Moving From Me to WeOct 10, 2022
This post was authored by one of the many incredible presenters appearing at the upcoming Accessible Yoga Conference Online, October 14-16, 2022. Learn more about the conference here.
by Wambui Njuguna-Räisänen
If the year 2020 was an invitation to examine our inherent interconnectedness as a species on our planet, to me, the year 2022 presents a further opportunity to deepen into this inherent truth: what we do on a micro level affects the macro level, and vice versa.
As a yoga practitioner and seeker who also has the opportunity and privilege to be a space holder and facilitator, I recognize that sometimes it can feel as though we slip into forgetfulness around the truth of our interconnectedness. This is partly due to the veils of ignorance and delusion that cloud our deeper intuition and cause us to feel like separate selves. So often, if I’m not paying attention, even with yogic tools on hand, I can live life on autopilot and in a way that’s disconnected and distracted from the deeper rhythm of ultimate reality. However, it also has to do with the container in which we are currently navigating practice during these times.
Yoga in the west is a white-washed, multibillion dollar industry engaged in the cultural erasure and appropriation of South Asians and their cultural, ancestral legacies. Elements of the mainstream yoga culture of whiteness, such as diet and workout culture, are rooted in fatphobia and anti-blackness. Over the last several years, thanks to the efforts of yoga activists, much awareness has been brought to the surface about the toxic and harmful elements of white supremacy and whiteness and how it operates in the yoga industry. The bizarre machinations of ‘Yogaland’ can truly feel like a hall of mirrors that further distort the teachings whose ultimate purpose is to help people on their quest for joy and purpose in life, and ultimately, freedom from suffering.
So how did we get here? And how do we get back to where we need to be?
Racialized capitalism, and habituation to whiteness, got us here. And divesting from both will, in my mind, be the portal from moving from the me to the we. The term "beloved community," popularized by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, was coined by American philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce in the early twentieth century. Simply put, it means loving people. However, it doesn’t mean stopping at your family, friends, and co-workers that you find pleasant and easy to get along with. Beloved community means loving people across lines of difference: the ones with difficult energy, the ones who practice a faith that’s targeted as terrorist by the media, even the ones who vote differently than you do. Beloved community doesn’t pick and choose who is deserving and worthy of belonging because it recognizes that our fundamental non-separateness is at the core of absolute reality.
Now, before whiteness and heteronormative patriarchy can co-opt this fundamental reality as a way to gaslight BIPOC and Queer and Trans people in an attempt to maintain a toxic status quo, beloved community does not mean an insipid sentiment of love that crumbles at the first sign of truth-telling and invitation to accountability. Beloved community, especially in yoga spaces, can be the container in which we can process collective trauma, righteous anger and the ways it keeps our hearts on lockdown. Beloved community is really the space in which we can make it safe enough for the process of accountability as a love language to take place. A softening. A pause. A breath.
Wambui Njuguna-Räisänen (she/her) is an E-RYT 500, TCYM-T certified yoga teacher. Based in Finland, she’s passionate about making wellness through yoga seamlessly engaged in equity and justice so that more people of the global majority can live well and thrive.
Wambui has lead regular trauma-sensitive Ashtanga yoga workshops in Finland and Sweden. Her Ashtanga Yoga Half Primary practice video has received over 2.5 million views on You Tube. Since 2010, Wambui has co-taught yoga workshops and retreats with senior Ashtanga yoga teacher Petri Raisanen, who is also her husband, throughout Europe and Asia. Born in Kenya and raised in the United States, Wambui taught TESOL in Chile and Abu Dhabi. Wambui is currently based in Helsinki, Finland with Petri and their two sons. In addition to teaching yoga, Wambui has also written and edited books about yoga, including the English translation of Petri's intermediate series book, Nadi Sodhana: The Intermediate Series Practice Manual.
Wambui is deeply inspired by spiritual teachers and communities that apply the insights from their practices and teachings social, racial, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustices. She would like to see wellness spaces engage more in social justice + activist spaces learn to breathe deeply and practice sustainable self-care in the midst of mitigating systemic harm. This is her definition of community care.
Wambui provides consultation services for individuals and organizations who strive to operate from an ethic of embodied collective justice. She is also a writer, model and voice over actor.
Join us for the Accessible Yoga Conference Online!
October 14-16, 2022
Join us for our biggest event of the year, our annual Accessible Yoga Conference Online, October 14-16, 2022.
The theme for this year’s conference is Moving from Me to We.
The last few years have shown us more than ever the importance of community and of collective care. As we continue to navigate the global pandemic, an ongoing onslaught of systemic and cultural harm against marginalized communities, and attacks on basic human rights and bodily autonomy across the globe, we as yoga teachers and practitioners know that our work—in community, is needed.
We’re thrilled to feature a diverse line-up of over 30 presenters—hosted by Anjali Rao and Jivana Heyman—who serve the collective in so many varied ways.
In rejection of the dominant culture of individualism, we come together to celebrate the significance of self and community care. In the face of injustice, we are co-creating and re-imagining our yoga community.
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