YOGA – WHAT FOR?
Gopala Amir Yaffa
People practice yoga for many reasons. They want to get flexible and fit, they want to lose weight, they want to cope with life better, they want to relax, or they may want to be spiritually enlightened. So Yoga is not a goal on its own, it is a tool. And for me, Yoga is also a tool for nothing less than world peace.
When I first joined the Yoga Ashram in 1994 as a monk, an inspiring lady from the USA came to stay for a few days on her way to Jordan. We had a few deep and meaningful conversations and I found out that she had just become the private Yoga teacher for King Hussein and the Royal Family. A few months after, King Hussein’s attitude toward the Middle East conflicts changed and in a surprising move, he made peace with Israel.
Yoga is a powerful tool, even a tool for world peace.
After leaving the Ashram in 2004, I started developing a unique style of Yoga called Rainbow Yoga. The idea behind Rainbow Yoga was to bring people together through yoga. I found the more “traditional” yoga to be isolating. It focuses on the individual and its philosophy of negating the world. So my new Yoga was a rebellion against what I found constricting within that old yoga world. I was taught in the Ashram that happiness is within, but I discovered that it is not just within, it is also all around us, ready to be experienced and tapped in to, through all of our senses and through all of our interactions with friends and our fellow beings.
Our new paradigm of Yoga was to come out of our individual Yoga square and join the Yoga circle. Our meditation grew to include everyone in the room, even all beings in the universe rather than contracting into oneself. Doing poses in groups and pairs, interacting and playing together, dancing and massaging all became tools to feel more connected to oneself and one another in body and heart.
My first Yoga studio was in Tel Aviv and was named “Yoga LeShalom” which translates to Yoga for Peace. And continuing with the idea of the Jordanian Israeli peace was aimed at bringing peace not just to individuals, but also to couples and families, communities and even countries. Growing and nurturing this vision we started our Rainbow Yoga teacher trainings, first Kids Yoga, investing in the next generation of peacemakers, and then also Rainbow Yoga for adults. Angel, my beautiful and amazing life partner and I travelled with our growing family to almost every part of the world sharing this ecstatic feeling with thousands of people.
Now, with our latest project, The Rainbow Centre, we are attempting to expand and reach farther than ever before, using yoga as a tool for social evolution. The Rainbow Centre is a hub of human interaction bringing people together through vegan food, social yoga, music, dance, tantra and art. Besides an amazing and varied schedule of yoga and more, and a vegan restaurant, we offer events weekly, aimed at inspiring people to come out of themselves, ignite their inner fire, connect, and stand up and make a difference in the world.
What we try to teach in this Centre, more than anything else is kindness. If we make our choices with what we buy and what we eat and how we interact with the world guided by kindness, we believe that we will heal not just ourselves and our communities, but also the bigger world conflicts and challenges we experience and our earth with its delicate environment.
Kindness is tricky because it can’t be faked. You can’t force yourself to be kind, but you can relax yourself to be kind. That’s because kindness, empathy, compassion and love are fundamental to our being. Only when we bury ourselves preconceptions and prejudice do we fail to see each others’ basic goodness.
Pushing the boundaries and breaking through the invisible ideologies we all grew up with, we are educating our community to be free and are engaging in grassroots activism and a kind of Anarchy, a peaceful one… taking matters to our own hands, making changes from the bottom up, changes in our families and our communities, changes that will eventually ripple all the way up to government and humanity at large. From Naked Yoga and Yoga Raves, to Doga (Yoga with your dog) and Broga (manly yoga for dudes), we try new ideas and find more ways to connect. Then we use environmentalist and activists through art and music, movie screenings and panel discussions to expand people’s horizons and expose them to the knowledge of what is happening on our beautiful planet and where and how we can help because when we know better, we can do better.
Many of us feel hopeless about the state of the world, fearful for our future. But what if you did one thing? What if I did one thing? What if we all, every one of us who is able, did one thing that is kinder?
How do we save the world? The answer is surprisingly simple: education. Truth. Awareness. We, humans, are fundamentally good, no matter how stressful and sick things might feel at times.
We see suffering, and we instinctively want to help.
If we don’t want to help, it’s because we have buried our caring beneath a lifetime of hurt. We can heal. We can open. We can be brave.
This is our Yoga journey. This is our why.
Why, why do you practice Yoga and how are you going to make the world a better place with it?
I’m a person who likes to take myself out of my comfort zone. I know that’s where the growth comes, so I will always sign up. I’ve pushed the envelope ever since I was a kid. So at 31, I’m used to it. When I first heard about Nude Yoga I thought even cobra (Bhujangasana) would be uncomfortable, let alone downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) for my, ahem, let’s say, perineum. Then an opportunity arose with Fit Gangster, a fitness community who review the latest in studios. So I just went for it. What’s the worst that could happen? Who cares if I get embarrassed? I’ve been to circles and 5rythym dances before, so I know spaces like this are always shared with like-minded people and I would feel comfortable.
“I brought with me a towel for my mat, a kimono to start class and a very open mind.”