revealing dimensions of stillness and peace for anyone who practices it wholeheartedly (even if the glimpses are initially fleeting).
- Yin Yoga’s physical stimulation of the fascia seems to optimize the conductance of energy and consciousness within the body, revealing the sweetness of a calm and contented body.
- Yin Pranayama breathing patterns, in turn, help optimize the biochemistry of blood for better circulation and distribution of energy.
- And the heart-mind practices woven into the meditative dimensions of Yin Yoga help settle the spirits, opening the Heart to a unified flow with the Nature of Things, or Dao.
In short: Yin Yoga brings harmony and peace to oneself through receptive relaxation, deep listening, and the compassionate release of unnecessary egoic-resistance to the flowing nature of experience.
And, I know I’m biased, but this is why I believe that by fanning the cool inner-flame of Yin Yoga, we help spread a decentralized and self-directed spirituality that assists healing and awakening the wounded Heart-bodies of the world.
In future letters you’ll find me attempting to flesh out this thesis, attempting to answer this question: Is Yin Yoga an untapped, but mighty, Trojan Horse of contemplative activism?
For now, I’ll leave you with that dreamer’s question, along with an invitation to practice with me below.
- A Functional Approach to Harmonizing Qi with Yin Yoga | Talk with Josh
- My Take on Yin Yoga and Chinese Medicine | Talk with Josh
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