Posts Tagged ‘yoga and peace’

Peace = Patience + Perseverance

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me what I’m doing in India, how long I’m going to stay here, and what my plans are. Especially as I keep falling sick or getting hurt.

My answer is usually standard: I’m here until God takes me elsewhere.

I’d love to go all around the world. And I have a plan to make it happen. I just don’t know when it will happen.

It could be frustrating, but over time, I’ve learned to let go.

Part of yoga is to persevere and overcome the obstacles in one’s path to samadhi (nirvana/ enlightenment). You might not get the asana perfectly the first time you try it. You might not even understand what to do.

In the peace field, one must also persevere, struggling to get the message across. The first try, we may not succeed; but as the old adage goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. When in the field, the peace worker may not know how to proceed in a new environment. Yet trying is what makes success. Without trying, there is no possibility for achieving the goal of peace.

A yoga practice requires the cultivation of dedication in order to bear fruit. In a similar manner, peace does not happen overnight. Palestinians, Kashmiris, and Tibetans have been fighting for it for generations. More recently, the Occupy protests have stirred an uprising in the working and middle classes. Their causes will not bear fruit in just one day. It takes time for each party to recognize other perspectives, time to come to the table, and time to create alternative methods and transform the issue.

Patience and perseverance are required for peace.

Maybe it seems like I’m not doing much. Not earning much, not giving back much.

What I have done is learn: I’ve learned patience in my project processes; perseverance in the projects; and patience with myself. The Dalai Lama says “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

I’ve learned to be compassionate with myself, no longer beating myself over not having the job or career of my dreams, not being able to navigate in this new country, and not being able to affect the lives of those in need.

I’ve given myself the opportunity to reflect on my own self, understand my obstacles to samadhi, and begun to make small changes to my life. I’ve given myself the opportunity to observe others, and learn from them, appreciating their ways.

I know that if I try, and try again, persevering, eventually, with patience, my dreams of peace and Yoga for Peace** will come true.

Read more:

**Yoga for Peace is a 10- 15 session course offered to students in universities around the world in peace, conflict, and development programs. Yoga for Peace also goes to NGOs and other organizations in need. To learn more, contact me!

Puja Season

Monday, August 22nd, 2011


Bangalore, India: Thousands, nay millions, of Muslims in the city are celebrating Ramadan. Meanwhile, the Hindu Puja Season has begun with Varalakshmi Puja and Raksha Bandhan last weekend. This weekend is Krishna Janamastami.

All of these festivals have one thing in common: food, and lots of it. Most of it isn’t very healthy either. Ramadan comes with lots of fried foods being sold on the streets.

Krishna Janamastami is a celebration of Krishna’s birth. One of the most vivid avatars of Vishnu, Krishna was a lover of (amongst other things and people) BUTTER!
So on this festival, devout Hindus eat fresh, homemade butter, and savory snacks also favored by the little Blue Boy.

Then, on September 1, Hindus across the nation will toast to Ganesh, the God who removes all obstacles. Ganesh, who has the head of an elephant, holds a plate of ladoos, sweets made of lentils and sugar. So naturally, the people enjoy feasting on these as well.

Later, it is Durga Puja and Divali, time to exchange tons and tons of sweets with everyone you meet!

How can we enjoy these festivals while practicing yogic values?  In Modern-day India, it is important to take all these sweets with a pinch of salt!

Eating all these fried foods and sugary sweets can be overwhelming, causing our bodies to reject them in harsh manners. Knowing this, it is useful to turn to the yamas and niyamas to see how they guide us.
Santosh is contentment and aparigraha is non-greed. Yoga thus teaches us to not to be greedy– just eat your share and be content. The next time you’re out on the streets, munching away, remember this!

Smiles :) , Sowmya

How can yoga help pave the path for inter-religious dialogue and thus promote peace?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Although I’m in India, home of yoga, I live in a Christian and Muslim dominant area, not to mention a (so-called) hi-tech haven, where young people flock to for jobs in the IT sector.

How can yoga help pave the path for inter-religious dialogue and thus promote peace?

I found out when I held my first class, in which one young woman attended. She was of islamic background, and came to yoga not for the spiritual or religious aspects, but rather the health aspects–including exercise and relaxation.

Starting out with OM, I realized that teaching to peoples of diverse religious backgrounds might have a problem with this word, because of its Hindu connotations.

Yet OM is actually a representation of the sound of the universe, a hum that is always existent. It was just adapted by Hindus as their “slogan” or symbol.

Although I generally teach a non-denominational form of yoga in international and US settings, I began to wonder how to devise classes for the staunchly religious populations in a place like India. At some point in life, I’d also like to teach in strict Christian and Muslim countries, like Nigeria, or to jihadis who have been arrested and imprisoned (in places like Guantanamo Bay, which, sadly, is still yet to be closed).
In order to create ways to get into those spheres, it’s important to delve into the “scriptures” of Yoga.

The books of yoga are quite recent, because until the 20th century, yoga was purely passed down from guru to sishya. It was with the advent of innovative minds such as Iyengar and Desichakar that books of yoga started solidifying.

How do these “scriptures” view “outsiders”? I will be presenting on this topic at a conference of United Religions Intitiative in Karickam this August. I’ll be consulting books and articles by BKS Iyengar, Desikachar, and Judith Lasater, and interviewing others in the field such as Rod Stryker and John Friend. I’ll also talk to students and teachers at SVYASA here in Bangalore and read up on the new International Journal of Yoga Therapy edition.

In addition, I’d like to know your thoughts. Do you know people of different faiths who practice or teach yoga? Let me know too!

MA, Environmental Security and Peace, UN Mandated University for Peace, Costa Rica
MA, Peace Studies, University of Innsbruck, Austria