• Holli Gipson

What's Up with Yoga Lobbyist?

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

You may be wondering what I mean by the term Yoga Lobbyist. Here, I explain the need and reasons for yoga practitioners to be overtly involved in the political shaping of our world.

Some may get my blog’s title, some may not. Essentially, I think it’s time to answer a question we often hear in the yoga spheres:

Wouldn’t the world be better if our political leaders did more yoga?

While on her world tour, the lauded Adrienne Mishler of the popular Yoga with Adrienne Channel was posed this very question. In fact, the interviewer made the statement, “[if politicians did yoga] there would be fewer wars” (12:57). This may be true, it may not be. For example, The Bhagavad Gita recognizes the need for warriors to fight battles. Perhaps if politicians did yoga the types of war and warfare would change? For example, instead of assisting the genocide in Yemen we would be protecting the vulnerable. Obviously, I believe the conversation is much more complex, but how are we -- the yoga community -- going to investigate the merit of war without more conversations? How can we, as yoga practitioners, directly impact political action?

The Value of Interest

We have lobbyist for horrendous industries that continue to lead us down the path of financial and environmental disorder — the fossil fuel industry, the “natural” gas industry, the current meat and dairy industry, the banking industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the military industrial complex, just to name a few of the titans. All of which, funnel back to one single root: corporate interest.

What a funny word: interest. These current corporatists have definitely received their fill of dividends. However, as counter-intuitive as it may appear, yoga teaches us their misguided greed will ultimately be their undoing. But, ours as well. In a recent interview on her potential run for president, Marianne Williamson rightfully referred to corporate interest as a corporate tyranny on our democracy.

Just earlier this month, thanks to incoming congresswomen, we finally got inside access to how corporate lobbyist are deeply entangled in our government:

Some people are working to get corporate interest out of politics. But, my goal is to actually get my interests in politics, for my communities to receive much-deserved investment from our government.

Just as we have a duty to our self (niyamas) we have a duty to our environment (yamas). One of the yamas is the renunciation of greed, aparigraha. Now, within the yoga community, our commitment to aparigraha needs to be reexamined as well. Ironically, Lululemon, a very popular yoga retail business, plastered their tote bags with the word aparigraha while filling them with expensive material goods. We are not immune to craving, to the capitalist system. This is why a system, like yoga, is needed; it reminds us how to actually serve our well-being, how to be economical with our energy (prana).

Corporate interest is in profit for profit's sake. What is this if not greed? Greed is a form of environmental destruction, which is why the yoga system heeds restraint from it. Even though many of us may not agree with corporate interests and we may not fully and consciously partake in the greed, at the very least we have allowed their interest to stupefy us. How would we be in our current political, economic and environmental dilemma if it hadn't?

Not only do we need to examine our own actions -- do I need that extra pair of lulu pants or could that money (energy) be used more wisely -- we could be asking the same questions on the political front -- do we need to be giving tax breaks to Amazon for our well-being or could that money (energy) be used more wisely? If we don’t stand up and lobby politicians to consider these questions, to have a developed, well-rounded budhhi (discerning mind), if we allow corporations to shape our world, we will be led to their same misguided interest.

The Gita teaches us that our interests become our fate. Can we not see that more clearly than today's climate crisis? Not only is our external world in climate crisis but our inner human spirit is as well. Spirit is the terrain of the psycho-spiritual system we call yoga.
The yoga practitioner's interest in political change and political inquiry is of the utmost value to the self and the environment -- one-in-the-same.

What Keeps Yoga Practitioners from Engaging Politically?

So, my blog — a calling to lead inquiry on the intersections of politics and yoga through editorials — started with a question: where are the lobbyist fighting for the interest of health for our society and environment? Of course, they exist, but we usually call them activists, NGO’s, Unions, etc. These interests always seem fairly small and divided in comparison to the corporate body. And to be fair there are more and more ethical lobbyists popping up this decade.

The power of creating a dirty word, like a lobbyist, is it keeps the playground dark. If they make the profession of politics and lobbying an undesirable calling, one where only those that follow the current chain of command and worship corporate interests can thrive, then they can maintain power.
Yoga is all about our relationship to power — empowering the individual to know their true glory, while simultaneously surrendering to a power sustaining the universe.

Where Do We Begin?

In my early twenties I dated a man that woke up every morning and read The New York Times. I envied his commitment to being informed. He had developed, what seemed to me, a positive samskara (pattern of behavior). I thought him superior to myself because I had a hard enough time developing samskara around basic human grooming and self-care, much less engaging in the larger picture. I judged myself as stupid and insignificant; that judgement kept me from yamas (duty to environment).

I give you this memory to say, I understand if you feel like a fish out of water in politics. I can still feel this way. I understand if it is overwhelming and easier to disengage. Doesn't it feel that way in yoga practice from time to time?

If we want to create lasting change we need to do it in this fashion:

1. set an intention (sankalpa) -- what is your goal?

2. take small steps toward that intention, these will lead to larger steps

3. seek like-minded mentors and pupils who share your intention

It took a while for me to create samskara around being politically informed. I still remember the day I looked over at my boyfriend reading the paper and recognized that I desired to have my own relationship with politics. Six years later I looked up and noticed that most days in the mid-morning I had several of my own political resources to check up on. How did that happen?

Within those six years, I slowly did my research. I would watch, read and listen, noticing what I was drawn to politically. Then I would subscribe, whether it was an online journal or YouTube channel. I would repeat and repeat this research. This may have felt like work at times, but now it is a breezy route driven by the intention I set all those years ago.

I also began to surround myself with mentors and friends who would have interesting political conversations with me. I gently pushed myself to have these conversations, even if it meant I put my foot in my mouth from time to time. I still remember back in 2011 saying to a friend in Austin that I admired Bill Clinton despite his flaws of misogyny. This led her to hand me a copy of Howard Zinn's A People's History of The United States. This, of course, made me actually analyze Clinton's policies that have negatively affected our country. But I wouldn't have been led to Zinn's astonishing, life-changing book or to my own educated judgments on Clinton without that uncomfortable, slightly embarrassing, conversation.

Growth, creating new patterns, is uncomfortable. Do it slowly, openly and with compassion, and stick with the process above: set intention, take steps, find your people.

Before you disengage into your TV program (which I love to do myself), try taking 30 minutes to find one resource or article that speaks to your critical political mind. Perhaps take small steps to discover your representatives. The reason why yoga usually starts with the individual is that it follows the rule of starting locally. This is a great creed for engaging politically. Whose running your schools? Your local government? What are their interests?

Maybe first it's rededicating to yourself, to your practice of yoga and setting intention within your practice to be more involved in your political communities.

I do believe the world would be better if politicians did Yoga!

I do say loudly and proudly: yes, I do believe politicians would have more integrity and connection to their constituents and to their environment if they did yoga. I choose to lobby yoga. We have to be the ones to drive the conversation and hold politicians accountable to our interests! It's not enough to simply know it and say it in our inner circles.

We've disembodied politics, leaving it for others to deal with. I believe politics need to be fully embodied -- the spirit needs to be established within it. I've dedicated my professional life and my individual quest to the power of the yoga system to heal and thrive Spirit. Logically, wouldn't this be the system to lead a healing of my civic duty?

We need you in this political conversation, giving power back to the people that care for the environment, a representation of ourselves. We need your interest in sustaining the universe.

We can do it! I believe in our power!

© The Yoga Lobbyist 2018