<img src="http://yogavotes.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Screen-shot-2012-07-17-at-4.32.33-PM.png" alt="YogaVotes Hands over Heart" title="YogaVotes Hands over Heart" width="600" height="453"
Is voting an important part of being a yogi? It depends on how you define yoga, and why you practice yoga.
If you do yoga to try to get away from your problems, the daily grind and the world’s suffering, then you might argue against politics intruding in on your spiritual sanctuary. For many, the yoga mat offers solace from a world filled with chaos. It is a safe space away from the unpredictability and complexities of life.
I think that everyone who practices yoga gains from this aspect- the part of the practice that gives us pause and perspective; that teaches us to be still and quiet the stirrings of the mind. In fact, it is because yoga allows us to separate from our daily life so that we are able to heal and rejuvenate ourselves.
This, however, is only the first stage of the evolutionary journey of growth that yoga can provide. The second is the use of the resource of the breath and the body for introspection, self-observation and working through our tension and pain both emotionally and psychologically. As we move through our traumas and neurosis, we come out with better tools for navigating life. This includes our relationships and how we show up in them. These relationships include our family and friends, and extends out into our community, country, and world.
To only get away from the things that confront us, without actually processing those emotions and moving through them, is dissociation. To enjoy the sanctuary of the yoga practice without acknowledging the world around us, is denial.
If you do yoga, I ask you this question: why do you want to have a healthy body? Why do you want to calm your mind and be able to be more in touch with yourself? So you can sit on a mountaintop on your hemp meditation cushion holding mala beads? No, silly! So you can participate in your life more fully, right? So you can be present in your relationships, creative in your work, expressive with your words.
If your yoga practice is working, then you are getting more in touch with yourself, and are able to be present more of the time rather than obsessing about the future or the past. When we get more present, we cannot help but notice the web of life that we are a part of. We cannot help but become aware of the fact that we live in a society that is shaped and influenced by many things, one of them being political forces. If our yoga practice is helping us be more present and authentically engaged, then a natural extension of that is political awareness and participation.