356: How Silence Feels for a Yoga Student with Suzanne Miller

Since October 7 2023, Israel has been retaliating to the attack by Hamas by indiscriminately bombing Gaza, resulting in thousands of Palestinians being killed, many more injured, and almost the entire population of Gaza being displaced. In light of this genocide, how are yoga teachers reacting? How are they holding space for their students? Suzanne Miller is a long-time yoga student who shares her experience, particularly about the silence from yoga teachers in this situation.

Suzanne has been practicing yoga as a student since around 2000. She has taken classes of different yoga lineages and currently practices at a studio that does vinyasa flow in a hot room. She is a lawyer and works in-house at a US-based global corporation. Suzanne is also a single mom and occasionally teaches law school at nighttime.

In this conversation, Suzanne shares more about her experience going into yoga classes where the teacher was simply not acknowledging what is happening in Gaza, Palestine right now. She speaks about her feelings of disconnection and why this interaction felt more jarring and isolating in a yoga space. Shannon and Suzanne discuss what yoga teachers could do to hold space for their students, how our yoga practice can give us tools to navigate these challenging situations and conversations, and why it is so important for us to be having these difficult conversations.

Key Takeaways:

[2:47] Shannon shares that the upcoming Yoga for Pelvic Cancer series with Tyla Arnason is on a pay-what-you-can model — and it’s working!

[5:51] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Suzanne Miller.

[7:49] Suzanne shares a little about who she is.

[9:23] Shannon provides a little context about the situation between Israel and Gaza. Suzanne shares how it feels for her as a yoga student going to classes now.

[15:24] Suzanne did not share with her yoga teachers the disconnection she is experiencing and reflects on how it is a result of her “encoding” as a white woman.

“Even in times of great difficulty of my life, I feel like I can show up at a yoga class, not even talk to other people, but practice in community.” ~ Suzanne Miller 

[17:32] Shannon invites Suzanne to consider how the interaction with her yoga teacher differs from a similar interaction that could happen at the grocery store.

[20:46] Shannon and Suzanne discuss the things that could happen if yoga teachers started addressing the genocide in Gaza in their classes.

“It has been very surreal to show up [to yoga classes] in the middle of a genocide. And no one’s talking about it.” ~ Suzanne Miller 

[27:00] How would yoga teachers know how to navigate this?

[28:28] How does Suzanne feel about yoga teachers who say they don’t want to talk about politics or war in their classes?

“Any time we’re turning away from suffering, is that because we’re just unable to sit with that discomfort? And if so, yoga is a wonderful way to practice that.” ~ Suzanne Miller 

[31:22] Doing all of this difficult, uncomfortable, challenging work is easier when it is done in community.

[33:32] Shannon and Suzanne discuss how yoga philosophy is weaved in (or not) into the typical yoga classes.

[36:04] Shannon pops in to share a little about OfferingTree, how she uses it in her own business, and how they are aligned with Shannon’s values.

[40:56] Yoga teachers don’t often bring yoga philosophy into their typical classes, so what are some things that they could say to help their students feel seen in their classes?

[45:47] Suzanne shares a little about bringing yoga into law spaces. Small actions can have a huge impact!

[49:15] What if people did more yoga or brought more yoga teachings into their lives? What if people exercised more compassion and empathy? What if there were more love?

[54:38] Shannon and Suzanne discuss inclusivity and making yoga spaces feel welcoming to everyone, and the importance of speaking up.

[60:41] Shannon and Suzanne reflect on the history of their own settler colonial states.

[65:05] This is a flashpoint for yoga teachers who are hungry to mobilize their practice, to put their yoga in action.

[67:08] Shannon shares her biggest takeaways from this conversation.

“I really do think that the small tiny conversations that we have and the tiny things that we say as yoga teachers and humans can make a big difference.” – Shannon Crow

Links:

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