Yoga: Off The Mat
What Is Yoga off the mat?
Yoga naturally encourages us into taking action. This occurs physically as we build strength and flexibility in the postures, as well as mentally, through the active creation of focus and resilience. Yoga also encourages us into action socially, through the emphasis on building relationship with ourselves, with our yoga community, and with the world around us.
Yoga 'Off The Mat' is the intentional choice to take the fruits of our yoga practice and share them with our communities (these fruits will differ from person to person...for me it's about creating safe spaces; playfulness; and connection with community).
Taking yoga off the mat fosters yoga as a form of activism by developing and supporting community outreach programs of all kinds. All of us can benefit from the the holistic attributes of yoga as a practical tool of empowerment, self-soothing, self-healing, and contributing to a future we wish to be part of.
Off The Mat Into The World:
The following is a description of yoga-activism, from the mission statement of international yoga-activism organisation Off The Mat Into The World. It is a joy for me to represent Off The Mat (OTM) as a member of the national leadership committee, as well as co-developer, facilitation trainer, and facilitator of 1-day workshops, and 7-week training programs that bridge the languages of Yoga and Social Justice in Australia. Find more about Off The Mat, Into The World Australia here.
"We define activism as an act of standing for solidarity, equity, justice and freedom for all.
Yoga can be a powerful path of personal transformation and accountability. At its root, the word means ‘union’ – of mind, body and spirit. The practice of yoga is one that asks us to know ourselves and engage in a process of self-reflection and self-awareness every time we step on the mat. Yoga teaches us that it is by going through our pain and resistance that we can access our hope and faith. To bypass our pain is not only ineffective but dangerous.
As activists engaging in the world to serve the greater good, it is paramount that we acknowledge our own wounds, limitations, privilege, ignorance and fear as well as our gifts, strengths, talents, and passion. At Off The Mat we are committed to both- we see the value in the shadow and the light; neither can exist without the other.
Off The Mat helps individuals take the path of yoga “off the mat and into the world," expanding the sphere of change outward to local and global communities. We do this by facilitating personal empowerment through leadership trainings, fostering community collaboration, and initiating local and global service projects."
while any discussion of activism (or 'isms' of most kinds!) can seem intense and loaded with political agenda, Yoga activism maintains a sense of playfulness and joy in the face of our heartache for our world. while we acknowledge our desire to support real social change, yoga helps us to do this with an open heart and sense of optimism. we are not fighting against anything, but focussing our energy instead on what we are FOR. this optimism in the face of intense issues is beautifully expressed by Judith Hanson Lasater, who says:
"Yoga is far too important to be taken seriously."