Ed­i­tor’s Let­ter

Yoga Journal - - CONTENTS -

IN 2007, a year af­ter I grad­u­ated from my first 200-hour vinyasa teacher train­ing, I moved to Hong Kong for work. Wor­ried I’d lose mo­men­tum with my teach­ing, I started vol­un­teer­ing at a refugee cen­ter in Kowloon, in a no­to­ri­ous build­ing called Chungk­ing Man­sions. The bot­tom floor of this de­te­ri­o­rat­ing high-rise was bustling with food stalls, elec­tron­ics shops, and bodega-like busi­nesses. I’d make my way through the crowds to the el­e­va­tor, sweat my way up a few floors, and then clear out a class­room full of desks, push­ing them to­ward the walls to make room for the five or so women who usu­ally stood hes­i­tantly by the door un­til in­vited in. Most had come from Nepal and Sri Lanka and spoke very lit­tle, if any, English. They were in a hold­ing pat­tern, spend­ing un­cer­tain days wait­ing to see if they and their chil­dren might have a fu­ture in a new home. We didn’t have mats, the floor was dirty, and I had no idea what I was do­ing. I don’t re­mem­ber plan­ning much. I had never heard of trauma-in­formed yoga.

More than 10 years later, I at­tended my first Yoga Ser­vice Con­fer­ence by the Yoga Ser­vice Coun­cil (YSC) at the Omega In­sti­tute—to meet some of the peo­ple who have ded­i­cated their ca­reers and lives to us­ing yoga as a tool for pos­i­tive change in their com­mu­ni­ties. In a ses­sion called “Skill in Ac­tion: An Ex­plo­ration of the In­ter­sec­tion of Yoga and So­cial Jus­tice,” yoga teacher and au­thor Michelle John­son shared this quo­ta­tion from abo­rig­i­nal ad­vo­cate Lilla Wat­son: “If you have come here to help me, you are wast­ing your time. But if you have come be­cause your lib­er­a­tion is bound up with mine, then let us work to­gether.” Yes. I wish I had been think­ing in those terms years ear­lier. My ini­tial teacher train­ing cov­ered the yo­gic con­cept of seva, or “self­less ser­vice,” but it didn’t talk about what that meant beyond vol­un­teer­ing time. What I heard at the YSC con­fer­ence and have dis­cussed over the last few years with friends and col­leagues has deep­ened and ex­panded my un­der­stand­ing of how seva can look in prac­tice. I’m in awe of the num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions and the re­sources now avail­able in this bur­geon­ing field.

Yoga Jour­nal is proud to fea­ture the pas­sion­ate ef­forts of tire­less im­pact or­ga­ni­za­tions in our an­nual Good Karma Awards (page 28). This year we asked ex­perts in yoga ser­vice—from YSC; the Give Back Yoga Foun­da­tion; Yoga Al­liance; and Lu­l­ule­mon’s so­cial im­pact pro­gram, Here to Be—to eval­u­ate en­tries. And thanks to a gen­er­ous do­na­tion from Lu­l­ule­mon and Here to Be, all 10 fi­nal­ists will be at­tend­ing next year’s YSC con­fer­ence. Plus, one or­ga­ni­za­tion, ACT Yoga, has been awarded a $10,000 grant to help ex­pand or deepen its work. Mar­shawn Fel­tus, founder of ACT Yoga and a former in­mate, is mak­ing huge strides in im­prov­ing his com­mu­nity in Austin, one of the most vi­o­lent neigh­bor­hoods on Chicago’s West Side, by teach­ing yoga in jails, schools, com­mu­nity cen­ters, and other in­sti­tu­tions.

In this is­sue, we also ex­plore yoga in the mil­i­tary and how asana and med­i­ta­tion are help­ing ac­tive duty ser­vice mem­bers be­come more re­silient in the face of in­jury, pain, and trauma (page 60). Then, for those of you who serve (or are sim­ply ex­hausted), we of­fer up a Restora­tive Yoga prac­tice from Jil­lian Pran­sky (page 76) that can help you recharge.

For me, yoga ser­vice is about the fu­ture of yoga. The Yoga Jour­nal sto­ries you’ll find in this is­sue and mov­ing for­ward paint a pic­ture of the grass­roots work hap­pen­ing around the globe to cre­ate a roadmap for how to be a cat­a­lyst for pos­i­tive change. The des­ti­na­tion? A fu­ture in which yoga plays a deep role in al­ter­ing the fab­ric of hu­man health and hap­pi­ness in ev­ery com­mu­nity, work­place, and home—a world in which yoga is ac­ces­si­ble and in­clu­sive. We hope you are as in­spired as we are!

ABOVE In the early morn­ing hours in Chicago, Robert Stur­man photographs our 2018 Good Karma Awards grant re­cip­i­ent, Mar­shawn Fel­tus.

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