Happy Thanksgiving! Grateful Thoughts About Communities: Yoga, Guns, and Politics

(or walk)

One of the ways I maintain my biting wit as well as my sanity is my Yoga practice. If you dear readers have looked at my bio below, one of my multi-hyphenates says I am a Yoga instructor. My certification is E-RYT 500, which stands for “Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher”. It essentially translates to a Master’s Degree in Yoga. I have gone through over 500 hours of training in anatomy, sequencing, philosophy, practicum, and a whole host of things that I won’t bore you with now. On top of that, I’ve taught over 3,000 classes! So I wear it proudly, and I’ve earned it.

Now, some of you are probably about to click off, but indulge me for a bit. You’re like, “What is this?! Is she going to start talking about hairy-fairy, Leftist claptrap?! I thought she was a conservative?! Where’s the politics!”

It’s Thanksgiving, and I am very adept at leaving politics at the door when need be — but they’ll come into play in a bit. Patience.

Besides, conservatism transcends politics in my mind. I believe strongly in individual liberty, freedom, small government, and fiscal responsibility. One of the reasons I practice and teach Yoga is to help people connect to their center. Whether you are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, we tend to isolate ourselves into these ideological pockets that are disconnected not only from our core beliefs, but disconnected from our actions. What connects us and animates us all is our breath. You can last 40 days without food, 10 days without water, but you won’t last 3 minutes without breath. One of the tenets Yoga teaches is to use that breath (along with a set of postures) to connect: with your insides, with your body, and eventually to the world around you. For me, that translates into clarity in my communications: political, social, relational. It all ties together.

I also teach a special sequence of poses for Gun enthusiasts for before and after the range, so not only do I incorporate conservative principles and belief into practice, but I help my gun friends to become better at their shooting! Hah, hah.

I have ties to many communities beyond politics and guns, and the Yoga community is one of them. I taught Yoga in a studio for eight years, and developed some great relationships and collaborative partnerships. One of those is with a beautiful lady named Shahada who runs a health and beauty enterprise called Habibi Body. While we don’t share many of the same political viewpoints, we have had some terrific political conversations. I greatly appreciate people who lean Old School, where different political viewpoints do not automatically exclude you from relationship. My RedState colleague Susie has said she refuses to sacrifice relationships on the altar of politics, and that’s where I also stand. So, Shahada and I have managed to stay connected, and she asked me to be a part of her wellness series called “From the Mat”. In that series, I discuss one of my favorite poses, and how even in the midst of a pandemic, Yoga is a source of connection to breath, strength, and stability. Give it a read if it’s something that interests you. Jennifer Oliver O’Connell From The Mat.

This translates over to my politics and how I employ them. One thing that Yoga teaches me is to connect with breath, and revel in the freedom it brings. Part of the practice is maintaining breath even in a difficult posture. Sound a little like what we are experiencing now? There are many factions and forces who are seeking to restrict, steal, and limit our freedoms, even freedom to breathe. How many of us have been holding our breath since November 3? Since January, when this pandemic reared its ugly head? Just as I teach with my gun enthusiasts, you cannot think clearly, stand strongly, or aim surely if you are not using your breath.

So it is with all of life. Let’s all take a breath.

In corresponding with Shahada about writing the piece, she included this note:

“In the midst of the madness… I wanted you to know that I LOVE YOU. I don’t care what the outcome is. I did my civic duty and the rest is in the ether. You are my sister and my colleague and I have the utmost respect for you.”

I responded in kind. I love and respect her greatly, and that will not change, no matter who ascends to the office of the President. That changes every 4-8 years; bonds of community and friendship should not.

We all share the same breath, and find those places where we can breathe together. Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to take those breaths together, share the blessing of food, and focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us.

I am thankful to be a part of the Yoga community, the Gun enthusiast community, and this RedState community. I hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving!