Dharma Series: Yoga and Peace Education
By: Sarah Ingraham
Peace education is fundamentally about the possibility of creating new structures, pedagogies, policies, and ways of learning that support cultural diversity, human solidarity, social responsibility, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and ecological awareness (Bajaj, 2008). Through peace education we not only transform the structures of society, but also the structures of consciousness.
Maria Montessori, known throughout the world for starting a movement of child-led learning, is also known by many for her contribution to peace education. She argued that peace education was the means for eliminating war once and for all and that without intentional moral and spiritual education, humans would inevitably revert to the habit of war. Montessori claimed that learning these values is as crucial as the subjects of math, language, and science.
Yoga teaches this. It is one of the most powerful methods for creating peace that I have found. I have experienced this personally through many years of practice and also since I completed the 300-hour teacher training with Kula Collective in Bali. Yoga has changed me in many ways.
My life is more open, positive, spiritually fulfilled, compassionate, and peaceful than ever before. The practice of yoga has taught me how to channel my energy in a positive, peaceful direction. Yoga rewires the brain and opens up our consciousness along with our ability to live in the present moment.
Fundamentally, yoga fosters unity beginning with its definition. The Sanskrit word yoga is defined as “to yoke” or “union”. Yoga unifies the mind, body, and spirit, as well as humans with nature and other beings.
The non-competitiveness of yoga creates a conflict free environment that supports a collectivistic attitude. Breathing, the most fundamental aspect of yoga, calms the mind and develops a non-reactive state within ourselves.
Throughout the practice of yoga there are teachings of how to live a more peaceful life. I had one teacher who would end every class by saying, “Don’t forget the Four Agreements: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best”. There are valuable lessons like this sprinkled throughout every class.
Yoga is the opposite of separation and competition; it stands for anti-violence and anti-war. In a world where resources are depleting and competition resulting in conflict is ever-present, we undoubtedly need more opportunities to spread peace. In my opinion, yoga is the answer.
Sarah (Skidmore College, B.A., Psychology, Columbia University, M.A., International Education Development) has practiced yoga for over 10 years and recently received her 300-hour yoga teacher certification with Kula Collective in Bali. While at Columbia University, Sarah studied International Education Development with a focus on Peace Education and permaculture. Sarah is passionate about experiential education and recently led youth on a community service trip through Costa Rica, as well as a gap semester in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.