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How Does Yoga Affect Policy?

How Does Yoga Affect Policy?

Over the past 6 months, I have committed myself to answering the following questions: What is the yoga community? What are the values that define us? And what is our role in society? And through a bit of research and a lot of talking to people, here is what I have found.

As a community, we are defined by our commitment to mindful living — to our practice, to reducing our carbon footprint, to buying locally and organically, to cultivating personal spirituality and to consuming ethically. The yoga community is part of an emerging mindful generation passionately engaged in the process of trying to live a good life that is also good for others and the earth.

This community is 20 million people strong and growing and you can see the signs of it everywhere. There are nearly 10,000 regularly operating farmers markets in the United States, a $30 billion per year organic food business, 2.5 million hybrid cars on the road and 24,000 yoga studios operating across the country. The yoga community has been at the center of all of these trends.

Our community is 75% female clustered in the age range from 25 – 44. 90% have a college degree and the average household income is near $80,000 per year. What the mid-90′s called the “soccer mom” is now the “yoga mom” or, in political speak, the independent female voter — one of the nation’s most sought after voting blocks and the group of people that determine nearly every national election.

The yoga community has already impacted society largely through their pocketbook — changing the complexion of the consumer marketplace. Companies, big and small, have adapted what they sell and how they market in direct response to conscious consumerism. Whether its Toyota’s commitment to hybrid cars or Wal-mart’s 600 organic skus or the local organic tea shop or small-batch chocolatier, the young adult female consumer has changed the marketplace forever. Even Coke and Pepsi are embattled in the race to develop the first 100% plant-based bottle.

However, there are massive problems confronting us. Over 30% of our population is obese leading to record levels of chronic disease — diabetes and heart disease. We spend $4,300 per person on health care in the United States – the most in the world – yet we rank #37 in life expectancy. We are responsible for over 25% of the overall world’s carbon emissions.

The values deeply embedded within our community are inextricably tied to the most salient issues of our time. Is there a group of people in the world that can speak with more credibility and authenticity about health and wellness, about what we should and should not eat, about how to live more environmentally? I think not.

So, when health care policy or food policy or environmental policy is being made, then the yoga community needs a seat at that table. Our voice needs to be heard.

While I do not think that it is mandatory for the yoga community to become involved in politics. It is absolutely necessary that we become involved in policy.

The big vision is this. We build a network across 24,000 yoga studio where 20,000 million can communicate, get informed and express themselves — a network that can organize small groups, sign petitions, get measures on ballots and support policies that are aligned with our core values. Imagine a mindful voting block that can influence policy on both local and national levels. The Evangelicals imagined such a movement and networked their “studios” (churches) with the same goal of building a powerful, unified voice that could reflect their values. We can do it, too.

To learn more, please visit http://www.yogavotes.org

Jeff Krasno received his BA in 1993 from Columbia University and after working for RCA records for 3 years, co-founded Velour Music Group. In 2002, with inspiration from the yoga community and his yogi wife Schuyler, Jeff created the concept for Wanderlust – an event combining music festival with large-scale yoga retreat. Now in its third year, Wanderlust has become the largest series of yoga events in the world. This past fall, Jeff & Schuyler opened another Kula studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn close to Velour/Wanderlust HQ.

 

Read more: Do Good, News & Issues, Yoga, , ,


By Jeff Krasno, creator of Wanderlust

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11 comments

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6:53PM PST on Dec 3, 2012

The separation of policy and politics is moot. The two are tightly bound. That said, there is a definite yoga community and it has political instincts. The fact that it is composed of more and less committed members makes it no different than any other group, hence Krasno's bold vision is doable. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), lead by Martin Luther King in the 60s, was a spiritually-based policy organization that provided a model for the 80s Moral Majority and other christian-based policy organizations in the 80s. MLK, of course, based his political strategy on the Gandhi's yoga-based politics (viz. focusing on non-violence and using self-transformation as a strategy for leveraging the state). The lineage of Krasno's idea has yogic roots. It is only fitting that it find a new bloom in the activist culture of modern yogic America. Whether we yogis are white or black or rich or poor is also moot. We share a consciousness that can have positive effects on the planet--through our activity in politics and policy.

10:23AM PST on Nov 15, 2012

The "yoga" community that you speak of in your article is a white, upper to middle class population that continually leaves out those who are most affected by the policies that you lightly delve into--people of color, poor and working class people, queer people, young people and others at the margins of society who are most affected by environmental and health policies. Yoga is about health and healing, it is about community and that should not be defined by whether or not you have access to enough money to be able to attend a class, a workshop or training. There is an alternate community of radical yogis and community organizers that rely heavily on yoga to sustain their work. As yogis we need to think about social justice. This is what brings around real change; it is time to transform our approach from not just service for others but towards radical spiritual activism and creating transformative wellness experiences and that requires folks from all incomes, races, backgrounds and cultures. Reclaim the true spirit of yoga. http://www.facebook.com/ReclaimWellness?ref=hl

5:45PM PST on Nov 4, 2012

An elementary school in San Diego county was giving yoga classes twice a week to help the kids' focus as well as getting exercise. Some religious nut parents are wanting to sue the school to stop the classes, claiming the kids are being "indoctrinated "!...ugh- people drive me crazy sometimes...

4:56AM PST on Nov 4, 2012

noted

4:49AM PST on Nov 4, 2012

noted, thank you

2:20AM PST on Nov 4, 2012

interesting

5:38PM PDT on Nov 3, 2012

Hmmmm.....

You write:

"As a community, we are defined by our commitment to mindful living — to our practice, to reducing our carbon footprint, to buying locally and organically, to cultivating personal spirituality and to consuming ethically. The yoga community is part of an emerging mindful generation passionately engaged in the process of trying to live a good life that is also good for others and the earth"

but I think this an assumption that is less than warranted. As Be Scofield and others have pointed out, there are plenty of libertarians, republicans and conservatives who practice yoga. There are many yoga practitioners who engage in the relentless consumerism of late capitalism -- and in fact there is a huge corporate yoga machine encouraging such consumerism.

Succinctly, I am not convinced there is such a thing as "the yoga community."

Second, I'd like to hear how one engages in influencing and changing "policy" without becoming involved in "politics." I think this distinction vacuous and evidence of the "squeamishness" around politics that writers like Shyam Dodge and Julian Walker have been writing about recently.

2:06PM PDT on Nov 3, 2012

noted, thx

12:38PM PDT on Nov 3, 2012

I'm not clear on how you're differentiating "politics" from "policy" - from my perspective, it's impossible to affect the former without dealing with the latter. That said, I think that your idea of learning from the model of the Christian Right in terms of organizing in a very interesting one. But, they have a militant and uncompromising agenda and are happy to separate themselves from those Christians who do not agree with them. Would the yoga community be willing to do the same? To take a stand on divisive issues? Would it be worth the cost? It's notable that with the upcoming election, the only well-known yoga teacher who's taken a public political stand on which presidential candidate to vote for is Kino MacGregor (at least as far as I know). If leaders in the yoga world aren't comfortable even endorsing Obama versus Romney, then how will we ever mobilize on the many much more complex issues facing us? I ask these questions not to be negative, but rather because I'd love to see more political involvement in the yoga community (or policy, if you prefer), but see more obstacles than opportunities given where things stand now.

11:45AM PDT on Nov 3, 2012

thanks

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