Are We Ready to Really Live by Our Deepest Values?

A week ago I moderated a panel discussion on corporate responsibility and yogic values at Yoga Journal LIVE! NYC.  The panel included leadership from Lululemon Athletica (including the new CEO Laurent Potdevin) as well as bloggers and yoga teachers who have been critical of the company.  This has begun a conversationamong yoga practitioners that I think is very important.

Panelists and audience members at The Practice of Leadership shared their concern that Lululemon does not operate according to yogic values, and thus is not a true reflection of the yoga community.  Many expressed their opinion that Lululemon should change its marketing and production practices to be more inclusive and have more integrity.

I want to break down these arguments.

I’ll start by sharing who I am, which inevitably informs my perspective.  I am a mother of multi-cultural children, a trauma therapist, co-founder of Off the Mat Into the World, a yoga teacher, a Lebanese immigrant, straight, able-bodied, educated and white (white is an ambiguous term that typically refers to people of European descent, so some would argue that I’m not white, but I pass as white and thus receive benefits from my skin color).

Who are we referring to when we say “yoga community”?

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Is Your Yoga Really Working?

You know your yoga practice is working when your life gets better, not when your yoga gets better.

You know who I’m talking about.

Maybe this was you; maybe this is you. The mala bead wearing, namaste talkin’, slightly arrogant, super neurotic, I-never-eat-meat-refined-flour-or-non-organic-food, type.

The person who looks down on anyone who doesn’t do yoga, isn’t vegan, has “negative energy” or has a corporate job.

I know this person because this person was me.

When I lived in New York City, I would pause when I walked by a McDonald’s and pray for the people inside. I prayed that they would find enlightenment and stop eating such low quality food made with tortured animals and additives.

Then I would walk off, feeling better than everyone and very satisfied with myself.

You see, yogis don’t overtly judge—we cover it up in spiritual guise.

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Getting to the Root of it All.

Any gardener knows that in order to get rid of weeds, you don’t just cut off the part that is sticking out of the soil, you must pull the root out.

Otherwise, the weeds keep growing back.

It’s the same with stress—if we only address the parts of our stress that are obvious to us and on the surface, we will most likely find ourselves in an endless and unfruitful search for inner peace.

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If You Are a Yoga Teacher, Admit it: You are Co-dependent & Needy.

My name is Hala. I am a yoga teacher. I am co-dependent and needy.

I had to admit this to myself in order to grow as a teacher and step into an authentic leadership role.

If you are a teacher of any kind, you have to do this too.

You see, I wasn’t a cool kid. I had frizzy hair, a strange name (no “Hala” is not a spiritual name I picked up in my 20’s—it’s a Lebanese name that I dreamed of changing, to Julianna or Irene, for most of my adolescence) and I never fit in.

When I started teaching, it was the first time I felt really accepted by a large group of people. For a long time, I unconsciously got my need to feel accepted and liked met by my students. When I realized that my inner 12 year old was (partially) motivating me to teach, I had to examine it, unpack it and tend to the part of me that was in a lot of pain.

It is a particular type of person who wants to become a yoga teacher; not everyone is interested in standing up in front of a group of strangers and telling them what to do with their bodies and their breath. Not everyone is interested in being a teacher or a healer.

Yet, for many of us who teach, we can’t imagine anything more fulfilling.

I’ve been training yoga teachers for over a decade now and I have seen that many of us have similar life experiences and issues that motivate us to teach.

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How yoga can make childbirth and other hard things easier

“There is no coming into consciousness without pain.  People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.  One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” ~ CG Jung

I’ve always been a happy person.  People always commented on how optimistic and bright I was.  All that was true, well, mostly.  I was happy, I was optimistic; yet my positivity was slightly manufactured.   I was positive because I refused to feel the negative stuff. You see, I believed that “everything happens for a reason”, there is nothing “bad” because those things help us grow, and that I can create my own reality.  I was positive because I had learned to bypass the negative, and that comes with at a price.

My senior year of collage I went through a difficult breakup.  He had been my high school sweetheart.  We broke up sitting in a park in downtown Manhattan.  As I boarded the subway back uptown, I was in tears.  Heartbroken.  By the time I got to my stop at 116th street the tears were gone, and I had decided this happened for a reason and it was for the best.  When my roommate asked me what happened, I told her that Al and I had broken up, but that I was fine because it was I had learned so much from the relationship and had grown from it.  I didn’t shed one tear nor feel any sadness.

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Is voting an important part of being a yogi?

Is voting an important part of being a yogi? It depends on how you define yoga, and why you practice yoga.

If you do yoga to try to get away from your problems, the daily grind and the world’s suffering, then you might argue against politics intruding in on your spiritual sanctuary. For many, the yoga mat offers solace from a world filled with chaos. It is a safe space away from the unpredictability and complexities of life.

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Five Not-so-easy Steps Toward Transformation from the Inside Out

Wanna change the world? You’d better look inside first.

I’ve wanted to change the world since I was ten years old.

It’s Christmas Eve, 1983, I have convinced my younger sister and two cousins that we must go on a hunger strike to protest the fact that we were discriminated against by the adults by having to sit at a kid’s table. We are all hiding in the downstairs playroom while three-year-old Nicole is instructed to sneak into the kitchen to bring us some cookies because we might just starve to death making a stand for equality and justice.

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