From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com.
What do politics and yoga have in common? Except for both being very popular among Borderstan readers, not much, right? Well the organizers of YOGAVOTES think differently. They believe the same values yogis embrace on the mat – mindfulness, connection, compassion, awareness – should be an essential part of yogis’ lives off the mat, as well.
YOGAVOTES is a project of Off the Mat, Into the World and is a nonpartisan push for greater electoral participation among the 20 million Americans who practice yoga. By motivating people to think about why voting is important, YOGAVOTES and Off the Mat hope to encourage yogis to practice “mindful” voting.
This Sunday that idea will be tested here in DC with an event they are calling “Yoga the Vote: Vote Your Heart.” This “yoga variety show” will include a free yoga class with several teachers including Kerri Kelly, a concert by Mike de la Rocha, who is a musician activist touring with Rock the Vote, and a talk and meditation by internationally known teacher and author Max Strom.
Along with the yoga celebrities in attendance, participants will be encouraged to ask questions of themselves: what do I stand for and how? Why will I vote and what am I voting for? Why is it important to me to be active in my community? Ultimately, the organizers hope, yogis will unite around the ideas of voting from their hearts, getting connected, getting involved – and expressing those values of compassion, mindfulness and awareness.
Kristin Adair, a yoga instructor (in northern Virginia and at Embrace in Adams Morgan) and DC Community Builder with Off the Mat, has said they expect 100-150 people to turn out this weekend. Her background as a Hill staffer, presidential campaign aide, and lawyer and lobbyist for nonprofit causes has prepared her well for this new role encouraging more active civic participation and awareness.
“I had lots of opportunities to see inspiring aspects in my work, but also disheartening aspects. Yoga and politics can go together – they aren’t separate. We need to bridge the gap between knowledge about the political process and our yoga space.”
She is also aware of her critics, some of whom are yogis unconcerned or uninformed about politics. Kristin says that your individual yoga practice can influence your participation, and that you can get involved in a way that is meaningful to you.
For example, when thinking about elections, many of us have a very partisan view and often a very negative view of the other side. YOGAVOTES encourages bringing mindfulness and unity and compassion into the lens through which we view politics, and actually listening to people on the other side of a debate.
“It’s interesting to think about yoga: everyone is welcome – all abilities, all viewpoints, it doesn’t matter. That is different than politics. So if we bring a mindset of being present and listening to the other side, and not assume because they are on other side they are wrong – this is a revelation for me.”
For me as well. I could have used that advice so far in this campaign cycle.
To find out how you can get involved:
- Download materials including a voter’s guide, workshop curriculum, debate watching guide.
- Visit a VOGAVOTES partner studio supporting the campaign to gather more information and join fellow yogis in debate watch parties and discussion. Borderstan studios include Yoga District (two locations: 1635 Connecticut Avenue NW; 1910 14th Street NW ) and Flow Yoga Center (1450 P Street NW).
- Pledge to vote on the YOGAVOTES website and vote in a mindful way in November.
- Attend the Yoga the Vote D.C. event on Sunday, October 21 from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at 23rd and Constitution Avenue NW (near the Lincoln Memorial). RSVP or just show up – it’s free! Bring yoga mats and water. Beginners and experts welcome.