This week marks a couple momentous and life-changing events. Tomorrow is June 19th, Freedom Day which commemorates the true end of slavery in the United States following the Civil War in 1865. June 23rd is the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Title IX was part of the Education Amendments of 1972 which banned sex discrimination, whether academic or athletic, in schools that received federal aid.
Freedom. What does it mean to you? Religious freedom? Freedom of the press or similarly free speech? Economic freedom? Freedom of Movement? Political freedom? Freedom isn't 'free' of course and it comes with a responsibility that too many take for granted now. Can you imagine the incredulous faces in 1865 hearing the General Order Number 3 read out reinforcing President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation? Reactions no doubt ranged from shock to joy with some probably experiencing fear....fear of the unknown or change. Of course, there were still many, many challenges culminating in the 60s with the Civil Rights movement (and I won't pretend race relations are perfect now) but June 19th--or Juneteenth--officially transformed the previous master-slave arrangement to employer-free laborer. Slaves were no longer; now only free men and free women.
Equality. Equality is defined as:
1. The state or quality of being equal
2. The condition of being equal in number or amount
This is a term I struggle with because I don't know if it's possible for individuals to be in a state of equality...it seems dependent on perception, but it's definitely an ideal to strive towards. Everyone--male or female--should be given the same opportunities to reach their fullest potential especially when it comes to the public education system. Title IX changed the playing field dramatically. It might be hard to imagine a time when cheerleading on the sidelines was about the only avenue for young girls and basketball. Now there are girls basketball clubs preparing girls for highly competitive college teams and beyond. The Seattle Reign now Seattle Storm has a enthusiastic, if not rabid, fan base. Girls could now look towards Olympic competition beyond figure-skating, gymnastics or synchronized swimming. Soccer, ski jumping and now boxing are some of the additional Olympic sports open for women. The US women's soccer team the Olympic gold medal over Brazil in 2004--something that could not have happened without the changes ushered in with Title IX.
Freedom and equality figure prominently in yoga. Patanjali defined yoga as "yogas chitta vritti nirodhah" which translates to "yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind." My interpretation: Yoga brings freedom from mental distractions. Yoga is available to everyone. Each individual may be at a different place on that path, but the equality yoga offers is there nonethesame. One of the biggest gifts yoga has given me is freedom from chronic pain. I can't shout that out too much or appreciate it enough. Chronic pain slowly narrows your scope, crushes your spirit and can lead to over-medicating your body. Are you experiencing chronic pain? Think about BKS Iyengar's quote: "Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured" and consider yoga.
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"Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last!" Martin Luther King Jr
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