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I’ve been in tears on and off since we first got news late last month of what’s happening at our borders. This week’s stories of babies being taken from their mothers while breastfeeding and images of sobbing children who’d just been separated from their parents took things to an entirely new level.
I watched the news and broke down right along with the reporters, who were unable to hold back tears as they talked about the hundreds of infants and toddlers being held in internment camps in Texas. And now we have a baffling, but welcome, reversal in policy to navigate and the next infuriating human rights crisis to prepare for: how to get families reunited.
While it is appropriate to be angry at these crimes against humanity—and also quite human to go numb when life is this barbaric—this is not the time to be silent or do nothing. In fact, this is the time when we need to turn to our yoga practice the most, and let it inspire us to take action.
The 3 Different Paths of Yoga
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains that there are three different margas, or paths of Yoga:
1. Karma yoga, the yoga of action, which teaches us that our actions have consequences and therefore how we act matters.
2. Jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge, which inspires us to get informed and to develop wisdom through our life experiences.
3. Bhakti yoga, the devotional path of uniting with the divine.
Now is the time to integrate these three margas into our yoga practice, so we can better approach and navigate our human experience. All three are vital in this watershed moment in which we find ourselves, and in light of this week’s events, here’s how I’m working with each:
1. Karma yoga: Time is running short for our families at the border, and our actions right now could mean the difference between an infant finding her parents again—or not.
2. Jnana yoga: Yogis like to dwell in the present moment, but today it’s imperative that we look to the mistakes of the past so that we don’t allow history to repeat itself. We’ve had internment camps in this country before; we have loved ones who still remember being torn from their parents in Nazi Germany. Understanding this matters, as remembering these facts can impact the choices you make right now.
3. Bhakti yoga: We always have a choice. We can either choose love, or choose hatred. When we are devoted and connected to spirit, we wake up to our interconnectedness with everyone on this planet. This connection helps us drop into our hearts, where there is human empathy, compassion, and kindness waiting in spades. Acting from this place in the face of hatred is the real work of yoga.
On International Day of Yoga—a day when we celebrate this transformative practice—I urge everyone to remember what yoga means: union. In that spirit, can we take today to really wake up to the well-being of all beings—and do something to take action, no matter how small? If you’re not sure what to do, start by finding the practice that’s going to activate you right now.
In times like these, I find that a physical practice that keeps me moving hard and fast is what I need. A strong vinyasa flow, a sweaty bike ride, a hike, or even lifting weights helps me blow off steam and get fired up to keep going. When I’m done, I find I have more energy to make a donation, call my senators, or write a post on social media aimed at activating others.
Of course, we’re all different. Your practice to inspire action might mean putting down some bolsters and practicing restorative yoga under a blanket and an eye bag. Today, get curious about the practice that’s going to activate you right now, so that rather than curling up into a ball and becoming numb to the atrocities happening around us, you can practice yoga as it was truly meant to be practiced: as an introspective system that helps us wake up to what we can each do for the welfare of all.
This Is What My Yoga Practice Looks Like Today
In addition to donating your time or money to organizations and legal funds working toward bringing families back together, calling your government representatives, and using your own platform (particularly if you have a big one!) to encourage others to do the same, turn to the practice that’s going to help you manage stress and take action.
When my spirit has been broken or I’m grieving, this practice helps me blow off steam and get back on the proverbial horse. It’s a straight-up vinyasa practice, with plenty of Warrior poses and hand balances, which give me a full-body rush of transformative power.
Take-Action Sequence for International Day of Yoga
Come to a comfortable seat. Close your eyes in Easy Pose and send positive vibes to those people who are not doing well right now and make this practice a prayer and an offering to them. Dedicate this practice to yourself and to each other, and to the courage to transmute and to transform.
Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutations)
Complete five rounds of Surya Namaskar A, to warm up your body.
Surya Namaskar B (Sun Salutations)
Complete three rounds of Surya Namaskar B.
Reverse Warrior II
Complete Reverse Warrior II on both sides, and follow with a vinyasa.
Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
Complete Utthita Parsvakonasana on both sides, and follow with a vinyasa.
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
Take Virabhadrasana II on the right side.
Take Crescent Lunge on the right side.
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III)
Take Virabhadrasana III on the right side. Repeat Crescent Lunge, Virabhadrasana II, Crescent Lunge, Virabhadrasana III, and Crescent Lunge again on the left side, followed by Downward-Facing Dog. Then repeat this mini flow on both sides three more times.
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
Complete Parivrtta Parsvakonasana on the right and left sides, then take a vinyasa.
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose)
Complete Utthita Hasta Padangustasana on the right and left sides.
Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
Complete Garudasana on the right and left sides.
Eka Pada Koundinyasana I
Complete Eka Pada Koundinyasana I on the right and left sides.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Stay here to catch your breath after those twisted arm balancing postures. Follow with Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).
Vasisthasana (Side Plank)
Complete Vasisthasana on both sides. Follow with Child’s Pose.
Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Monkey Pose)
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge).
Complete Anjaneyasana on the right side, then repeat Ardha Hanumanasana and Anjaneyasana on the left side. Follow with Side Plank (on both sides) and Down Dog.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
In this Savasana, let yourself think of the future. Stay in the present moment in your body, in your breath, but think about the future—and how you see it in your most positive light.