In my heart of hearts, I believed that if everyone just held hands, we could make America a better place. With a cassette tape playing on the boom box, I joined the chorus accompanied by the band Toto in great hope to eradicate world hunger.
In 1995, I took a year off from college to travel in Up With People, an international musical and community service organization with the mission to “bring unity among nations.” It was a year spent with a cast of over one hundred incredible young people from thirty different countries in which we lived in unity despite our many differences. We celebrated unity, “the state of being one,” without uniformity.
The most profound and life-giving memories of that year were sitting around the dinner table with cast mates and our host families talking about our cultures, life experiences, families, travels, hobbies, global concerns, and careers. I discovered that unity was found in the word community - that comes from the Latin root communis: meaning, “common, public, shared by all or many.”Webster’s defines community as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
Re-entry after my year abroad wasn’t easy. I quickly found myself immersed in human feelings of anxiety over a new career, marrying at a young age, dealing with finances, understanding devastating world events like 9-11, and acclimating to the stresses of life after leaving my comfortable, childhood nest. The stress manifested itself into years of debilitating back pain. In pursuit of finding relief from physical pain, I stepped into a yoga class and immediately fell in love with breath work and the conscious choice to slow down and unite mind, heart, soul and strength. The physical asana became a dance between strength and surrender, and a time to process.
On my mat, I could differentiate the “big T” truth of my original, God-given design and identity and the “little t” truths of who the world says I am. I laid in sweet savasana in that first yoga class and my teacher ended our time together with the question: “What if everyone in the world practiced yoga? How different might our world be?” It was a full-circle moment for me, “Let it begin with me.”
Fast forward to 2016 as I turn to the news on television and quickly become overwhelmed by the political, racial and cultural division within our country. In fact, the little girl who wants to believe that a human handholding chain across the world is still possible sits baffled at the inability of two presidential candidates to respectfully come to the table. My UWP year taught me to break bread with all kinds of people. And when faced with differences of opinion, to agree to disagree, but still stay at the table.
I’ve even experienced disappointment over argument in the yoga community over issues of uniformity, not unity. Whether we practice Baptiste, Forrest or Holy Yoga, we should celebrate in humility the opportunity to become peacemakers in a world full of conflict.
The root word for yoga is yuj, translating to yoke or union. Our process time on the mat should bring revelation to what ideals we are “yoking” to?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is because man is disunited with himself.”
The real transformation of our yoga practice happens when we take the union off the mat and into the world. What would the world look like if we all practiced yoga? Let it begin with us!
By: Kristin Magill Gibowicz
Kristin started teaching yoga in 2003 and knowing that 80% of Americans suffer from back problems, felt moved to learn everything she could about the anatomy, breathing techniques to reduce stress and how to transform other’s lives through teaching yoga. Power yoga brings this exhilarating, cardiovascular yoga practice to “everyday Joes” like me. Her goal as a teacher is to share her passion and improve the quality of people’s lives. In each class she hopes to help liberate her students both mentally and physically, and leave them in a better place.” Take a class with Kristin.
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