Can yoga change the world?

Can yoga change the world?

Interview to Guayana Páez-Acosta by Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and originally published on their website, where she shares about her own journey and one way she thinks yoga practice supports development professionals. To access this article on Kripalu website click here.

Guayana Páez-Acosta thinks it can help. A sociologist and environmentalist, she has spent her adult life working for social justice and sustainable development in Latin America. And, as a longtime yoga practitioner, she sees yoga as a tool to advance these goals.

In November 2019, Kripalu donors gave Guayana and her work a big boost by funding a Kripalu Scholarship that made it possible for her to attend The Revolution Within: Women’s Week at Kripalu. Guayana was particularly thrilled to practice with Angela Farmer, tapping more fully into her feminine energy.

“The professional world is dominated by male energy,” Guayana says. “It’s goal- and outcome- driven, tight, planned. These are all important, but we need the feminine energy. too. We need to be receptive, open to spontaneity and surprise. We need nurturing collaboration, fluid movements, and creativity.”

Guayana grew up in Venezuela, and is acquainted firsthand with the fallout of socioeconomic and political crises. Many of her family members have joined the wave of five million Venezuelans who have emigrated in the last years. Guayana is a US citizen and has lived here for a dozen years, but she actively works toward a more healthy and sustainable future for her native country.

Three years ago, life changes prompted Guayana to take stock. She left her post at the US office of the Latin American philanthropic foundation Fundación Avina, and after a meditative pause, started her own business, Athena – Lab for Social Change. Her goal was to build bridges linking personal transformation to social change and sustainable development.

In late 2019, Guayana helped convene 30 social activists and human rights defenders from Venezuela for a weeklong training in Colombia. The participants came to learn how to connect more effectively with collaborators and funders. Guayana’s years of yoga practice prompted her to lead an unusual first step in the training: breathwork and movement.

“I didn’t call it yoga,” Guayana recalls. “But by the end of the week, they were all talking about pranayama.”

Guayana’s commitment to yoga as a tool for change agents is rooted in her own practice and experience. Yoga helps activists improve their attention and presence. It enhances awareness of their role in a larger process. It makes them more effective, and brings a higher quality to the social change they intend to bring about.

“In Spanish, we call this atención y presencia plena”—attention and full presence, Guayana says. “How many of us are afraid of taking on leadership roles? This helps”.

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