Yoga has been a fitness trend for many years—but it’s so much more than that. It’s a mental and physical pursuit that many people practice to recharge mind, body, and spirit. It’s time for themselves, time to escape the stress of life, time to feel centered. And women our age are one of the fastest growing groups flocking to study this discipline. Which is part of the reason why the November 2nd Tallahassee yoga shooting is so deeply upsetting to many of us.
The gunman (who we refuse to name) had posted racist and misogynistic videos, been charged with groping women and complained about women who wouldn’t date him. Posing as a class participant, he opened fire, shooting several women and killing two women, Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and student Maura Binkley, 21, before taking his own life. Just like the horrific shootings that have happened at schools and houses of worship, this tragic crime occurred at a place where people should have found safety and sanctuary.
What yoga has to offer us in terms of finding stability and serenity may be of greater importance than ever now.
NextTribe spoke to yoga instructor Suzan Colón, who is also the author of Yoga Mind: Journey Beyond the Physical: 30 Days to Enrich Your Practice and Revolutionize Your Life from the Inside Out, for her perspective. “As a yoga teacher, it doesn’t hurt me more that it happened at a place where we practice a path grounded in peace, because it’s happening everywhere. And it will continue to happen as long as we allow it to, by electing officials who let military-grade assault weapons be available to anyone who wants one,” she said.
“Yoga is so important to women, especially in midlife. What yoga has to offer us in terms of finding stability and serenity may be of greater importance than ever now,” she explained. “Our biggest danger may be becoming numbed by the shock and pain of the frequency of these shootings. We must refuse to allow that to happen. I may sit quietly in a yoga class, but yoga has taught me not to sit quietly and sink into apathy.”
That sentiment was echoed by Wendy Zipes Hunter, who lives in Parkland, Florida, which of course was the location of another horrendous shooting incident this past Valentine’s Day. “I’m not going to live in fear—I will not stop going to pray, or see a movie or send my kids to school or practice yoga for fear of being shot,” she says. “I will live mindfully. I will remind my loved ones to be safe and aware and I will continue to lend my voice to changes and causes that work towards ending gun violence and to putting common sense gun laws into place. It makes me feel more resolute in my stance. And of course deepens the sadness I have felt since 2/14/18.”
NextTribe’s own fashion editor Kimberley Cihlar is also a yoga instructor in New York City. “We’ve had some odd people in the studio before. It makes you think,” she says. “But we are all inclusive and all welcoming. We have to be. Spread the love and the peace.”