IAYB endorses obama! & other news from the political blogosphere

Yoga “activist” organization Off the Mat, Into the World’s cover photo on their Facebook page.

Okay, so it’s obviously November 1 and there is a major election in five days and a hurricane just knocked down New York City. Election craziness is everywhere! The yoga community, since it’s part of the world, is affected by this craziness.

Earlier today, Matthew Remski posted an article on elephant journal, challenging yoga media, which includes bloggers such as myself, to “loudly and publicly” endorse Obama. He wrote:

I call on all yoga news outlets, magazines, blogs and bloggers to use your soapboxes in these last days to do what we haven’t been brave enough to do so far, caught as we have been between transcendent and politeness reflexes: weave our politics and practice into a bright braid of passion.

Remski observes that there are two postures in contemporary yoga culture: etheric-dissociative and flaccid-polite. “Political” yoga organizations like YogaVotes and Off the Mat, Into the World are also registered 501 nonprofits, meaning they’re prohibited from taking a political stance on issues.

He calls for a new posture and asks: “Why have we not seen a single prominent teacher or yoga organization formally and publicly endorse the Obama-Biden ticket? Do we not want to get our hands too dirty? Are we too busy pretending It’s All Good? Are we even a community at all?”

It’s worth noting, however, that Florida-based Ashtanga teacher Kino MacGregor is unabashedly Democratic and publicly stated on Twitter that she voted for Obama in the early polling. This is pretty much the same as a public endorsement.

But Remski is right: other than MacGregor, we haven’t seen prominent yoga teachers or organizations step up and formally endorse Obama. In the way that, for example, Mayor Bloomberg did today or as Remski noted, “like old timey newspapers.”

And so. It is my pleasure to stand up and publicly endorse Obama in the 2012 US presidential election. Even though I’m not American, and therefore can’t vote, I would like to encourage American IAYB readers to vote for Obama! More than half of IAYB readers are located in America – so get out there and vote, y’all!

If I were American, I would be voting for Obama. And even though I’m Canadian, I am directly and strongly impacted by whomever the American people elect as the next president.

Remski’s call to action is much-needed right now. We don’t need any more polite, “yogic” responses to the upcoming election. He also thinks yoga practitioners, by nature and values, are left-leaning. “The vast majority of studio owners and practitioners I know,” he writes, “are firmly progressive in their politics. And while progressivism does not translate into votes for Obama without a lot of kicking and screaming, it does translate into a strategic voting stance against regressive chaos.”

Writer Neal Pollack, however, disagrees. On my Facebook page, he wrote, “I don’t believe that yoga is implicitly political. I know a lot of yoga practitioners, my father included, who support Romney. They deserve yoga, too, and I don’t think yoga should be tied into left-wing activist agendas, even if I agree with them.”

Pollack had obviously been thinking about this stuff, as earlier today he’d published an article on the Yoga Journal Buzz Blog called The Yoga Vote. He wrote:

Despite the admonitions of a few backwards preachers and seminary intellectuals, “Christian yoga” has never been more popular. The most Republican precincts in Orange County, CA, boast as many yoga studios as they do drive-through tanning salons. Republicans enjoy having a clear mind and a healthy body as they hatch their evil plot to permanently starve the national treasury. Yoga knows no political party or ideological affiliation.

I hear what Pollack is saying, although I think that while I agree that yoga *shouldn’t* be tied in only with left-wing agendas, I think the value system of the practice is inherently at odds with the right wing.

More importantly here, I think the vague, New Agey “politeness” that Remski identifies in his post is very problematic. I think loud, public endorsement, rather than this “vote-from-your-heart” bullshit rhetoric, is needed right now.

So I hope that more bloggers, writers and high-profile teachers step up and publicly endorse Obama! This is not the time to be nonpartisan and hide behind talk of “unity.” This is not the time to tell people to listen to their hearts. It is the time to connect practice with politics, to encourage people to wake up and name the truth.

  1. Loved this post.

  2. I just want to briefly address the bit about Neal Pollack saying republicans like yoga too. There is a saying in my back of the woods (which is a fancy part of the woods) “vote right-live left” . I don’t know who coined it, but it drives me craazy. translation: “Yes I will benefit for the gay person’s creativity, and I will buy the organic farmers’ produce and I want an excellent teacher for my child, but fuck her union, gay rights, and environmental issues. Oh and since I am personal friends with MD’s if my teenager needs a “procedure” We don’t have to worry our church will never find out. Also yoga keeps me in great shape look at my man arms and my yoga butt” barf.

  3. hahaha OMG Maria, you crack me up, but yes! I see that attitude all the time.

    Small Blue Pearls endorsed Obama and even though I’m not even remotely popular or famous, I hope it matters that I spoke up.

    And yay for Kino! She has a lot of followers, young ones, in Florida so let’s hope they listen to her in this as they do in all other ways.

  4. Agree completely with Maria. If the ethical values associated with yoga don’t have any connection to the real world, than what’s the point of having them them? Believing that all living beings are connected, and that our actions should spring from love and mindfulness rather than hate and fear, doesn’t sit will with current Republican policies.

    Of course this doesn’t mean that yogis must adhere to one specific set of political beliefs, or that Neal Pollack’s dad should be turned away from the yoga studio. But it does mean that someone who’s gotten benefits from a yoga practice should use their newfound mindfulness to re-evaluate their political beliefs. Voting to deny yr fellow humans medical care, marriage rights, unemployment benefits & reproductive rights is not a yogic act.

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