Game Changers: Yoga in Action Conference

October 27, 2015
The following essay is a guest post by Raquel Alexandra for the Yoga and Body Image Coalition.

I am sitting in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, at the end of my first Yoga Journal event, the inaugural Game Changers: Yoga in Action conference. I saw the full blood moon over the mountains, and my first herd of elk, and–true to my inner city girl–set my eyes upon these majestic beasts and had to resist the urge to run in the other direction.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 10.18.16 AMAs a brand-spanking new community partner for YBIC, I was so excited to meet these presenters and ready to be inspired by what changes I can implement, what community I can contribute to and what paradigms I can help to nudge. After Hala Khouri, Seane Corn, Matthew Stanford, Melody Moore, Ali & Atman Smith and Andy Gonzales, asana, meditation and a body-quaking call to be the Change, I am beat. My body reflects my mental state, and boy, do I need a nap.

It’s so easy to come to an event like this and immediately become overwhelmed; here are the biggies of Off the Mat, Into the World, the Embody Love Movement, Holistic Life Foundation, and so many more. I was so excited to see Marianne Elliott, Sean Corne and Melody Moore, all who contributed to the Yoga & Body Image book. And familiar faces of the yogis who I’ve seen rock the “This is What a Yogi Looks Like” tees. These are the Walkers of their Talk in a very visible, largely successful way, and it’s both stimulating and downright intimidating to see the sheer amount of work and action their doing.

Not to mention that they ask the hard questions. Those gut-wrenching, shame-inducing queries that cause you to pause, freak out, and/or want to puke and cry simultaneously. Who said being an activist was easy? Attendees have been forced to look at how we have contributed to the fractured system, how there are so many issues to solve, and such tremendous pain. It weighs heavily on our souls in a palpable, tangible way.

But these brilliant Game Changers bring to light how our beloved practice is a powerful change agent. Our own embodied spiritual practices are a resource, and allow for the strength and integrity that is needed to keep your head on straight, your heart joyful and a fire lit under your ass as you do your work in the world.

This spiritual practice also transforms those we share it with.

Belly breath can transform a group of 20 boys in west Baltimore.

The mantra “I am safe. I am grounded,” can loosen the vice of control with disordered eating.

Lying spread eagle on the floor can allow sensation to those who haven’t felt anything from the neck down for decades.

Calling people up, and not out, when they make a derogatory joke can shut them up and make them think.

The idea that our practice transforms into service is inevitable. The more you practice, the more you look inward, the more open you become, and all of this leads to the inability to sit and do nothing about the injustice that you see on a regular basis. This practice lifts the veil, and we realize that whether it’s poverty or body image, addiction or violence, political unrest or gender issues, there is suffering that this practice can help heal. This is not only a possibility, but a responsibility. Once you hear the call, once your heart suddenly whispers this path as an option, you have a duty to follow it.

You have been chosen.

Short Bio:

Raquel Alexandra is a yoga instructor, writer, body peace ambassador, world-traverser, and mid-morning chocolate eater.

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