One Simple Way to Fight Hate With Yoga

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Swami Vivekananda, an Indian thinker who brought yoga to the West in the late 19th century, said:

"This world is slowly going on; let it go slowly. Why are you in a hurry? Sleep well and keep your nerves in good order; eat right food, and have sympathy with the world. Fanatics only make hatred."

Within the 8-fold path of yoga we have all the tools needed to fight fanaticism and hatred.

Many of us find great personal benefit from our yoga practices.

If through this practice we find some small measure of peace, then hopefully this peace grows within us. It grows so we can share it. Practicing one of the ethical teachings of yoga, ahimsa (non-harming) teaches us we have a responsibility to help others at this time where hatred and intolerance are running rampant.

Recently, with all the state and white-supremacist violence against Black folks, Muslims, Sikhs and South Asians, it's clear that we are more divided and more biased than many of us may have realized.

With Anonymous' war on ISIS, followed quickly by a war on Donald Trump, it's obvious that fanaticism can take many forms. These forms show up through any legitimizing of exclusion or violence. Fanaticism has deadly impact. And it has insidious influence -- it trickles down.

Recently, with the overwhelming response of Parisians hugging a Muslim man standing in the Place de Republique with a sign reading "Do you trust me?" as well as large and small signs of support worldwide it's clear we are more inclusive, more connected than we realized.

This loving, inclusive connection is our strength. Our ability to act from unity in response to hatred is our power.


In 1993, in Billings, Montana a white-supremacist uprising emerged much like the ones we are seeing today.

Native American, Jewish and Black homes were vandalized.

A skinhead group threw a rock through a 5-year-old's window because it was glowing with his menorah lit for Hanukkah. Town police urged his mother to take down all Jewish symbols. She refused and spoke out in a news story.

Overwhelmingly, Billings responded to the hate in their midst. The town blossomed with menorahs. Thousands of windows displayed candles burning through the night.

The mother took her 5-year-old for a ride through town to see all the menorahs. "Are they Jewish too?" he asked in disbelief.

"No," his mother said. "They are friends."

This is a beautiful story of ahimsa in action.

"My favorite description of ahimsa is of a dynamic peacefulness prepared to meet all needs with loving openness," says Charlotte Bell, author and Iyengar Yoga teacher. "There's a suggestion of a state of balance that can evolve, that meets each situation in an open and accepting way."

Acting from loving openness is the key. It's a brave way to approach situations getting more extreme by the day.

When we come from open compassion we see that our happiness is not separate from the happiness of others.


Our connectedness, whether we be Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist is not a theory; it is a reality that can be directly experienced by each of us at any moment in our daily lives.

This understanding of interconnectedness frees us from fear. The practice of interconnection can overcome hate.

We can look at everyone with openness in order to transform dogmatism and violence in ourselves and in the world. This is a commitment I've personally undertaken.

For what more we can do in solidarity against hate, I invite us to read this heartfelt letter by Sofia Ali-Khan.

Yoga is compassion in action.

The most important thing we can do is to do something.

According to the Southern Poverty Law center, a nonprofit researching, educating and fighting hate since 1971, "In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance -- by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. Decent people must take action; if we don't, hate persists. Do something."

The time is upon us to stand for love in the face of hate and fear. There is no one else that will do this for us. It is up to us. It is our time, now.

It doesn't matter who you are. What matters is if someone in need can say, because of your loving, open actions against hate: "You are a friend."


Susanna writes from the heart, applying yoga and mindfulness to social justice. Learn more at