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Restorative Yoga + Justice

by Milissa on January 16, 2011

in Philosophy,Yoga

I was thinking about Restorative Yoga and knew it would be a topic on the blog this week. This deeply relaxing, transformative practice is near and dear to my heart, as I’ve benefited from supported postures during times of low energy over the years. My favorite pose is Judith Lasater’s Mountain Brook, where the spine ripples over folded blankets, like clear water tumbling over rocks in an ambling stream.

But, I also felt inspired to write something related to Martin Luther King Day, after a particularly moving assembly at Bright Water Elementary, where I teach. The children sang songs about peace and recited excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech.

What did these seemingly unrelated topics have in common? Could I possibly combine the two: Restorative + Justice?

A few years ago, I taught yoga to staff members of a nonprofit that provides services to people reentering society after serving time in the prison system. Written on a whiteboard in the room that we practiced in was the term, Restorative Justice. I remember talking to my students at the agency about whether that word “restorative” pointed to a parallel intention with the restorative yoga I taught. They explained to me that Restorative Justice provides offenders with a way to make amends to the community, beyond serving time. It’s a means to repair harm caused by the crime committed. It offers ways to restore those who have been injured by harmful acts to wholeness. But the highest intention is to reintegrate individuals who have transgressed into society so that they can be productive community members.

There seems to me to be a similar intention for Restorative Yoga and Restorative Justice. In yoga, we make a commitment to practice ahimsa—nonharming. It’s fairly easy for most of us modern practitioners to commit to nonviolence against others. But, often we are harshest with ourselves. We create harm by feeding our bodies food that is unhealthy, by depriving ourselves of adequate sleep, by working harder and longer and not giving our bodies and minds time to rejuvenate. And by being stern and unforgiving of ourselves for even the smallest transgressions we make.

Time set aside for calmly breathing in restorative yoga postures is not only good for our bodies. It is the perfect time to forgive ourselves for the ways we haven’t been kind to ourselves. And to resolve to be more mindful of self-compassion as we reenter our lives.

According to Judith Lasater, whose workshops on Restorative Yoga I’ve attended, “the practice of yoga is fundamentally an act of kindness toward oneself.” To restore the wholeness of body and mind is the first step in working for peace and justice in the world.

There are just a few spaces left in the Half-Day Retreat: Restorative Yoga & Mindfulness. Sign up today if you would like to give yourself this time to be restored to wholeness!

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