Bringing Foot Rubs and “Yoga” to the People Who Need it Most: Rich White Republicans Figuring Out the Best Way to Legislate Your Uterus

Just the other day we were spouting insurmountable wisdom regarding the squirm-inducing “politicization of yoga.” But we didn’t know that at the time of writing, a stylist in Tampa, Florida was at the Republican National Convention, setting up a room with purifying candles, mood-enhancing essential oils, and puffy white pillows!

That’s right, kittens. As we speak the RNC is running at full steam, having avoided divine retribution in the form of a hurricane, complete with foot rubs, a little yoga stretching, and tasty delicious food all provided by your very own mainstream yoga lifestyle tradition. Check it:

“Four years ago Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM) and Arianna Huffington partnered to create The Huffington Oasis, a unique, alternative space providing yoga, meditation, spa services, and organic food at the DNC.

The Oasis was designed to provide the politicians, media, etc. a refuge where, instead of grabbing a Red Bull and burger between sessions, they could come to reconnect to their bodies, minds and intentions in an environment providing sustainable methods for grounding, health and healing in an otherwise supercharged environment….

We knew we would want to do this again, but this time we wanted to offer The Oasis at the RNC as well. Everyone, regardless of political convictions, deserves the gifts that yoga and other healing modalities can provide. It was very important to us that these offerings make it to both sides of the aisle.

We are thrilled to be partnering with Arianna again, at both the RNC in Tampa on August 27-30 and at the DNC in Charlotte, NC September 3-6. The reach of these events will be significant, with 16,000 delegates and countless media gathering at both venues. This is not about bringing politics into yoga, but bringing yoga into the political arena.

I believe deeply in the impact it could have.”

Of course, criticizing anything Seane Corn’s Off the Mat, Into the World project does is like yelling at a kid in a wheelchair to move faster. It’s just not done. Although, this morning we’re caring less about conventions of conduct and more about conventions spilling over with white conservatives who wouldn’t know the plight of marginalized peoples if it took a rank hobo-crap on their faces while getting their eyebrows waxed by svelte Tatiannas.

The question as to whether politics has a place in yoga is both debatable and divisive, but mostly it’s just boooooooring. Why? Because typically “bringing yoga into the political arena” tends to involve a lot of spa treatments and acroyoga for delegates and media. Forget about those pesky yamas and niyamas everyone’s always talking about. Shit is dogma, right? Nah, this TIME Inc video from the Oasis at the 2008 DNC is what it’s all about.

OTM’s mission is “to use the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.” Similarly, OTM’s election year campaign, YogaVotes has a mission to “encourage the 20 million Americans who practice yoga to take their values into the public sphere and into the voting booth.” We can’t really see how an appearance at the RNC (as well as next week’s DNC) supports or furthers either mission. Nor do we feel, for very specific reasons mentioned below, that any of this has anything to do with change or eradicating the necessarily murderous idea of Nation States.

Anyway, on the one side you’ve got that tired old argument that “yogis” should offer the teachings to anyone who asks. “Yoga is for all people,” as they blah blah blah say. I’ve said it myself. So, sure. You got me. Fair enough.

Now, here’s the other side (as regarding the language used in the Oasis lit):

1. Comfort -vs- Access
When a yoga practitioner ventures into the territory of homelessness, poverty, and prisons in order to teach the traditional practice of asana and meditation, this practitioner is making accessible something that was previously not. “Trickle down theory” never trickles, but rather recirculates within the dominant social class. However, when a yoga practitioner offers “yoga, meditation, spa services, and organic food” at the RNC, home to one half of the most powerful and influential possible governments in the world, it’s not about yoga, but about comfort. This is about making people who have every intention of f’ing over every woman on the planet have a comfortable time discussing how best to do so.

2. Idiocy -vs- Making Informed Choices
It’s easy, comforting, and safe to assume that Republicans are idiots. Dumb people are supposed to never win, so it lets people sleep a little better at night if Republicans are perceived as dumb. The truth is, neo-conservatives can be mad smart and read a shit-ton!The things they believe are choices in so much as the things you believe are choices. The people getting their front-bodies opened have chosen, after having access to every ounce of information available, to stand behind and enforce political platforms that if implemented will make your life miserable.

3. Helping Individuals Who Need It -vs- Helping Maintain a Political Platform
If a person comes to me in need of help, be it physical or mental, I attempt to help that person. Whether my method utilizes body-centered work, talk therapy/advice, or both, I believe in helping those who ask to be helped regardless of his/her political persuasion. There is a difference, however, between helping an individual and setting up a Swedish Massage venue for the National Front.

4. Ideas -vs- Actions
If nothing else, this is the real heart of the matter. Ideas are one thing. Ideas attempted to be put into action, especially through the political channels of legislation, is entirely another. The significance of the people Seane Corn & co. are helping to make feel good is not based on a difference in ideology. The people Seane Corn & co. are “adjusting into postural alignment” differ from her because they are attempting to make their ideology legally binding for all Americans. This is not about a conflict of interest. This is about concerted efforts to control others and making efforts to become president in order to best and most efficiently do so. By our standards, the politicians actions are a form of aggression against women, racial minorities, and peoples of varying sexual persuasions other than those defined by hetero-normative society.

In closing, it is the belief of The Babarazzi that Seane Corn’s publicity stunt is one of the greatest and most awesomest fuck-ups mainstream yoga has ever accomplished. Female yoga practitioners lengthening and strengthening the minds and bodies of men, who if given the chance would have the uteri of the women attending them put into a governmental vice, as a form of politicized yoga is laughable, and could only come from the minds of silly heads bent on creating more silly head money.

____________________

With (very much appreciated) reporting from Roseanne at It’s All Yoga, Baby.

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49 comments

  1. My uterus and I would like to chime in. I personally do think the current republican ideology and rhetoric is dumb. “We built it.” and “Take the country back.”? Seriously? However, not everyone thinks that way. There are tons and tons of people who align with the republicans, most on fiscal matters while ignoring the bigotry, prejudice and misinformation that goes along with it. So, to be fair, it’s not obvious to all that republicans are dumb.

    I heard Arianna Huffington speak about the Oasis and my impression was different than yours above. I also read the EJ article from OTM saying those who serve us deserve a foot rub – which does seem a bit off – considering a lot of these people do not have my interests in mind: women’s rights, art, immigration and more. However, my impression from Arianna is that the Oasis is as much as a sale as anything else at the convention – an opportunity to expose all attendees (not just the Senators/Govorners/etc) to a different lifestyle and perhaps get them to slow down and de-stress. These are people who DO have an impact our lives and if we can impact them, we take take one more step towards progress. No one is setting up a foundation so that yoga teachers can volunteer for republicans. It’s a convention. Arianna and Seane are essentially lobbying for their interests: holistic life, honesty, equality and more. If a few fat cats get their feet rubbed in the process, so be it.

  2. I volunteered yesterday at the Oasis teaching yoga. The environment was abuzz with new ways to help stay focused, energized, and recharged during a very hectic buzz of photographers, publicists, lobbyists, and government officials. While I only saw a few members of our government, it was truly an OASIS for the free press with shade, A/C, comfy seating, and ways to upload photos, work on editorial pieces, blog, catch up on the latest news from all over the world, hydrate, and fuel up on amazing food. I’m all for spreading peace, love, and yoga to the world. If we fill our bellies with better quality food, treat ourselves with love and more sleep, won’t we make better decisions, represent ourselves and our community more efficiently, and embrace the opportunity to “just be nice” to others around us? Just a thought…

    • Hi, Melissa. Thanks so much for commenting. And, really, I must say that I understand where you’re coming from when you talk about how filling bellies with quality food, getting quality sleep, etc. can lead to better decision making. I’m a believer in that idea as well. However, there’s more to it than often shown.

      There is an assumption within the politicized yoga community, buried deep within sentiments similar to yours, that “better decisions” will inevitably look like decisions to either “save the environment,” “treat women better,” and/or “make more room for diversity in the political field.” Basically, nice “liberal” ideas favorable to many yoga practitioners. The problem with this is that the ideology espoused by the most vocals factions of neo-Conservativism (etc.) is not necessarily that. To think “more clearly” for Paul Ryan, will not necessarily equate to abortion rights for women. Probably just the opposite, actually. Many many conservatives consider themselves “spiritual,” and have eaten their fair share of organic produce. This does not make them more likely to allow Mexicans to find refuge in the US. There are also conservative porn sites, conservative avant-garde art movements, and conservative healthy living regiments. Conservativism is not just poor people eating burgers and drinking cokes wishing some rich yogini would fly out to teach them how to raise their children. That kind of thinking is called “classism.”

      Another thing to consider is that when “yoga” enters the political spectrum, either through discourse or outreach, it enters a field often much larger than it bargained for. “Just being nice,” while certainly “nice” and something I personally like to be, will not cut it once we start discussing and hashing out the insanely complex debates and semiotics of the two-party political system complete with its international interests, debts, military bases in countries you’ve never heard of, and backdoor dealings. It’s a nice idea, but it’s kind of like yoga jumping into a discussion it knows nothing about and then being like, “why don’t we all just do this?!” If yoga wants to play in politricks, which it does by throwing spa-parties for Conservative conventions, than it has entered the political discourse, and made itself available to being dissected in the rich language and discourse of political theory and op/ed.

      And, I promise you, commercial yoga culture will not weather well in that discussion.

      • jorge

        “Conservativism is not just poor people eating burgers and drinking cokes wishing some rich yogini would fly out to teach them how to raise their children. That kind of thinking is called classism.”

        totally…and a conversation that almost never happens within the yoga world either.

        This style of “outreach” which is so common always leaves me feeling a little ill. Look, i mean i’m as down with the 8 limbs as the next yogi but this is based on the assumption that if only these poor ignorant souls could be exposed to the your own personal idea of truth they would somehow be converted and see their faults, leaving the world righteous once and for all. Who finds that appealing and how would this change anyone’s life direction? I feel the same way when the jehovahs show up on my porch….go away, what makes you think i’m not already on my own spiritual journey and searching for god every single day of my life? If i was looking to be saved by you i would come and find you, kthx. I really think that going in with this attitude shows a lack of respect on one hand(whether justified or not) and at best it is seen by the delegates as a kind of fun and silly thing to do on your lunch break, and at worst as obnoxious. I would also agree with the post by linda that if you were looking to serve the people who serve you, how about start with people who are actually SERVING you everyday?

  3. I’m going to side with Nader, Chomsky, Finkelstein, Jensen, Amy Goodman and Chris Hedges: There is no discernible difference between the D’s and R’s, there’s only a one-party corporate party, two different hands feeding the same corporate body. So OTM’s form of “outreach” is not surprising in the least, it’s servicing the same entity… and it’s corresponding demographic groups and income brackets.

    No, not all R’s are dumb. Far from it. It’s folks like Bernard Lewis, Norman Poderhoetz, the Koch brothers , Leo Stauss who set up the ideas and it’s the foot soldiers over at the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Project for the New American Century and the Heritage Foundation who figure out how to put it into practice.

  4. I have no doubt that these efforts are well-intentioned. But the idea that they will help further any positive political change in the world is so naive, it’s utterly depressing. Wake up, people! We’re talking power politics here. There are lots and lots of people who will eat your organic foot, enjoy your foot rub, say “thank you” nicely, and then roll a tank right over you and everything you hold dear without blinking an eye. Being nice to others is great, but it is not political activism by any stretch of the imagination. To even suggest that it might be is unhelpful in the extreme. Sigh.

    • Carol, we agree!. You almost brought a little tear to my eye! I also love the phrase “eat your organic foot…”

      I think we need to leave that.

      • itstrue

        Carol! Yes, my sentiments exactly! Sean Corn and her friends are deluded to think this will have any positive effect. It’s just pampering more rich people and making them feel good. Changing nothing!

        • krishna

          they DON’T see it as activism. they just want their feet in any and every door, their names known, and to be able to hobnob w/ people they think have influence. its disgusting. i am def ignorant of what OTM actually does. i’ve seen some videos and it seems that its seane or that insane sterling lady dancing w/ a bunch of african kids feeling good about themselves. i doubt the african kids need a lesson in dance and music from them? i don’t know enough about their venture to really critique it though.

  5. Linda-Sama

    While I’m all for spreading the message of yoga, peace love dove and all that, but as a veteran of women’s lib marches and farmworkers’ rallies in the early ’70s, this thing stinks of getting into bed with the same people who want to ban abortions even in cases of rape and incest and take away the HUMAN rights (don’t even call it gay rights) of gays to marry. nope, not drinking the kool-aid of this love and lite yoga stunt.

    sometimes it takes a hell of a lot more courage to stand up and stay “hell no, this shit ain’t right” instead of going along with the yoga status quo.

  6. Linda-Sama

    and p.s.: ” those who serve us deserve a foot rub ”

    btw. Ms. Corn, the Repubs don’t serve me because I don’t vote for them. and frankly, she should be telling that to the well-to-do Repubs themselves, that they should rub the feet of the nannies, maids, etc. that they employ. oh wait….they would rather send them back to the countries they came from…..

  7. I’m not sure how I feel about this. As a yoga teacher, my job is to provide yoga. As someone who does yoga, I believe that the practice brings me ease, and helps me be more at peace with the world. As someone who explored mindfulness, I practice sending freedom from pain and the causes of pain even to those who are not close to me and who I may not love or like. That’s part of my mission. I’m not fond of the Republican platform. That’s an understatement. But shouldn’t I serve regardless? I have issues with cops, too, but I’ve been considering putting together a program to teach them yoga, as well, because I believe it will help them access compassion. However, it could just as well help them be even more comfortable with violence and their existing attitudes. After all, it’s about their experience, not mine.

    What I do challenge is the attention being shone on dramatic efforts, rather than the hard work of bringing ease and comfort to those in pain in the trenches. How apropos that on the anniversary of Katrina, with another Tropical Storm barreling towards the coast, all anyone can talk about is the convention, rather than the people whose lives are at stake. I would have a lot more respect for OTM if they parked their Lulu-butts in New Orleans right now, to provide some measure of comfort – or how about some bloody sandbags if you really want to take it off the mat – to the people freaking out there.

    • @The Buffy Project: I think your apprehension makes complete sense and is probably the sentiment of many a yoga practitioner who would just like to help out a little where they can.

      Personally, I think helping individuals who need it, despite political alliance, is a good thing. I also think this RNC stunt is, in fact, a stunt serving to benefit mostly the people making it happen and the greater commercial yoga initiative, which will in turn once again mostly benefit the people making it happen.

      • That captures the spirit of my second point. One of the great things about yoga is that it is personal and almost by definition decentralized. This kind of an effort mostly magnifies the OTM brand. So, congratulations OTM on the advertising coup, but no, you don’t speak for me or for yoga even if I do support the mission. I would have no problem at all if they went there to provide yoga services as individuals. To go in the name of OTM, even if they do support both parties is troubling. Sigh. I guess this means they’re not going to support *my* project now.

        To geek in for a second – anybody remember that moment in The Lord of the Rings when Frodo offers Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) the ring, and she imagines how great and powerful and fabulous she could become? All the good she could do? And everybody would love her and it’d be just superfab? And then she realizes what it would do to her personally and to her mission and she turns it down. Yeah? Nobody? Just me? Anyway, going to close to politics as an organization is a little like that. Power and influence are great but they come with a steep and unavoidable price.

        Geek out, y’all.

  8. As much as I try to see the world through non-dualistic glasses, I can’t help but feel that providing aid and comfort to the opposition is taking being “nice” just a step too far. As a yogi, I don’t feel it is my responsibility to go out of my way to be kind to bullies, but instead to advocate for their victims. Indeed, neuroscience is showing that a regular meditation practice can significantly increase activity in the centers of the brain that process positive emotions such as empathy, but of course this is a challenging method of “self-improvement” that must be taken of one’s own free will. A free foot rub and a kale salad will only serve to re-charge the batteries of those Randian meanies. As much as Paul Ryan could not turn me into a homophobe by giving me a luxurious Indian head massage, we can’t be so naive as to think simple kindness has any effect in this situation.

    • I like this comment, and this part in particular:

      “As much as Paul Ryan could not turn me into a homophobe by giving me a luxurious Indian head massage, we can’t be so naive as to think simple kindness has any effect in this situation.”

  9. As a former journalist who has decidedly conflicted feelings about HuffPo (particularly around its being able to get all that content for free in exchange for “exposure”), I feel compelled to note that NY mag is saying that the folks working in the Oasis booth also are doing it for “exposure.” (A comment above uses the word “volunteered.” Should we be adding HuffPo’s arguable abuse of writers / yogis to the conversation?

  10. Abby Newton

    Yoga is a tool to open the mind and body. Depending on a persons awareness and intention will determine what ideas and situations they open to. This has reminded me of my own first experience with yoga. Long story short, I loved asana practice when I found yoga at a gym because of my gymnastics background. I knew nothing of the 8 limbs of Yoga. However, I changed mentally physically and energetically, I opened up but I was vulnerable to everything because I had absolutely no awareness or direction. My life was turned upside down. It took 10 years and returning to Yoga with a full practice to flip it back!. I truely believe that practicing Yoga requires a complete practice, the best we can. And practicing solely asana can be dangerous to yourself and definitely others.

  11. Bobcat

    Thanks again Babarazzi for another great piece on yoga and politricks. SC & Co’s actions speak volume. They think of the most simplistic ways to promote yoga (and their teacher trainnings, workshops, festivals, etc.). The venues that they choose are normally large. Heck, the Republican convention is just perfect! They prefer chaos over silence as their shows are normally filled with dancable music and loud kirtans where people (while being shouted at with flowery words empty of substance and Sanskrit asanas) cannot hear themselves hence, easily intoxicated and influenced by group thinking. You can’t make accessible peace, love and realization. They are free. The most fucked up thing a yoga teacher can do is influencing people to practice yoga. Because A, it doesn’t work and B, it works to inflate the said teacher’s ego. Who are you serving, Sean Corn?

  12. Bobcat

    Actually the ego must already be pretty awesome for you to believe you can make people think better (whatever that means), make inform decisions and become more passionate through yogatainment. And you think the church going, abortion banning, gays/lesbians/immigrants hating, corporate loving republicans are ignorant?

  13. Linda-Sama

    “yogatainment”….great word.

  14. J

    Wow, Baba. Why do you have so much hate? Do you have to be so hateful while you are writing about how much you hate Seane Corn? I mean, it just seems like hating someone for the sake of hate. It’s hateful. Filled with hate. I don’t understand your hate, haters. Umm… hate.

    Sorry… I’ve been reading Elephant Journal.

  15. Yoga Whelp

    “Off the Wall — and Into the Abyss.”

    Thanks for following up, AB. “Silly head money,” indeed. Arianna is an ex-right wing Republican whose former multi-millionaire husband once ran a ridiculous and disastrous money-driven campaign for the U.S. Senate in California – and got the piss crushed out of him. Corn is everyone’s favorite ex-junkie who by her own sanitized account used to wait tables and trick for a living — and It shows.

    These are the women of the West that the Dalai Lama hopes will save the world? Egads.

    There is indeed a shimmering “OASIS” floating very close to the RNC in Tampa. It’s called the “Cayman Islands” and it’s where Mitt and Arianna have stashed their respective bundles.

    What’s sad is that we have to waste valuable “eyeballs” reviewing these tawdry matters. When we could be taking in, well, this:

    Love you, Cyndi!

    • wondering

      I know nothing about S.C.,but am curious if she truly claims waitng tables as part of her hard luck story? I feel that so many celeb’s love to blab about their deep dark pasts as an example of how far they have risien by their own bootstraps and how we should all honor their ascension, etc.just another form of self congratulation I guess.. and I agree w/most of you all..this is another lame worthless self-serving mega yoga event. all these celebs n do good yoga shows…wolves in sheeps clothing.

  16. Yoga Whelp

    Since we are all over Sean Corne here, I note in passing something that seems so very typical of the American yoga elites —

    Sadie Nardini is vilified for promoting “yoga for weight loss”. Carol Horton and the other feminist snobs of the yoga blowhards-sphere insisted on trying to take her behind the woodshed in the most elitist and haughty way possible, completely full of themselves and their high-minded spiritual principles about what constitutes politically correct yoga practice – and dare I say, “respect” for women and their bodies.

    It’s tawdry enough but when everyone’s favorite pass-around girl-pal Sean Corn released a DVD promoting “yoga detox and weight loss,” where’s all the feminist outrage? It just came out, and a review of it is featured in Elephant Journal. It’s been up for over a week.

    Yoga Dork, Body Electric, It’s All Yoga? What’s the scoop guys? Are you all fucking Sean, or you just like her PC California style more? Is she paying you guys? Maybe Sadie wouldn’t cough up your fee?

    Pray tell. “Yoga bleaching” takes many, many forms. Maybe we need a yoga-style Capital One commercial.

    What’s in your Laundry Room? Sean’s panties?

    Now I for one don’t give a flying fuck who sells their yoga or their pussy – increasingly interchangeable – for money. Why? Because it’s an utter fallacy to think you can build a yoga spiritual “movement” through the marketplace, and establish politically correct rules for socially acceptable psychic domination and economic exploitation.

    That being the case, I think people selling shit should sell away — just don’t dare call it “God,” or “Shiva” and make sure your customers get something for their $$$$. In other words, I defend the capitalist marketplace, and the principle of fair exchange.

    It’s the sanctimony that now accompanies this new yoga sales frenzy that I find so objectionable. You can’t be a little bit pregnant – and you can’t be little bit of a whore.

    So to sum up: pray tell, is Sean Corne another evil, money grubbing anti-woman beauty myth promoting slutski just like Sadie Nardini?

    Or is it really possibly to put lipstick on a pig – and take it off — depending on whether the Sty is in New York or LA? Or some other criteria of which I am still unaware?

    • We’ll have to take a look at that video. Didn’t catch it. I also tend to agree with this:

      “I think people selling shit should sell away — just don’t dare call it “God,” or “Shiva” and make sure your customers get something for their $$$$. In other words, I defend the capitalist marketplace, and the principle of fair exchange…. It’s the sanctimony that now accompanies this new yoga sales frenzy that I find so objectionable.”

    • Beef Stew

      Stewart J Lawrence?! Is it really you? I could smell your musky misogyny from all the way over at YogaDork, you little knob goblin! I missed it ever so much…

  17. Warriors and Goddesses

    well since GLBL Yoga fell though and got cancelled, SC has gotta make a buck and keep her name going somehow! Easy target, easy money, easy marketing. It’s not an oasis, it’s a mirage.

  18. Yoga does not change your politics. It makes you more comfortable with yourself. Or uncomfortable with yourself which still doesn’t change your politics but might change something else.

    Liberalism was the assumed posture in a yoga class when it was a fringe activity for the untethered and disenfranchised and that continued for awhile. Liberals were attracted to yoga because liberal meant open minded. Yoga does not make Conservatives Liberal or Republicans Democrats and it does not necessarily make people nicer. And I also notice more and more intractable Liberals which is ironic.

    I saw Arianna on Bill Maher and was surprised to hear such nonsense. If she wanted to do something cool via yoga she could have posted the yamas outside the door with some relevant stats on conflicting Republican actions. If that changed anyone’s mind they could win a foot massage.

  19. Be Scofield

    You mentioned that critiquing Seane Corn doesn’t happen. I wrote a lengthy critique of Off the Mat, Into the World two years ago: http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2010/09/28/beyond-spiritual-activism-creating-a-just-and-sustainable-movement-for-change/

    Also, your article doesn’t mention it but HuffPo paid Off the Mat $40,000 for this Oasis stunt! Wow! Yet, no one got paid who volunteered.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/08/29/huffpo_donates_40k_to_yoga_group_doesnt_pay_masseuses/

    Quote from it: “So it’s basically exactly what I said before: These people — the meditation teachers, “estheticians,” masseuses and yoga teachers — happily volunteered their labor because they were essentially conned into believing they were performing a public service — spreading mindfulness and getting buzz for yoga! — instead of working for free.”

  20. John

    Best comment yet, “White people are crazy”. Sums up the contemporary yoga scene with it’s star system and bloggers sucking on that yoga tit. Elephant Journal has even found a way to make money off of their unpaid writers and editors.

  21. BK

    The article poses the question whether yoga has a place in politics. It seems that the activism OTM and other orgs are engaged in is about service not about political action. Political action aligned with yogic values, in my mind, means addressing structures that enable economic inequality, environmental devastation,
    racial and gender inequality etc to grow and persist. Much of the yoga service movement is about helping prisoners, people with disabilities, veterans to cope and even thrive in challenging life circumstances but, as far as I have seen, the movement does not really address the power structures that create the prison industry, the health care industry, and the military industrial complex. This doesn’t mean that OTM-esque efforts don’t have any impact on politics– if a drug addict’s yoga practice helps them get clean maybe they go on to advocate for decriminalization of drug addiction, if a cancer survivor’s healing is aided by yoga maybe they go on lobby against farm subsidies for toxic agro business… when people are clearer in their bodies and minds, they MAY seek out tools and means to act for what they believe in. I don’t think this is a tremendous leap.

    BUT, we should not confuse yoga service efforts with political action. They are very different beasts and it is dangerous to lead yoga practitioners (who are often white and come from relative privilege) to think that political action is sharing yoga class with kids from the hood while they have no awareness of the structures that create the hood in the first place or how their daily lives contribute to that system.

    I agree with EarthEnergyReader that corporate power sits at the root of most of these toxic structures but I disagree that there is no discernible difference between the parties. Yes, both parties are completely in bed with corporations but the post-9/11 decade would have played out quite differently if George Bush wasn’t in the driver seat. Would it have been peace and love with Gore in office? hellz, no. But I would bet a whole lot more Iraqi civilians and US military would be hanging with their families this labor day weekend instead of 6 feet under.

    So, the bottom line is service without a lens of how one’s own power and intention is operating and who is being served and to what end is dangerous territoire.

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  23. Shanna

    “Rich White Republicans Figuring Out the Best Way to Legislate Your Uterus”
    I so look forward to your one liner description of the DNC Oasis attendees since the HuffPo + OTM have arrived in Charlotte:)

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  27. I agree with BK, AND I think that there are good arguments for the work OTM, Sharon Salzberg and others were doing at the Oasis. I’ve written more about it here: http://marianne-elliott.com/2012/09/off-the-mat-into-the-thick-of-it-yoga-at-the-rnc-dnc/

    In short – I’ve worked in Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip and other places where factional politics are often violent and where distrust and hatred run very deep. And I’ve seen how small acts of kindness – especially when performed with an of awareness of the greater social, political and power structures in which they are landing – can have greater effects than we might credit.

    I’ve also seen the powerful effect of even the simplest mindfulness practices. I’ve seen soldiers and police officers in Afghanistan feel the effect of simple pranayama practice on their strung-out, often traumatized, nervous systems. And I’ve seen the change that can make to how they do their work.

    Does this replace the need to engage in advocacy, activism and change-work to alter the bigger picture? No, not at all. But sustained change of deeply entrenched patterns requires the activation of many different change levers on many different levels.

    Off the Mat, YogaVotes and the MindfulVotes movements are testing the boundaries of the role of mindfulness and yoga practices in our political process. There are important questions to ask about the strategies, and important discussions to have about their effectiveness – but as a yoga community my hope would be that we can have those discussions with mutual respect, humility, and kindness.

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  29. Pingback: Modern Yoga Wrestles with Election Year Politics | bitchin yoga

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  31. Pingback: Yoga, Politics & Transcendental Philosophy: Taking the Election Seriously! | elephant journal

  32. Christel Mason

    So let’s see. The Republicans are Evil and the Democrats are our Saviours. That’s funny. Because Obama has just presided over the largest assault on American rights known in history, has expanded war beyond what Bush ever dare try, has bailed out banks and ordered the death of 15 year old Americans. He’s the first president in history to openly have a kill list. He’s the first president in history to take the right to detain INDEFINITELY any person, Americans included, on the mere accusation of being a terrorist. No more right to trial folks. You’re worried about gay rights and women’s rights when you actually don’t even have a right to a trial. Wake up Left! Its a whole new world out there and you’re going to be left in the dust if you think its a Republican/Democrat thing.

    I’m sure its not covered in the Huffington Post, but let St Pete give you a short list of Obama’s crime:

    http://stpeteforpeace.org/obama.

  33. This reminds me of a Simpsons episode, in which the sign on madman Hank Scorpio’s HQ says “Work Out for Better Tyranny.” It’s a fine line between helping Karl Rove feel good as he feverishly works on his “permanent Republican majority” and spreading respect for body and mind and in the macrocosm, earth and truth, to everyone. I’ve been a student of Richard Freeman here in Boulder since we were roomates in 1980 and 1985, before the “yoga wars” he warned had started 15 yrs ago.

    Clearly, modern politics are the opposite of “union” (the literal meaning of “yoga.”) Representatives don’t represent our needs for survival let alone our desires. Please consider our “shovel-ready” project for more direct democracy (advocated by Occupy, etc.), endorsed by Richard Freeman and a slew of other great people: http://Vote.org

  34. Pingback: Chelsea Roff: Building the Dialogue -- Seane Corn and Kerri Kelly Respond to YogaVotes Criticism | Intent BlogIntent Blog

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