In Mourning


Our world is witnessing and reckoning with history. As we mourn the horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Ramos, and the countless Black lives that have been lost from state violence, we mourn the hundreds of years of systemic racism, willful ignorance, and the intergenerational suffering and trauma that the Black community has endured in our country.

In the practice of yoga, we cultivate a deeper connection to our breath. The breath is where it all begins. It is how we connect with ourselves and with one another. When we take a moment to slow down and become aware of our breath, this practice opens the gateway for us to sink into our bodies and to become more aware of the interconnectedness of all things. As Shannon Roche of Yoga Alliance puts it, “We know that breath is life-giving, that it is life-changing, and that it is shared, equally, among every living being on this earth.”*

So the cruelty of taking someone’s breath – like that of George Floyd, Eric Garner, and too many others whose stories may not be as visible in mainstream media – not only denies their sacred right to life, but furthermore disconnects us from our own breath, for those of us who are still living. There is something to be said that the outcries of Floyd and Garner, “I can’t breathe,” have become our global outcry, “We can’t breathe.”

Yogic philosophy teaches us that shortness of breath is a symptom of a heart chakra that is out of balance. Perhaps our hearts have hardened too much in a society and culture that prioritizes individualism. Perhaps our hearts have hardened because we were too concerned about individual survival at the expense of communities of color, especially the Black community. Perhaps we have become alienated from ourselves and from one another.

The work of mourning and healing is both deeply personal and collective at the same time. It takes an immense amount of courage to offer our hearts to one another, because our hearts can get broken. But a broken heart is a beating heart. If we give ourselves the permission to feel the rhythm of our heartbeat, we can see ourselves in one another.

With this, I offer this prayer: to work towards a present and future when we can all breathe deeply again.


Click here for Yoga Alliance Statement: Black Lives Matter  

About the Author - Dr. Hannah Amaris Roh is a writer and scholar of religion, politics, and culture. She teaches Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga at the East Communities Y.  Twitter: @hannahamarisroh

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