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When we practice Restorative Yoga, we are teaching our nervous system how to release contraction and to feel safe coming into deep states of rest that support repair, rejuvenation, and resilience. We are developing a nervous system with a buffer, while strengthening our psychological immune system. When we learn to experience our emotional pain and discomfort without contracting around it and reacting to it, and instead just let it move through us, our nervous system becomes regulated and we become emotionally regulated.”

Gail Parker, Ph.D., C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

I shared this quote in a previous blog post and I’m resharing it this week because it’s even more relevant. When I reflect on the last 9 months–the highs and lows, the progress and regression, the joys and pains, I know that my nervous system has gone through it all! AND I know that the moments on my mat and on my two stacked blankets while meditating have been some of the most important moments this year. 

Why am I talking about restorative yoga this month? I’m glad that you asked. Our very own Alanna Kaivalya will be leading December’s restorative karma yoga class and this month, all of the proceeds will benefit The Ali Forney Center. 

While 2020 may have felt like the longest year ever, the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solistice, is approaching and we’re celebrating it with this class. For centuries, different cultures have celebrated this day with festivals, feasts, and rituals and we are using it for a moment to pause and reflect and take action. 

Each month, we have used our practice to bring awareness and raise financial support for organizations that make a great impact in their respective communities and in the world. This month is no different. For over 18 years, The Ali Forney Center has been committed to feeding, housing, and meeting the needs of homeless LGBTQIA+ youth throughout New York City with dignity and care. It is the largest most comprehensive program in the country committed to homeless queer youth. The center consists of a 24 hour Drop-In Center which provides over 70,000 meals annually, medical and mental health services through an on-site clinic, and a 16 site housing program. AFC has been heralded for its full continuum of care approach to services for LGBTQIA+ homeless youth. AFC’s founder, Carl Siciliano, was named a White House Champion of Change by President Obama citing the wide recognition AFC’s programs have received for their quality and innovation.

I was introduced to AFC this summer around the same time that I was introduced to our Director of Creative Development, Jase Cannon, who has been a champion for AFC for several years. My organization, Black Mat Yoga, partnered with Setu Community, in June a panel discussion called Intersections of PRIDE. The purpose was to celebrate PRIDE month and honor the other intersections of our identities. Hearing Jase speak so generously about her experience with the center and the mission really resonated so deeply with me. As a queer Black man, I’m so proud of the internal struggles associated with having an “othered” identity. I know how it feels to prioritize the judgment and opinions of family and friends over my own liberation and truth. I’m eternally grateful for a supportive community that includes my family, and that my own “coming out” or “inviting in” experience was generally positive. And yet, thousands of young people in New York City and across the country do not share that truth. 

Learning about Ali Forney, and their untimely, unresolved, and hate-driven murder brought tears to my eyes. Unfortunately, queer individuals, especially Black trans individuals continue very much to experience hate crimes and murder disproportionately today. Unfortunately, queer people, particularly queer people of color are ostracized by their family and friends and rely on centers like Ali Forney for community and safety; and, I’m so grateful that this center exists. 

If you’ve had an opportunity to read any of my other posts, you know how important social justice is to me and in my personal practice. Consider this your personal invitation to join me, Jase, Alanna, and the rest of our community this Sunday, December 20th as we relax and restore together to benefit the Ali Forney Center. Click this link to register. For more information about the Ali Forney Center, click here.

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