The Power of Yoga by Michal Ner-David, Israel

“All true leaders are heroes, heroes are ordinary people that are driven to action by something bigger than the way they wound up being”

“The things in our lives, our schooling, our relationships… etc. Should push us to be bigger than ourselves. To step out of our ordinary paths, to create a non predictable future”

Last week I participated in a Power Yoga teachers training at the EcoMe center, in southern Israel. A training which was focused on the POWER of yoga, both physically and mentally. The physical power of pushing your own body’s limits, and the mental power of practicing alongside people of different cultures, religions, skin colors, genders and more.
Power yoga is a source of reason to bring people together in a neutral space, and by doing that it can be used as a tool for social change. The love of yoga brings people together, no matter who they are or where they come from.

My journey towards the training started a few months ago when I got an email forwarded to me by my mother. The email was sent from an old friend of the family whom my family knows from the US. In the email she wrote: “ I want to tell you about a power yoga training I am organizing, a training that will include Arabs, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, men and women…a yoga training with goals to create community leaders… Jan 25-Feb 7 in the EcoME ctr by the Dead Sea. We are having some really powerful teachers from the US and Africa and was wondering if you had any recommendations of people we can contact…I was thinking of your oldest daughter…what do you think?”

The day I got that email was the beginning of a journey with Karen. Trying to recruit people to come and participate in the training. Trying to spread the word of such an important and inspiring initiative. But always in the back of my mind, wondering why? Why was this Modern Orthodox American Jewish women, living in a small, mostly orthodox town in Israel, interested in social change between Israelis and Palestinians?
In our world, we give people titles, we categorize them. “Religious”, “Jewish”, “Muslim”, “Christian”, “Terrorist”, “Right wing”, “Left wing”, “Settler”, “Arab”, “Israeli”, “Palestinian”, “American”, “Rich”, “Poor”, “Man”, “Woman”…etc.

And we ALL are victims of this way of thinking. YES, even those of us who are, “Liberal thinkers”, “Peace activists”, “Accepting”.
My mind immediately put her in a place of judgement, I thought to myself “what does SHE know about integration, interfaith and peace activism?”

The one thing that Karen kept repeating throughout the journey was, “Yoga is for EVERYONE”. She put no limitations on who she wanted to come and who she didn’t. She had no ulterior motive, aside from bringing people together to do yoga, making it accessible to all, and bringing more awareness of yoga to the Middle East. Simple.
At the last day of the training it all clicked.

She was able to bring people together from all over Israel and Palestine, of different religions, cultures, political beliefs, genders and more.
She put into action something that I always dreamed of. She created a supporting, trusting and most of all accepting environment, all because she believed it to be true, and because people trusted her. She planted a seed of a “non predictable future” for these people.

One of the participants was a young woman who grew up in Canada as a Zionist Jew. When she turned eighteen she moved to Israel and joined the army. She now lives in the settlements of Israel, an area over the green line. On the last day of the training she got up and said “I am going back home to a less accepting environment, to a reality filled with fear of the other. I will not change the place I live in, and my political opinions have stayed the same. But I am also going home with each and every one of your faces. Your laughter, your smiles, your sadness, but most of all with knowing that we are all people, we are all human.”
This training brought back my faith in people, and lit a light of hope in Israeli Palestinian society.

Yoga is a metaphor for social change. Yoga is a physical activity that includes the WHOLE body. It does not leave out any part of the body, such as it should be in the world. We cannot leave anyone out. We have to include everyone, we have to find a way to live with and accept all parts of our body, and of humanity.

If we want to make a change, we have to be that change, we have to learn how to create a non-predictable future.

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