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During the month of June, what a lot of us have come to know as Pride month, there’s an energy, almost a buzz in the air. It’s an energy of freedom, lightness, uninhibited joy. I think about pride and I remember moments of celebration surrounded by love and embraced in community.
There is a feeling of ease when you’re surrounded by a community that embraces you exactly as you are. This easeful feeling is something a lot of us are seeking when we enter a practice of yoga or start a journey in meditation. We begin these practices intending to shift in some capacity towards more authentic and full expression. In short, we’re seeking liberation. On a surface level it’s not always clear that these are liberatory practices and yet, that is exactly what’s at the core of any healing journey.
It may not be clear upfront that liberation is the ultimate goal of these practices because we have been fed a watered-down version. In the West specifically, when we look at the ‘wellness industry’ it seems that a lot of folks have forgotten what is at the center of these ancient healing practices; Ānanda (bliss). Healing modalities have been practiced by humanity for centuries, including yoga and meditation, however, the Western world has diluted the practice and molded it into something more digestible, and ultimately more ‘sellable’. When the asana practice is glorified, it leads us to believe the physical practice is all that yoga is. Through the continued practice of yoga, we come to understand that asana is merely scratching the surface of transformation. The asana practice is not solely responsible for the liberation we seek in the same way that a pride parade is not solely responsible for the liberation of queer and trans communities.
The first pride was a build-up of many moments that didn’t make the headlines, a culmination of lives lost and battle cries from those who came before us. The people who courageously fought for their right to exist in this world are responsible for my ability to show up authentically every day. If we look back to the boiling points leading up to what we now know as Pride we see that LGBTQIAP+ communities, my communities, were and still are seeking liberation. You may be familiar with the Stonewall Inn in New York City, maybe you’re even familiar with Compton’s Cafe in San Francisco. Each of these events is a marker in history and are often erased from any formal learning. They were acts of resistance led by Black Trans women who were fighting for their right to exist. The truth is neither of these historical moments were exclusive events. There had been attacks against LGBTQIAP+ communities nationwide and worldwide for decades, battles that still go on to this day. In stride with those attacks come courageous people living their truth and standing up to fight for liberation, not only for themselves but for their communities. Simply showing up in authenticity is an act of resistance, courage, and resilience.
Over the years of being filtered through a capitalist system, pride has been warped into a surface-level event. It has become about profit, about stamping a rainbow on a new product, recreating a logo to incorporate a pride flag, and some performance of what ‘inclusivity’ might look like. There’s an element of commodification that is ever-present in the world we live in and pride is no exception. When we only see this surface layer we reduce the meaning of what pride truly is; we forget what this word and the energy it carries truly embodies.
Take a moment to think of a time where you said “I’m proud of you” maybe to someone else, maybe even to yourself. What feelings arise when you speak that phrase? It is likely something in alignment with joy, exhilaration, gratitude, excitement, or love. All of these qualities are felt and embodied on a level beyond the physical. In the same way, pride runs deeper than any parade could capture because it is a culmination of moments of resistance and refusal to be anything other than who we are. It is less of a show and more an embodiment of authenticity.
What it means to practice asana and to embody yoga are different things. The asana practice alone is not what offers us liberation, however, it is an external representation of transformation. In our physical practice, we find different and new levels of expression that we might not have had access to before. When we, as queer and trans people, celebrate pride we step into the world and breathe new expression into our being that we aren’t always able to access in our daily lives.
I will admit, liberation was not the first thing on my mind when I entered my first yoga class. In truth, I was looking to get an ‘A’ in the physical education credit I was required to take in college. While I knew I was living in discomfort I thought that was just the way my life was and it certainly hadn’t crossed my mind that yoga was even part of the answer. What I experienced, like so many of us do, was a profound change that came at the exact right moment. It wasn’t the first time I stood on my head or how long I could hold a Warrior II. It was moments over time of internal inquiry and consistent practice in showing up for myself that led me to understand the shifts that were happening. For the first time, I was asking myself what I needed and being guided by that. I let go of how I ‘should’ be showing up based on the messaging I received from all around me and I stood, I stand, in my truth. Pride is ownership of your authentic being and this practice allowed me to access that.
When we say “I'm proud of you” to ourselves or to anyone else we embody love and respect for the person and that community. ‘I’m proud of you’ carries weight, it means I see you, I honor you, I cherish you. That is what we offer ourselves when we embody liberation, that is what we offer communities when we embody pride. It’s more than a performance, it’s a state of being.
This month and these celebrations that we see are vibrant, outward expressions of human beings standing in their truth loudly and proudly. External representations of the transformation that has happened on a much deeper level over decades. Pride is the celebration of the ability to see and be seen, to be free in expression and liberated from all the boxes and binaries that try to silence us.
In reality, the intent of pride is not much different from the intention that many of us venture on the journey to yoga or meditation for. At the root of any pride celebration is liberation, the same liberation that we seek when we move into healing practice.
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