A Call to Action!

6 Jun 2020 12:45 PM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has said that "a riot is the language of the unheard". (1) Right now, there are a lot of people feeling unheard. No matter who you are and whatever your relationship to social justice, you may be feeling a multitude of emotions related to the inequality that sparked these riots as well as the riots themselves. This is an opportunity to bring our yoga practice off the mat. Yoga teaches us to sit with discomfort, to notice it, to listen to it, to avoid defining ourselves or our world by the stories it elicits. We are called not to ignore the discomfort, but to be with it as it rises, as it transforms, as it transforms us. But yoga also teaches us to practice ahimsa- non-harming. We are called to right thoughts, right speech, right action. The challenge and the practice is to determine what those are from moment to moment. Actions can harm, but inaction can also harm. In my own religious tradition, we are taught about the sin of inaction and the sin of indifference. The ways in which we are spiritually and ethically called to respond in this challenging moment, amidst such vast inequality compounded in the face of a worldwide pandemic, will be different for each of us. There is no right way to respond, but let us not neglect that stirring in the soul to recognize and act in honor of our interconnectedness and shared humanity. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also taught us that "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." In these challenging times, I pray that each of you is safe and well, that you find ways to feel connected, and that we are each doing what we can to bend the moral arc of the universe toward ever-increasing justice for all.

Police brutality toward Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) is able to occur only because it is bred, supported, and/or ignored by a larger environment of systemic racism that plagues every aspect of daily life in America, including healthcare and self-care. Even within our own work, we see that BIPOC experience arthritis at similar rates as white persons, but with worse symptoms, higher comorbidities, more serious outcomes, and less access to quality care. This is true for countless health conditions and it is not okay. Here at Yoga for Arthritis we are committed to increasing access to the tools of yoga for BIPOC with arthritis. This includes a commitment to research initiatives that are conducted for and in partnership with communities of color.(2, 3, 4) It also includes lifting up our BIPOC yoga professionals in the service of their communities. Yoga teaches us that we are all one and that the Divine light in each of us connects us all. We stand in solidarity with people everywhere who are taking the right action toward greater social justice and inclusion in yoga and beyond.

Reposting on social media is not enough. Signing petitions is not enough. Monetary donations (while important) are not enough. While each of us will be taking personal action in our own neighborhoods during the immediate aftermath of recent events, we will take a long-view as an organization toward an even greater commitment to inclusiveness in general and anti-racism specifically. Below we are listing the specific actions that Yoga for Arthritis will take to be part of the solution because either you are doing something to dismantle the system or you are perpetuating it.

  • We will continue to partner with BIPOC researchers to ensure that our research initiatives are with and for the communities they aim to serve.

  • We will commit to seeking out BIPOC yoga providers to help us provide relevant, high-quality research interventions. 

  • We will publish in journals that are open-access and free of charge, and will disseminate our findings to publications that reach communities of color.

  • We will feature BIPOC YFA Teachers in our newsletter, on our website, and on social media.

  • We will solicit ideas from BIPOC members of our community about how to best increase access awareness, inclusiveness, and anti-racism. 

  • We will provide free content to platforms that will reach BIPOC patients with arthritis who might not otherwise have access to our work.

If you are interested in taking action toward greater access to healthcare (including integrative health practices) and self-care for BIPOC, here are some ideas to consider:

  • Find and support local providers of healthcare and self-care (such as yoga) that are accessible to BIPOC geographically, economically, in representation, in leadership, and in offerings

  • Campaign and vote to ensure more equitable funding for institutions that disproportionately serve BIPOC

  • Campaign and vote for transportation services that allow access to healthcare and self-care for those without reliable transportation

  • Donate to funds that cover healthcare for those without insurance or who can’t pay for quality care

  • Support BIPOC business that provide healthcare and self-care in your community

  • Volunteer with organizations that provide quality healthcare and self-care for BIPOC

  • Support BIPOC students who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, public health, or integrative health practices such as yoga

  • Follow the lead of BIPOC in your community who have been doing excellent and important work in these areas for years. Lift them up and support their cause with your time, your dollars, your voice.

  • Never stop working on your own assumptions, your own biases, your own thoughts, words and actions. Use your yoga to be an example of continuous self-improvement.

  • Let us know what we can do to support you in your efforts above or otherwise.

  1. In sharing these words of Dr. King's, I would like to acknowledge the frequency with which his work is so often taken out of context in ways that are ultimately harmful. I would urge readers to read and consider the full text from which I'm quoting, Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/undecided/630416-019.pdf

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29484197/?from_term=middleton+yoga&from_pos=3

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28434476/?from_term=middleton+yoga&from_pos=6

  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26667286/?from_term=middleton+yoga&from_pos=4

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to the Yoga for Arthritis team at info@arthritis.yoga.

We are here to support you in any way possible.


YFA Team

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