Yoga for Social Justice: An Interview with Jasmine Tarkeshi

With the Yoga for Social Justice Conference coming up this January, we couldn't wait to get back in touch with founder Jasmine Tarkeshi on her inspiration and motivation for the upcoming workshop that will teach us all how we can make a positive difference in our community and alleviate social injustice issues through our yoga community!

You've been a social activist for some time now. What inspired you to become active in the community?

As a kid who moved to the US from Iran, I suffered from prejudice and was picked on. But I stuck up for myself and soon started sticking up for other kids who were also targeted...sometimes I got beat up. But, I saw how sticking up for others helped make a difference and I've continued fighting for the oppressed ever since; volunteering, showing up to protests, rising against injustice in the workplace and even later in spiritual communities! 

What can yoga studios to do help their favorite causes? And what are you hoping is the #1 take-away from this workshop?

Yoga Studios are some of the biggest social hubs! There are so many different ways to help, for instance:

- Hold benefit classes and fund raisers for non-profits are a great way to start and donating all or partial proceeds to a favorite or pressing cause.

- Organize to show up to a protest together and use your Yoga Center as a meeting place.

- Hold a community volunteer event - build community AND do great service!

- Initiate a food drive or clothing drive for a neighborhood shelter or something simple for the environment like picking up trash on the beach or park.

- Offer free or low cost community classes for those unable to afford full priced classes.

The point is to bring awareness to causes and teach about Yoga’s Tradition of selfless service. We hope Yogi’s will walk away from our conference feeling empowered by the vast difference they can make in the world by first bravely looking into the myth of equality and challenging issues and systems affecting our country as racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, poverty and explore practical ways we can use our practice and teaching to create social change by the way we think, speak, act and live.

What are one or some things our readers can do right now, even at their desks, to help effect positive change?

Change, in fact, starts in our homes, families and at our desks! Be open to engage with everyone; don't be afraid to have difficult conversations with people in your life, especially if their view opposes yours! Recognize the difference between opinions and well-informed knowledge. Recognize your societal privileges of race, class, gender and use them to support those you feel are being treated unjustly and speak up for them. Recognize social inequality -not everyone is treated the same. Sign petitions, make calls to government officials on your break, share thought-out Social Media posts and links to expose injustice but that also include ways to ACT like make a donation, educate yourselves by reading: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and A People’s History of The United States by Howard Zinn. Organize a work fundraiser to bring awareness a cause you are passionate about. But mostly: do not stay silent and do not go back to sleep. Let’s get to work! 

Yoga’s main teachings are about our connectedness to others and that our Liberation is bound to the Liberation of others and in Social Justice the relationship is between the individual and society!

To learn more about this event, please visit the Laughing Lotus SF websiteFacebook page or sign up at MindBodyOnline

Photo: Courtesy of Jasmine Tarkeshi
Post written for SFYogaMag.com