Updated: Dec 10, 2020
One of my favorite topics to teach is the connection between yoga and peacebuilding. Those who aren’t familiar with either area may be surprised how simple the relationship truly is, and I’ve enjoyed conjoining my experiences with both. I worked in the yoga and healing arts for over 6-years before going back to school for conflict resolution and peacekeeping. My main interest was how the healing and creative arts can serve as support to community and global peace efforts. After entering into my master’s program, I encountered people asking about my schooling. When I explained I was studying peacebuilding and conflict resolution, a common response was, “Well, we really need that!” I always agreed. We desperately need our international peacekeepers and diplomats on the frontlines, and we also need our local peacekeepers as well. However, I always thought, “Yes, but we need you, and you, and you!”
Peacemaking isn’t some sort of grand gesture, it is part of our everyday decisions and ordinary practices. I don’t have to push the idea that regular people can make major differences, as that is painted throughout history. We can be a part of peacekeeping efforts in our own workplaces, neighborhoods, communities, and homes. I once encountered a quote that said, “Peacemaking is a spiritual and creative practice.” It has stuck with me, and part of my work is to integrate the arts into our everyday peacemaking efforts. For yoga specifically, it teaches us how to mindfully breathe. We subconsciously breathe all day long, but we don’t realize that our breath is a crucial tool for calming ourselves down—especially in the face of conflict. Yoga allows us to get into our bodies, be aware of what’s happening, and make the changes we want to see. It’s that simple. From there, we can direct our choices and actions to be more peaceful or more combative. It’s our decision.
In any peace agreement, pact, or treaty, the first step is to show up to the table. This is the start to peacemaking, and it can be quite profound. Showing up isn’t always comfortable, however, as it entails some messy conversations with ourselves and others. We know there will be work involved, but the key is showing up knowing you can handle that work. This is an area yoga can teach us how to handle conflict. Showing up on your mat is the first step. Knowing you can handle what’s next, building self-confidence, is the next part. When we embrace this process, we begin to learn that conflicts are actually opportunity for growth and learning. Every challenging yoga pose is an opening for strength-building and resiliency. The same goes for life in general. When we commit to those hard conversations, self-awareness, and work, we realize there are choices and openings for peace in our lives. So what are you waiting for? Whatever has been calling to you, just show up. Commit to the process, and you will embark on a new journey of endless possibilities.