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Guest Post by Laughing River Yoga instructor Lindsay Foreman, co-founder of Center for Mindful Learning

I’m writing in response to Laughing River Yoga’s tenant, “No one is free until we are all free.” This theme strikes a deep chord with me. For me, Yoga is both of a place of refuge and a place from which to take refuge. In the quiet peace of my flowing breath, Yoga helps me to know the simple beauty of being alive. My initial motivation for doing Yoga was to learn how to accept and love myself for exactly who I am. In the practice of Yoga, I found a place where I could truly rest in my innate perfection. From amazing Yoga teachers, I heard the message over and over “bring attention, with out judgement.” This message saved my life.

Although the practice of Yoga brings me deep healing, when I come out of my posture and look around at the larger community and the industry of Yoga, which I am a part of, I am saddened by some of the contradictions.  I find that the simple beauty is masked by an ideal of physical beauty, class, race, and gender expression, that serves to sell the image of Yoga. Many people, including myself at times, do not feel that they belong because they don’t fit this ideal.

The abundant images in Yoga magazines, advertisements, and videos of what a Yogi should look like, feed us the message of separateness — us and them–who is desired and who is undesired. This illusion of separateness is alienating and a root cause of suffering.

I notice that when we fit into a ‘desired’ category, we are encouraged to use our energy to maintain our status as ‘desired’.  When we don’t fit into the ‘desired’ category we often use our energy either trying to attain the unattainable or judging ourselves for not fitting in. In this paradigm, nobody wins.

I am aware that the Yoga industry is not an exception. Most western industries use the illusion of separateness to make a profit. However, I feel conflicted about my participation in an industry that works to both resolve and cultivate suffering.

The practice of Yoga, itself, has such potential for healing our world. My question is how can we, in our own small and big ways, dismantle the monstrous forces of oppression, right here in our own Yoga community? How can we work to create a community and an industry that is not built upon a root cause of suffering? I want to get this conversation going. Please, tell me what you think.

I’ve included the picture above because I think it is important to show a greater variety in what a Yogi looks like. We are not free until we all know we belong.