Courage and Calm Amid the Chaos : Yoga in the time of a Coup

Updated: Jul 6

This article was recently published by OM Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine. To view on their website click here.

We are yoga. You are yoga. I am yoga.

We ARE yoga, but sometime in the last however many years we have decided that we DO yoga. We've decided that yoga is an activity that we partake in once or twice of five times a week and then when it is complete we move onto another activity like sleeping or eating or reading.

It was only when interviewing my dear friend Yogi Mala, (I am unable to use her real name for this piece in case the article falls into the wrong hands), for this article that I had this stark reminder that yoga is not something that we do but that it is something that we are. That yoga is us, no matter who we are, what ever race or religion, we are yoga. What we do, what we practice is the asana, the poses, the breathing techniques, the meditation skills. What we do is construct our body, mind, breath in particular ways, that we become yoga. We are yoga when we do the practices because they unify us. We practice the poses because they help to connect us. They connect us to parts of bodies we are disconnected from, they join together our minds and our bodies because, most of the time, they behave separate of each other. When we practice the asana we bridge the gap - the gap between our mind-body-spirit.

Yogi Mala is a yoga and meditation teacher, yoga studio founder and director, NLP practitioner and political activist based in Myanmar (Burma under the British). Myanmar is country that links South Asia, East Asia and South-East Asia and a country that is still one of the world's cultural and religious centres for Buddhism. Yogi Mala was one of my students when I was based in Myanmar, she is a colleague and has become a dear friend.

Since the coup in Myanmar on the first of February this year, Yogi Mala has been ever the activist, continuing to find ways to support her community by teaching the practices of yoga whenever and in whatever ways she can. Officially she can’t continue to keep her yoga studio open for fear of persecution by the military junta who are leaving no stones unturned - treating ‘dissidents’ like animals - imprisoning, torturing, shooting anyone who seemingly works against them. Yet Yogi Mala has found ways to offer gifts to her community, mainly through Zoom when the 3G and wifi are not disabled. Yogi Mala has been offering classes she calls 'gifts of respect and earnest devotion' - practices that cultivate ahimsa (non-violence) and courage. Vital qualities that the people of Myanmar so need to embody right now.