Yoga and Human Rights – Nov 2021

Our YIN yoga classes this week were slow and introverted and as many of the poses are held for a full 5 minutes, this time allows me to share with my students: Yogic philosophy, Vedic teachings and poetry. This week I shared poetry from the Persian poet, Rumi, on Human Rights and Freedom.

Rumi, was one of the greatest thinkers, spiritual masters and mystic poets of all time. From the 13th century to present day, Rumi has also been a perfect source of inspiration in terms of social development and finding solutions to universal problems. His influence has crossed cultural and national boundaries. According to Rumi, people are not only earthly creatures but also spiritual beings who have special roles within the social system. Rumi viewed people as not microcosms, (small universes) but macrocosms (great universes). For according to Rumi: God created man meticulously, blew his own soul into him and dedicated food and other useful things on earth to him. If all the world of existence is to be compared to a tree, Rumi regards the human as the fruit of this tree.

The age we live has been deemed the age of human rights, yet it is also an age of individual and massive violations of these rights at the same time. There is no longer respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, even in democratic countries. In an era of only one rhetoric (6 major companies own all the media channels and carefully curate what you read and see), anyone who speaks out or has a different opinion to the norm is ridiculed, mocked, considered extreme, perhaps dangerous. Unlike the macrocosms of Rumi’s world, we are encouraged to behave like little ants displaying absolute obedience and humility; bowing to strong social pressures and being rewarded for cooperation. And of course the punishments for non-cooperation ranges from social ostracism to deprivation of civil liberties.

So what has this got to do with yoga? Well freedom is one of our goals in yoga. Freedom of movement, freedom from pain, freedom from of the incessant chatter of the mind, freedom to speak your truth and freedom to step onto your path, even though that path might be different from everyone else’s. One of the Sanskrit Mantras I like to share with my students is: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, which translates to: May all beings everywhere be happy and free. Even 5000 years ago, happiness was equated with freedom of choice.  

It’s a strange time in the world. For sanity and good health, come and join us in yoga. We are a diverse group with loving hearts and open minds. Over the next couple of weeks building to Christmas we are going to practice a Sadhana using the Metta mantra: May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and free.

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