on solidarity & community yoga

pakikitungo, pakikisama, pakikiramay. relating to each other, being together, feeling together, all becomes a living practice. and that is how i understand ‘work’ —it is nothing more than a way to live; it is action; it is everyday activism that is inspired for transformation.

when we awaken to the pains we have created within us, the brokenness in our own relations, and the injustices we perpetuate in our own societies, charity becomes an insufficient way to give. somehow we cannot afford the mediocrity of handing out ‘tokens’, or indulge in the fleeting feeling of ‘self-righteousness’ in giving. if true transformation is the ideal, then solidarity in turn becomes a more lasting and empowering way to live.


my undergraduate years have given me many opportunities to explore and experiment with these ideas (www.ethicsofisl.ubc.ca). having later returned to the philippines to work on a variety of community development projects, every trip to visit a community, every home i am invited to stay in, and every project we partner for, continue to be moments to live solidarity. pakikitungo, pakikisama, pakikiramay. relating to each other, being together, feeling together, all becomes a living practice. and that is how i understand ‘work’ —it is nothing more than a way to live; it is action; it is everyday activism that is inspired for transformation.


ritualyoga too, i have grown to learn in the past years, is another transformative way to live. ‘doing’ yoga has become less of attending a class, less of a physical work-out, less of ‘me-time’, and now much more of a commitment to a daily inner work.
teaching yoga too has become a little less of an appointment, a little less of a task on a ‘to-do list’ (although i am still constantly reflecting on my attitudes towards teaching!), and now much more of choosing to be actively part of community transformation.
yoga has grown for me more and more to become an everyday movement, an everyday practice, enacted live, that seeks to transform nothing more than my very own self. and when my inner work fills me full, i naturally step out into the world to join others.


in the past year, i have joined many other yoga teachers in metro manila in leading community classes by-donation. it is difficult to size-up the entire movement today, as these classes are often unpublicised, not formalised, and mushrooming in the most unexpected spaces (almost ‘guerrilla-style’ as some would say!). the principle that guides it is that of ‘energy exchange’ —the teacher gives of her/his time to lead and hold a class together, and the students give what they wish and are able to in return for the gift of practice. it can also be explained as seva, as jivamukti yoga teacher nancy explains it, when she offers ‘free’ classes in exchange for supporting an advocacy.


these spaces and moments open up to a wide range of transformative possibilities!
rather than seeing the class as a commodity that s/he is entitled to as a client or customer, a student instead approaches the teacher as a companion, kasama, in a practice. a teacher is invited to enter a community of friends (and strangers!) whose own interest, zeal and passion self-sustains their own practice, and which is hardly dependent on the teacher’s availability. (our students have in fact, more than once, gathered together for ‘solo practice’ in the teacher’s absence! and had fun leading their own savasana at the end!) in these classes by-donation, a teacher is enabled to serve individuals who otherwise would not be able to financially sustain a regular yoga practice in a commercial studio. a teacher too is taught to have faith in the students’ generosity, in that s/he will be always be abundantly rewarded —perhaps quite like in an ‘economics of giving’ that is founded on a trust in prosperity, and not in lack. and more radically, the teacher is reminded that s/he is NOT engaged in charity (i.e. NOT engaged in a self-righteous act of reaching out to disempowered individuals), but instead, engaged in brief moments of solidarity when everyone in the room, for the next hour or so, join together as equals in a practice that profoundly empowers their own lives.


1st anniv
this month of july 2014, our growing community celebrates its 1st year anniversary of practising yoga together. i offer this piece as a little reflection of what it was like to teach them, to witness the tremendous growth in everyone, and to learn from everything we have gone through together. today the group’s own enthusiasm has called 5 other teachers to offer them classes almost daily! fuelled by nothing more than the students’ own passion, sustained by everyone’s generosity, and belief in their own empowerment.
here we offer our own stories too:

7 thoughts on “on solidarity & community yoga

  1. Thank you for sharing this teacher chaya! It has been a wonderful year indeed, as more and more people have been touched by yoga since the community started. We look forward to growing more in the coming years! <3

  2. I will go with this Seva description of the Maha Tantric Yogi Bhajan: “Seva is to earn first and then share, that is Seva. Exploitation and get exploited is not Seva. I did Seva to the men, I charged them one hundred and eight dollars.

    And taught them a course, which was worth a million dollars. It was a Seva. And they all understood; they valued it. Because you do not throw beauty before a beast, it’s no use. Why to waste knowledge, let them earn, let them prepare themself. And then give them far more than they expect, that’s called Seva.”

    In this material world, I have discovered the Truth in what Yogi Bhajan said that ‘we don’t value, what we get for free (classic example: every day blessing of the breath that we squander needlessly).

    1. Sat Nam! Thank you for sharing, HarNadh!
      I enjoyed our lengthier conversations on this ;)
      Keep serving, dear teacher!

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