off the mat & onto the street: seane corn, yoga & occupy wall street
“We are for 100% of truth, 100% of justice, & 100% of unity 100% of the time. That’s our intention.”
Seane Corn at Occupy Wall Street, Oct 10, 2011
The yogis have shown up at Occupy Wall Street! Yesterday, Seane Corn brought her big hair and articulate voice to the demonstration site. She showed up in jeans and black boots, and talked to a crowd of several hundred people about about union, community and action.
There appeared to be some namaste-ing, some om-ing, and only a little posing. The crowd that gathered around Seane Corn yesterday looked engaged, passionate and inspired. However, some of the online discussion around the event appears to be a little more divisive.
A post on the Yoga Journal Facebook fanpage asked, “Does yoga have a place in this debate?” The responses were mixed.
“Yoga is about unity, equality and balance,” commented one person. “The situation that our country is in is a direct result of the imbalance of power and wealth in our society and we NEED strong, influential, outspoken people like Seane to help us recognize this so we can unite and move forward from a place of understanding and compassion rather than greed and exploitation.”
Another commentor pointed out the contradiction of yoga’s presence in a political demonstration. “In case you hadn’t noticed, Yoga IS BIG BUSINESS… You can wrap it all up in a recycled bow and call it whatever you want, but it is capitalism. I am all for speaking out for your beliefs and standing up for your values but I like to keep my yoga practice out of politics and politics out of my practice.”
Does yoga have a place in this occupation? In my opinion, yes. The Occupy Wall Street movement is an awakening, a means of resisting and uprooting the status quo. In the past couple of weeks, this action has built momentum, and it’s been thrilling to watch. At the beginnings of the protest, an awkward yoga session was listed among novelties like pillow fights and face painting. The role of asana in those initial beginnings was as uncertain and undefined as the rest of the occupation.
Kudos to Seane Corn for stepping out of her Lucy’s and jetting across the country to join the occupation – without promoting her personal brand, without corporate sponsorship, without an agenda to “bring yoga to the masses.” Her call-and-response speech (which seems to be the dominant style of giving speeches at Occupy Wall Street) and lack of emphasis on asana painted a whole picture of the potential of yoga.
And it’s awesome that the yoga glitterati were present as well – although I have to question how well Russell Simmons (who has a net worth of $110 million) knows what it’s like to be part of the 99%, or if Elena Brower (who has publicly stated that there’s no conflict between yoga and capitalism) really stands against what Wall Street represents.
Regardless, their presence at this event feels sincere and not like a publicity stunt. And what is happening on Wall Street is exciting and breath-taking.
News of the yogis en masse swept through the yoga blogosphere, with coverage on YogaDork (who, as an NYC’er, was able to bring us pics from the centre of the action), elephant journal, Yoganonymous, Mind Body Green and Yoga Journal Buzz Blog. However, it received no mention in the mainstream press, other than a couple of Associated Press photos that randomly paired with related Occupy Wall Street stories (and, most ironically and bizarrely, this story about the Dow Jones “soaring” 330 points).
Because if the yoga community is so conflicted about this, I have to wonder what the mainstream media (which has only recently started covering the Occupy movement) would have to say about it.
Events like this illuminate the inherent tension in the North American yoga community. Perhaps the real questions are: Can yoga be a multi billion dollar industry and a path of awakening? Can yoga have a place in shopping malls and in political demonstrations? Has yoga become such a part of the status quo that it’s no longer counter cultural? Does yoga really have any (literal) street cred?