How to Take Meaningful Action with Restorative Yoga

It’s the third day of protests in the DC area (as well as in many other parts of the US.) By now, everyone has heard about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 and the understandable outrage over his death that has sparked these protests.

Despite the fact that I typically write to you on the first of each month, as I sat at my computer this morning, I found I had nothing to say.

“I am no use,” I thought. “I can’t help anyone here. There is nothing I can do or say.”

I had no advice to offer. No uplifting and inspiring messages. No yoga philosophy at top of mind that felt even remotely relevant.

So I started doing.

I made pancakes and pizza dough.

I cleaned the kitchen.

I took a walk with the kids.

I went into the yard and worked.

I worked punishingly hard for hours and hours.

I pulled out overgrown ivy and weeds along 40 feet of fence.

I laid topsoil and grass seed.

I carried paving stones and sand.

I dug into the packed earth to fix the patio.

So.

Much.

Work.

I was physically depleted.

But I hadn’t spent one second of those hours of doing thinking about or feeling the difficult things happening in the world.

I had managed to bypass my emotional and mental discomfort. I simply traded it in for that old reliable satisfaction in productivity.

This realization dawned on me as I set up a pile of bolsters and blankets on my yoga mat.

I settled into the most comfortable Restorative Yoga posture I could.

And I waited.

As I allowed my body to soften into the support of the props, the emotions I’d been trying to push aside with all of my doing rushed forth in a torrent.

First I felt really, deeply, and profoundly sad.

Then came the anger. Roiling, burning, seething anger.

Next a wave of indifference. Apathy. Nonchalance.

Then the exhaustion again. This time not just the physical exhaustion. It was a mental and emotional exhaustion as well.

I started to breath more purposefully.

Sama vritti.

Equally balanced.

Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4. Inhale-2-3-4. Exhale-2-3-4…

And I knew what I needed to say and what I needed to do.

While our immediate reactions are true and real and always worth noticing, sadness, anger, indifference, exhaustion, even those (perhaps rare) moments of completely unbridled joy, are never the best places for taking meaningful action.

Those immediate reactions and emotions we have sometimes rush us into the doing, as was the case for me. Other times those immediate reactions and emotions swing us to the other side of the spectrum and we are paralyzed into inaction.

Enter Restorative Yoga.

It’s our opportunity to just be.

There’s no doing.

But it’s not the same thing as being caught in paralyzing inaction either.

When we make the body comfortable in this practice, we can be purely and clearly in the midst of those rushing and spinning thoughts and emotions with no urgency.

It’s tempting to think that to believe in the power of Restorative Yoga, you must have a disdain of the doing or even a disdain for whole range of human emotions.

Yoga in general often has the reputation of using philosophical ideals to avoid facing unresolved issues. (If you need a laugh, check out the yoga comedian JP Sears’ How Spiritual People Fight. You’ll see exactly what I mean.)

But it’s actually the opposite. Restorative Yoga gives us a place to be solidly in our experience. We pause for as long as we need to pause.

Restorative Yoga does not say “stay here and do nothing in perpetuity.” Restorative Yoga says, land in a place of equanimity and then get back to the real and meaningful doing.

Here are some meaningful actions you can take right now.

Donate

Official George Floyd Memorial Fund on gofundme.com

“Organized by Philonise Floyd, George’s brother, the fund was created to cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings and to assist the family in the days to come as they “continue to seek justice for George,” according to the description. A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd, which benefits his children and their educational fund. As of May 29, the fund has received over 80,000 donors and raised $1,895,460.”

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Donations to this legal organization go toward helping “win landmark legal battles, protect voters across the nation, and advance the cause of racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society.”

Black Lives Matter

An organization with the mission statement of bringing justice, freedom and healing to black people across the globe. You can become a “Global Member” by donating $5 to support their campaigns.

Communities United Against Police Brutality

This Twin Cities-based organization accepts donations via mail or PayPal for “office costs, copwatch equipment, court filing fees and other expenses.”

Read

How to be an ally for Justice

And for even more ways to take action: 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Injustice

Join an Online Class

As the world slowly starts to reopen after the COVID lockdowns, I want to reassure you that I’m keeping my classes online for the foreseeable future. Roll out of bed and onto your yoga mat to move and breath with us. Our community of zoom yogis is thriving and we’d love for you to be a part of it. I promise you’ll feel better by the time savasana ends. Register for classes.

4 replies
  1. Nancy D
    Nancy D says:

    Thank you Tara for writing this piece. I live on Capitol Hill and felt so much despair and sadness when I watched about 10 trucks roll by full of national guardmens in full gear. I had just finished watching the zookeepers wife and thought want can I do. Thank you for the ideas. See you on the yoga mat later this week. Nancy

    • Tara Lemerise
      Tara Lemerise says:

      My pleasure, Nancy. What can I do? is the most pressing question. I’m trying to do a lot of listening – to my inner voice and more importantly to the voices of BIPOC. I look forward to seeing you in class again soon!

  2. Suzie Hurley
    Suzie Hurley says:

    Thank you for this Tara and letting yourself be vulnerable enough to share the gifts of your personal experience with us. Very clear, relevant and immensely helpful.

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