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What Happens When Yoga People Boycott Israel

"I won't go to her yoga training, she runs a program in Israel."
Israelis practicing yoga in Om Beach, Goa, India.

Israelis practicing yoga in Om Beach, Goa, India.
Photo Credit: Serge Attal / Flash 90

Should the growing, popular movement of yoga be allowed to join the political boycott movement?

This question disturbed me when I was on the email list at a Yoga studio in Toronto and received an email from the owner of the same studio, making apologies for her choice to run her yoga retreat in her Jewish Homeland.

Responding to the attempts by some of her clients to nudge her about her chosen destination, she wrote that she had received “.. emails expressing concerns about the yoga and touring trip I am leading to Israel in May. I would like to clarify my position and explain why I am committed to this trip.”

She then went on to assure her clients that she would be “visiting both Palestinian retreat centers and Jewish retreat centers.” Also, she did not condone Israel’s response in Gaza but she also didn’t “blame all of Israel and the Israeli people for it.” Moreover, “..our mission is not political by nature. We will travel in the spirit of open minded compassion and curiosity that hopefully will engender open dialogue between ourselves and those Israelis and Palestinians that we encounter.”

As owner of a yoga training outfit in Israel, I found her email so disturbing, it made me wonder how individuals who supposedly work on centering their bodies and minds could go as far as questioning conducting a yoga retreat in Israel, where, because of the complex conflict, there should be even more balancing of minds and hearts.

I began to wonder if people in the yoga community may be clicking to my website and saying to themselves: “I won’t go to her yoga training, she runs a program in Israel.”

This type of boycott, created by the fiercely aggressive BDS, should not be accepted by the yoga community and should stay “off the mat.” Yoga has been proven to be an effective stress reducing practice in Israel, a country that is in constant tension. Yoga can help to unite people by bringing people onto their mats to explore a basic natural state of human beings.

Yoga is practiced in Israel by both Jews and Arabs. The holistic health movement and the healing arts are so widespread in Israel that practically everyone there is a healer. Israelis love healing, yoga, health, and holistic sensibilities, and, in fact, India and Israel have such a similar history that many Israelis find themselves drawn to visit India. They both share a deep religious history, a history of bloodshed and terrorism, and a rise in the advancement of the hi-tech industry.

So, my question to the larger yoga community is: will you one day post “Israel Apartheid” all over your yoga journal? Will Yoga Star Sean Corn hold her amnesty international logo in one hand and her Free Palestine logo in the other? Will you be shouting out that this boycott is protesting the collective punishment of Palestinians, only to then collectively punish the Jews in Israel?

I hope that the yoga mat remain a symbol of peace, love, understanding, and balance, and that the radical, imbalanced aggression of the far left BDS does not find its way onto the precious yoga mat.

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