I am closing this chapter of my yoga teaching because I think the time is right. The classes have served the purpose of providing free yoga in exchange for my vegan advocacy. Students have been taught the connection between veganism and ahimsa (nonviolence), and some have even become vegans and outspoken vegan advocates. I am beyond grateful to have been able to do this, only with my website and word-of-mouth doing the promotions. I will of course continue my vegan advocacy through Manila Vegans which currently has both an active Facebook group and public community page, through my regular Jivamukti Open classes, and through my personal efforts on day-to-day activism.
I felt that the time is also right since there are more and more yoga teachers, communities, and even studios who are hosting similar free classes or more affordable yoga classes. For regular students who have been attending the Free-for-All classes, I hope you can keep up your yoga practice in the way that best works for you, either through a home practice, or attending classes, or a combination of both.
I am going to continue to offer my services as a yoga teacher for free, but this time in a different format serving a different community. It will challenge me in so many exciting and maybe intimidating ways, but I think for my teaching to mean something, I cannot rest on my laurels by continuing to take the same actions even as I see things changing in the community that I live in. To be able to teach yoga to underserved communities and communities healing from violence, I would need to learn new ways of teaching, incorporating sensitivities specific to certain groups, adjusting to language requirements, among others.
Why this decision? I have always known it to be true that it is hurt people that hurt people. A victim who never heals becomes a perpetrator, victimizing himself or herself, or others, and usually both. Now more than ever, it appears to me that the culture of violence here in the Philippines is getting worse. Human rights are being diminished. Women's rights are being disrespected. Hate crimes are being committed. People who disagree with other people are receiving rape and death threats.
At the height of my disappointment, I didn't know what else to do, so I did what I knew how to do-- practice yoga. It was a much gentler practice than what I am normally used to. In tears over anger, frustration, and even desperation, I asked myself how it is that I could feel so helpless. What can I do to stop this violence? What do I know? Then I realized I am a yoga teacher, and I can, in my own way, bring peace. But the kind of yoga that I need to start teaching has to get down and dirty. It can no longer be confined to a park where it is comfortable. I need to listen to the pain that I felt and do something about it. I need to go to prisons or shelters or rehabilitation centers. I need to go to where people need it the most. I need to do not one-off sessions but commit to a project that will benefit a community. I need to be present and show up, not just by teaching yoga exercises, but by turning yoga philosophy into something practical that people who are most directly affected by violence can use.
I realize that I have to make the decision now by saying goodbye to the Free-for-All classes so I can focus on pursuing my next yoga project. At the moment, I have a couple of leads and one looks promising. Strange thing is, when my tears were rolling down on the mat as I made that decision, I didn't know where to start, and yet things appear as though they are going to fall into place. It turns out that as I was looking for a community to serve, a community that was looking for what I was offering also found me. It is no coincidence that the people and incidents in my life that mean most to me find their way to me, like the path of least resistance.
I hope to see you this June before I bid the Free-for-All classes goodbye. Again, thank you so much for everything.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.