The Yoga of Politics

In the late 1960s, feminists coined the phrase “the personal is political,” and never has it rung more true. Our reactions to politics and political candidates are often deeply personal and emotional—and social media lets us express our views, and hear about others, more explicitly and aggressively than ever before. Views with which we don’t agree often come as a shock, if not a personal blow: I have a friend who thinks that?

“What is it about politics that hits us so emotionally?” asks Aruni Nan Futuronsky, a life coach and Kripalu faculty member. While we may be used to—and even welcome—differences of opinion among family and friends in other arenas, politics often seems to warrant a less accepting view. We get defensive and argumentative. We feel very strongly. We try to convince others to see our side—and we often fail. That’s where the philosophies we learn in our yoga practice come into play, says Aruni. “Yoga teaches us to take action and to express our truth, but not get stuck on the outcome,” she says. That is, speak your mind—but don’t expect to change someone else’s.

It’s not an easy thing, especially when who we vote for can often get tangled up in who we are. “It’s a challenging thing to put out our truth when others might not accept it,” says Aruni. “In that, I see my own personal fear. Will they not like what I have to say? Will they not like me? Often, we end up tap dancing around topics. But when we think but not speak, that’s not an impactful way to live.” Here, she offers some tips for getting through an election with our relationships with friends, family, and self intact.

Practice passionate nonattachment. Ask yourself: How can I be passionately involved in the conversation with people I love without trying to change their opinion? Instead of arguing your point, work to educate and widen perspectives, and then let go of the results. This is the art of living yoga.

Let yourself grow. Though it can be difficult not to take a family member’s opposing view as a personal affront, instead think of it as an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Acknowledge your own perspective, and allow others to have theirs. Live what you know to be true without having to convert the entire planet to that belief.

Try co-listening. When you feel the urge to counter someone’s point, instead try to stop and just hear what they’re saying. When they’re done, that’s when you react, but instead of pointing out the flaws in their argument or way of thinking, start with something like, “I notice…” or “I feel…” or “the way I understand it...”

Take personal action. While we often can’t change others’ perspective, we can work to further the causes we support. Volunteer, believe, donate, tell others, and vote. And then, most importantly, whatever happens—accept the outcome.

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