Why I’m Grasping at the Root: By Victoria Rutledge
“If you pour water on the root of the tree, the water reaches to the branches, to the twigs, to the leaves, to the flowers, to the fruits automatically. You simply pour water on the root. That is the system. If you pour water on every leaf, I think you’ll have no time. ‘Oh, there are millions of leaves. How we can…?’ No. Take the root and pour water and it will reach. That is the way.”
– Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bombay, (January 13, 1973)
The heart of why I teach yoga is, and always has been, a genuine calling to invite seekers into the darkest rooms of their soul and explore. To create the right container for illumination, self-study, critical thinking, deep care, and self-love. There is not always comfort in these rooms, but the discomfort of the work has its own prize. Sitting in truth and justice allows for alignment across boundaries. Alignment with our souls’ highest calling. Alignment with the earth, the air, the waters…all the elements that are reflected within each and every one of us. Grounded in this connection, spreading infinitely through the bloodlines of every human alive and dead that created me, teaching asana is a dance of breath and body that flows like poetry, like love, like pain and bliss combined.
It has been truly heartbreaking to watch as the yoga world has grappled with what feels like the first sustained call for justice and reflection. Heartbreaking, because to truly look at the history of yoga in America is to grapple with each and every practitioner’s complicity in white supremacy and colonialism…which can feel not only daunting but downright impossible. How do we create the emotional container for this continuous work? How do we sacrifice our ego’s need to protect itself by clinging to ideas of goodness and morality? How do we cultivate resilience in our emotional container enough to show up in a way that truly brings us closer to ourselves and each other?
I invite you to join us for Grasp at the Root, a 3-day training in which we will explore this complicated, urgent and challenging subject matter.
The experience of yoga as a Black person has put me face to face with these questions again and again. How can I participate in another spiritual tool that has been maligned by hundreds of years of white supremacy? Are the teachers I love and respect less knowledgeable, less kind, less yogic if they are unable to speak to or confront the long legacy of white supremacy that consumes every continent on our abused Earth home? In the devotional bhakti-based practice I was so drawn to…how do we water the roots of a practice that was stolen and actively alienates poor, Black, Indigenous, and POC?
To me, the time to water the roots of our practice is over. We need to diversify our tools. We need to educate ourselves. Keep the practice but plant a new tree. Why must we continue to water something that is only creating poisonous fruit, fruit only a few can enjoy? Closeness to God, to trust, the truth, to Krishna or Jesus or Allah is meant to create an expansive energy that elevates all living beings. Closeness to all-that-is, the lived and present experience of the zhuzh, binds each of us with love. At the heart of all our practices, it’s this feeling I am reaching for. The zhuzh are the tingles when you get lost in meditation, the seeds that are buried within each of our souls with boundless potential for compassion and closeness. This tree has yet to be planted, as the soil is mired in the toxic veins of capitalism. But we can begin to hold space for ourselves and each other to make that change.
We are calling this training “Grasp At the Root,” to symbolize this exact sentiment. To center that zhuzh. To center the pleasure beyond the capitalistic and white supremacist need to produce. Where we can rest, where we can be honest about those dark rooms of our soul. Where we can be safe and hold each other and the process of untethering from that which keeps us bound, with compassion and bravery. Where we can upend the source of our alienation from each other, and truly shine a light on what needs to be integrated and set aside to walk into this new world with open hearts, honest hearts. Where we can feel empowered instead of disheartened. Where we no longer search desperately for how to create change, but experience ourselves as active community members from which mutual aid flows freely and regularly.
It is empowering to recognize the ways in which our country has been born of the resilience and power of Black people. By centering the expansive and non-monolithic nature of the Black experience, diving into the history of yoga and its place within the oppressive systems that innervate all society, and approaching our bodies in their full somatic glory, we are calling all who want to find that power and resilience with themselves and their lineage to JOIN US.