Yoga can be a wonderful personal practice–body, mind, and spirit.  Through asanas we can bend our body, stretch our muscles, and flex our physicality.  Internally we can learn to quiet the mind, decrease anxiety, and find inner calm and centeredness.  In the intangibles of spiritual connection we can find through space to breathe we find connection to something larger than the self, something part of a collective whole and a union that persists inside ourselves and out.  From this we can, if we choose, extend that unity further.  If we choose.

I am coming to the close of my teacher training, beginning my “Yoga for Trauma Survivors” class and planning forward working and preparing for a variety of upcoming talks on mind/body wellness, yoga for mental health, and complementary therapies at the NASW Conference in Florida, at hOMe yoga in Mahwah, New Jersey, and in a graduate elective at a university here in Southern Florida.  As I prepare to move out of this phase of my life, an intensive training phase, and into an intensive action phase I think of the extension and arms of yoga.  How far can yoga reach?  As far as your mind and metaphors can reach–and much further forward than I can stretch in forward bend.

Karma yoga, selfless service, and yoga as action is becoming more and more synonymous as yoga communities are taking the internal calm of mind that comes from meditation and a quiet graceful posture and using that clarity to effect change in the world around them.  Such figures as Seane Corn and her “Off the Mat and Into the World” campaign highlight the ways in which yoga and a well-known voice can be channeled to create change both on the mat and in the world at large.  But we also don’t need to have a voice that is known to say something of value.  Yoga can imbue us with a sense of strength, empowerment, grounding, and centering and these essential tools of being can be taken by any yogi or yogini and be tailored for wherever your heart and passions might lead you.

I wrote earlier this month about Swami Padma, of the Sivananda Center in San Francisco, and his work to bring yoga to inmates in the California Prison System.  This is just another example of one person’s passion creating a ripple effect, a focus on a cause that might otherwise be ignored, and monies and services put in place as a result.  Imagine what you could do taking a combination of your passions, creativity, yogic centeredness, and spirit for action and creating change in the world.  Whatever your passion is, wherever your voice takes you, you have the potential to effect change for a population or a cause that otherwise could have been ignored.  What you believe in matters.  What you fight for can make a difference.  Lending your voice, even if it is just the voice of one, can change the hearts and minds of many.  We all have the potential to create ripples of change in this world; even ripples that could extend farther and wider than your imagination can imagine.

Lately, as I extend and deepen my own yoga practice, center inward more in meditative moments, follow my passion and lend my voice to what I believe in the more it seems that voice and these words of mine seem to blossom and grow branches upon branches.  I am still not sure how far this will take me or how much I will be able to do but I am setting my sights on infinity and anything along the way, on my pursuit, amazing and beautiful things are happening.  Connections are being made, changes are happening almost organically, and the contagion that is my own passion seems to spread as I open my mouth, write my words, and purvey my dreams for what could be.

My aspirations reach as far as creating a nonprofit and learning institute that could bring complementary therapies and yoga for mental health to a variety of populations at low to no cost as well as train persons in the field of yoga, mental health, and complementary therapies how to integrate the two and be sensitive to the needs and issues of mental health populations.  I believe healing and the capacity to heal can emanate from all manner of creative and holistic approaches and in my own trauma healing yoga, contemplative practices, and animal-bond/relational experiences have been profound.  I want to extend these tools to anyone I can.  So for now I will speak anywhere I can on the matter, create programs wherever I have the option to, and hope for a future where I can reach past the branches of my own dreams into something even more profound than I could imagine.

What do you dream about?  What do your passions lie?  What would you do to effect change in the world you are in, the life you have, and using whatever skills or knowledge you have at your disposal?  It is amazing the well of talent and internal resources we all have.  Every person is the authority on something or passionate for something that might be ignored by everyone else.  Every voice matters!  How are you going to use yours?