Yoga practice to me is being acutely aware of my breath. Sounds simple right? We take it for granted, don’t we? As I slow down, I notice the way each inhale and exhale feels from my nose, to my throat, and to my chest. It’s to feel each part of my body as it moves in moments of strength and in moments of weariness. My breath is a reminder that I am here in this moment. The words that I keep hearing these past couple weeks is George Floyd saying “I can’t breathe.” I am trying to sit with the pain of those 9 minutes of torture, the suffocation of black communities everywhere, and the countless lives that are simply trying to survive.
My privilege of never knowing the fear and the feeling of not being able to breathe shapes the way I think about my work with Holistic Life Foundation. In this moment black life that breathes, that exists in joy is an act of resistance. The work HLF does with youth is to introduce the idea that self care is survival but more than, I think Audre Lorde says it best: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of pollical warfare.”
My role in this as a non-black individual means to confront my own complacency and challenge myself and my family, friends, and organizations to become actively engaged in anti-racism on a daily basis. This type of commitment and dedication is lifelong work and that hows I view yoga as well. This work is not easy – with it comes fear, rage, loss, grief, insecurity, disappointment, confusion. Yoga teaches me to sit with those uncomfortable emotions and to not avoid them. It gives me a space to remember how to nurture myself, hold myself accountable, fill my cup, so that I can be a better friend, co-worker, daughter, sister, advocate, yoga instructor and mentor.
White supremacy and racism have silently and violently taken too many lives too soon. In light of that, I am extremely proud of everything that Holistic Life Foundation stands for – inclusive and radical healing justice. Youth learn that everything they need to survive is their mind, body, and soul. Our Mindful Moment instructors are with students everyday, helping them regulate their nervous systems in moments of panic, rage, and sadness. Our yoga instructors teach mindfulness and easy movements that help students manage stressful situations with a sense of control and ease. Moreover, to see black and brown yoga instructors that represent the background of the youth demonstrates what healing can look like in their community, in their family, and personally. What I have seen teaching at the schools is the joy that comes from interacting with HLF staff, the laughter, the curiosity to move and feel in different ways, and the ability to lead their class in collective breaths. Picture that. A different world is possible. Black futures matter. Black children matter. Black lives matter.
A collective breath for George Lloyd. For Ahmaud Arbery. For Breonna Taylor. For Tony McDade, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and all those who died without hashtags or justice.
By Loraine Arikat