In observation of the UN’s international day of peace, Yoga teacher Molly Schlangen of Raymond, NH wanted to lead a group of practitioners in a “Yoga for Peace” practice at the town common area on Sunday September 20. But, when she requested permission from the Raymond selectmen, it was denied. The selectmen said that the request was denied because there was not enough information about Schlagen’s plans for the space.
The small town of Raymond probably did not expect the attention it received as a result of the decision. There are currently over 177 news articles addressing the decision, and between 30 and 40 Libertarians wearing guns spent the Sunday of the proposed event at the town commons in support of the first and second amendment rights for themselves and for Schlagen. The ban was passed on a 3-2 vote by the selectmen, and even selectmen Cheryl Killam who voted in favor of the gathering showed support on Sunday stating that “if we had approved it, there wouldn’t be this much focus on it.”
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But it wasn’t approved, and there is now a great deal of focus on it. A headline even stated that the selectmen had reviewed the decision again on Monday night, which they stood behind, based on lack of information or representation on the part of Schlagen. Members of the community were on hand to offer their opinions about the discrimination they felt the selectmen were expressing in preventing a peaceful gathering.
In this day and age where yoga is so common and accepted among all walks of life, it sometimes takes me by surprise to see that for whatever reason, it would not be a welcome event. The selectmen provided a list of practical reasons why the event was not approved, from parking, to crowd control, to clean up, though there was not written policy about any of these restrictions on the books prior to the request.
Could it be that this practice, meant to focus on peace, is still an unknown and threatening presence for some? The thought that it may be a source of fear brings up an important point for practitioners and teachers. We continue to have a responsibility to gently educate our communities and representatives about what yoga is, and how it can be a support to everyone. Even though the practical benefits of yoga are in the headlines everyday, it is still an unknown practice to many, and its benefits may not always be clear.
So, in addition to practicing and teaching, we can start dialogues, conversations about the positive effects of yoga with our doctors, our loan officers, and our community representatives. When we believe in the positive effects of what we do, we can offer knowledge and insight about the practice outside of the studio or meditation hall, and we can encourage others to learn more about the practice themselves. Then when our communities and representatives are faced with decisions about including yoga and meditation in community spaces and events, they can make decisions based on information or familiarity. And, hopefully, as a result will support the greater good instead of avoiding the things of which they know very little.