Guest Blog with Hannah from the Social Justice Training.

I sit here, writing, still embodied by the practice of yin yoga. Three days into the four day training and I feel as though I have opened up new channels in myself and have begun to bridge the two worlds in which I study, both Yoga, and Social Work.


In the yin and justice training, we have been discussing the concept of two opposing worlds, from internal and external, to right and wrong. We have been learning how to understand such concepts as binary, and as created by Western society. Additionally, we have been feeling into the exploration of everything as being fluid, everything as fluctuating, and everything as being in or part of a transition. Yin is an individual practice that, again, to bypass the paradox, is practiced in community, and is perfect for those who are seeking some rebellion.


Yin is a different yoga practice than the usual. Dynamic styles of yoga trend more so toward the reinforcement of tyranny in our systems at a micro and mezzo (individual and group) level of practice. Styles such as flow or vinyassa encompass more so the Western ideas of “getting it done”, and “right and wrong” , or as one woman in our training described as “being a good student”. The combination of yin yoga and social justice aim to decolonize our yoga practices in the West, primarily through recognizing that every person’s experience is different, and that every person, no matter what, has a gift to offer.


Today in “class”, we divided ourselves into pairs and discussed the difference between Sameness and Oneness, each person had 5 minutes to talk about their thoughts on the question without interruption. What I found myself saying was profound, theoretical, and empowering. Yoga, and other mindfulness practices, tend to idealize this concept of ‘oneness’, without actually differentiating between sameness, of which may be very hurtful. None of us have the same story, and to interpret another's story through a biased and personalized lens is egocentric and potentially destructive. I believe that the concept of oneness has a theoretical and mystical resonance.  Oneness may encompass connection, emotion, and relationship, inter/ra personal relationship and our relationship to the earth we live from, and hopefully with.


The yin and justice training seems to be guided by multiple theories. A feminist theory arcs over and weaves through the room filling each breath with a depth of understanding social justice from a lens, that I believe, needs to be the first thing sold in the glasses store down the street. Similarly to the Social Work program I am in, we discuss the differences between equity and equality, honouring that each body needs to be met where they are at, and not necessarily where the individual beside them is. We discuss intersectionality, racism, whiteness, and oppression.


We learn that paradox only creates opposition. There is no need to choose, either love or hate, or to live externally or internally, but to move through it all.


I grew up with a Western perspective of my senses, learning from an early age that just as we can control our thoughts, we can control our emotions. Of course, I still believe is true, however, it is in this mindset that I’ve also learned to avoid my emotions, and be “strong”. I’ve learned to live from my mind rather than from my heart. Chastity Davis spoke of this today in the training as she was presenting on her idea of “heartfulness”. She spoke of the value and importance of mindfulness, and also that heartfulness (her new coined term) needs to be the next step. Yoga has been this for me, I have learned that through mindfulness, or rather, cultivating an awareness of my body, my thoughts, my emotions, etc, I am able to consciously sink into my emotions and allow myself to feel them. It is like writing poetry. Personally,  I write the best poetry when I am angry. Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, it is through feeling that we are able to move through the emotion and come out on the other side. Metamorphosis. Change. Through this process, with appropriate support, we are then not only connected to our bodies on a deeper level, but we are able to take the anger (for example) and use it to fuel our passion that brings us out into the world to take on the injustices. Talk about empowerment!


And then the day of training ended, and as I came out of a deep 2 hour yin practice, I heard Danielle’s voice as she softly guided us to move and feel our mouths, to wiggle our ears, and to gaze into our eyelids.  These are the places where our senses connect from internal to external, where we hear one another,  where we speak truth, and where we see change happen. She then guided us to feel into our entire bodies that are guided by and smothered in senses. It is through these senses that we make sense of the world (no pun intended..).

Acting shapes and playing games in yin and justice. gotta find the balance between the parts. 

Acting shapes and playing games in yin and justice. gotta find the balance between the parts.