A few months ago I organized a yoga benefit to raise money for Women Aware, a Montreal-based non-profit organization that provides assistance and “long-term support to those living with the dynamics of domestic violence.” At around the same time I became part of the #HeForShe international campaign put together by UNWomen. This campaign is a call that “brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all,” essentially serving as a call to all men to raise their voices and awareness to fight the inequalities and suffrage women are exposed to simply because they’re women. I got involved with them for the same reason that I organized the fundraiser: I was traumatized at an early age when the concept of rape was explained to me and since then I have felt a visceral alliance with anyone dealing with the fallout of violence against women.
My career started out almost seven years ago as a yoga teacher, but little did I know that in finding my voice to teach I would find my voice to start speaking up for those whose voices have been muted by abuse, inequality and sheer terrorism. By now, most of you know that I’m not a mild-mannered, meek teacher. I have an opinion, especially when it comes to injustice, and I’m not afraid to voice that opinion, especially when I come across intolerance of any kind. I have been told that I can be aggressive in my expression, that I’m not adopting the right “yoga” attitude of non-judgement and compassion. Hear me now, because I won’t ever be repeating myself: I understand that every single one of us has the potential, if influenced by certain variables, to do or be anything or anyone, and I use the “There but for the grace of God go I” expression daily. I also feel tremendous compassion and empathy for those who have perpetuated the cycles of chaos and violence that they have found themselves a part of. With that said, I also believe that we have to stop tip-toeing around in this moment of political correctness so that we can expose the root causes of how we’ve arrived at this moment in time with such a heavy cloud of ignorance, darkness and intolerance weighing us down. And so sometimes I’m going to communicate in ways that you may not want to hear your yoga teacher or spiritual guide communicating in. To those I may be offending, please accept my apologies now and understand that all my actions in my career and on my path of dharma stem from the desire for peace, compassion, unity and spiritual understanding. Also understand that this is the way I’m doing it. My way. If it doesn’t resonate with you, there are hundreds of thousands of other teachers for you out there, and I encourage you to seek them out.
I, as I progress in my studies and work with helping others heal from their emotional and physical wounds, am constantly helping women heal from sexual assaults. This is an epidemic, take my word for it. And it’s unacceptable. It keeps coming up, over and over again, in the work that I’m doing. The pain and trauma that is being afflicted on women in the name of power, of control, of taking what someone else thinks they’re entitled to, is reprehensible. And I will continue to raise awareness with MY voice to make sure that we don’t get complacent or ever think that violence in any form is a necessary evil that we have to learn to live with. Bullshit. I’m calling bullshit, and I will continue to call it with every person I encounter who has been hurt at the hand of someone else. I will write (as I did with this blog post months ago for International Women’s Day), I will speak, I will teach and I will continue to learn so I know what I’m talking about and fighting peacefully in the name of.
Understand this: violence against women is not going to be tolerated. I will make sure that women’s voices get heard, even if it means me raising mine to amplify theirs. This path I’m on with yoga means nothing if all I’m doing is instructing people to fold forwards or balance on their tip-toes. My path is one of awakening, for myself and others, so that we can address what needs to be addressed without fear of rubbing people the wrong way. Sometimes we need a little shaking to wake up and see clearly what we have been allowing to occur right on our doorsteps.
To support Women Aware, please visit their website that is hyperlinked above.