Right now, lengthen your exhale. Make the exhale longer and longer until the urge to inhale is unstoppable. Now look all around, up and down, over your shoulders. Really SEE what’s in front, to your sides, and behind you as you breathe. Take a few more breaths to look around again, and come back after this picture.
2020 is all about the breath. From #icantbreathe to COVID to the ongoing destruction of the world’s rainforests, the “lungs of the planet”- if the breath is the voice of our souls – y’all, we’re in trouble. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. To avoid overwhelm paralysis, I honed in on ideas that were in my wheelhouse as a yoga teacher. Follow all of the embedded links in bold font in this post for anti-racist research sources.
Trauma is stored in the tissues and cells of the body itself. The study of Epigenetics tells us that trauma can be passed down through generations. And so, here we find ourselves with a pile of unsolved racialized problems created by a bunch of long-dead Europeans, problems embedded in our bodies. Your body. My body. Every body. Black bodies. White bodies. Brown bodies. Police bodies. EVERY BODY.
Here’s the good news. Trauma isn’t destiny. DNA isn’t destiny. History isn’t destiny. Ancestry isn’t destiny. Conditioning isn’t destiny. We CAN unravel these problems, and if we can, we MUST. Intellectual exercises of reading books, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts on racism and how to be anti-racist will enlighten and enliven your mind, and provide you with verbal tools you need to continue the #dismantleracism conversation. But they may also trigger all sorts of reactions. This reaction, this tension, this resistance is the fulcrum upon which we build resilience. Yoga practices are unrivaled as a tool for cultivating resilience. Meeting resistance at its flinch-point in your body with breath is the key to this resilience.
You know exactly what that flinch-point is. It’s the place where you say “Nope! Not me!” Yes, YOU.
More good news: all you gotta do is meet that flinch with your breath – specifically, the exhale. PUSH IT all the way out, squeeze every last bit OUT. Then, breathe in – through the NOSE, SLOW and LOW. Back off to your comfort zone, then meet the flinch point again on the exhale. Each time you meet the flinch point, the threshold backs away, and there you find resilience.
Bruce Lee said, “Under duress we do not RISE to the level of our expectations, we FALL to the level of our training.” So the more we train resilience into our flinch-points (racist or otherwise), the shorter that fall is. This is why in class, yoga teachers push you two or seven breaths past your comfort zone in whatever shape you’re making with your bones. We know that when you can breathe past the edge of your comfort zone, your comfort zone expands.
Thanks Bruce, we needed that.
It’s also why one of my first purchases for the studio was a Bruce Lee stand-up, and why I created a quote board. I wanted a daily, life-sized reminder of his fierce, motivating and anti-racist wisdom for myself and others.
Root down into anti-racist ideas. Expand your comfort zone. Be willing to focus on your EXHALE each time you flinch at an idea in your core – your belly, your heart, your breath, your hands. Notice that flinch, then breathe out. In the space that’s created by the unraveling exhale, adopt a new, anti-racist, un-racialized standard. On each inhale, SLOW is the tempo.
Lastly, to nourish your heart and mind, here are just a few of the Black teachers in the Tampa Bay area whom I follow and recommend to you. These are women I know personally, and whose teachings have graced my life. These are their IG profiles:
Leiko Bergers @urban.wilderness.yoga
Raena Boston @theworkingmomtras
Reflekshun Amari @_stillwaters.healingyoga
Devan Cheaves @deviasanaog
Mliilie Crus-Reynoso @milagroswellness
Michele Smith @iammichelesmith
As an owner of All Y’All Yoga studio, I commit to doing my part to dismantle racism. I hope you’ll join me in this work, on and off the mat.
Love All Y’All, every day. Your friendly neighborhood yogi,