Yoga, Post Election: Making Space for Life

Carol Horton

For some weeks now, I’ve wanted to write something about yoga in our new post-election, Trump-dominated world. But that’s been hard to do because I’ve also wanted to share something that feels positive in a meaningful, rather than fakey cotton candy-like way. And guiding inspiration has not been shining through.

Most of the time, I feel weighted down by the constant barrage of what I experience as horrifying news. I feel tired, heavy, inundated, drained, dispirited, anxious, apprehensive. In a word: I feel bad.

In that state, yoga seems rather beside the point.

I’m obsessively following the news. New alarm bells keep ringing. It’s a cacophony. It makes it hard to hear myself think about anything else. It makes it hard to feel that I should be doing anything other than searching for a way – some way, any way, there must be a way – to stop what’s happening politically in the U.S. right now from happening.

But of course, that’s not possible.

Yes, it’s good to take whatever action we can, and I’m trying to do that (calling Congress, writing letters, posting articles, finding meet-ups, searching for the best way to leverage my available time and energies). At some fundamental level, though, the shift has happened. We are where we are.

Protective Mechanisms

I feel my own internal resistance to processing that simple fact. This isn’t intentional: Consciously, I’m reading the news, thinking, worrying . . . But there’s some sort of internal stoppage. That’s OK, I think. I feel it’s a protective mechanism. Because it’s hard to be in this political moment fully, and not feel psychically flattened.

Such psychic blockage isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a way of titrating the shock that’s hit me, that’s collectively hit a lot of us. (Not everyone, of course. Some are revelling, celebratory, triumphant; others are not paying much attention, for a whole slew of reasons.) But if the process of working through the shock of the election and all the negative emotions that’s generated gets stuck, I know it’s going to be bad.

That sort of stuck-ness isn’t a protective blockage; it’s a standing psychic cesspool, a negative energy suck. And living with that inside me is going to cause sickness – if not physically, then certainly emotionally and spiritually.

Fear and hatred can be infectious. They can make us sick on a deep level. They can be easily transmitted to others. They can metastasize and grow into ravaging cancerous whirlwinds. They can cause us to feel attracted to pain and death.

Up to a point, experiencing pain and hate is OK. We all get sick sometimes. It can strengthen our immune systems. But to let such energies fester is dangerous. They can start to rot. This can cause you to lose touch with your own internal goodness. It can lead you to lose touch with life.


I’m still getting to my mat. I’m still taking time to simply sit and let my thoughts and energies settle. Often, what arises then is grief.

But it’s a relief to let some of that out in a safe, titrated way. It’s just a bit at a time. I can’t process the whole wave all at once. But I can tune in and find some deeper feeling than the numb spin-cycle of upset and anxiety. And that deeper emotion feels meaningful. It connects me to a sense of love for a world that feels lost. And in that connection is a sense of some seed of a new world to be born.

A lot has been lost. The world where I took it for granted that proudly racist white supremacist ideology was in the rear-view mirror of American history: Gone. The world where I assumed that our center of political gravity was an aspirational vision of democracy that embraced multiculturalism, gender equity, racial justice, environmental protection and reducing the gap between the 1% and the rest of us: Gone. The world where I was hopeful that when push came to shove, liberal democrats, democratic socialists, progressives, and Leftists would cooperate to defeat Trump: Gone. The world where I thought that a winning electoral coalition would not rally around a shameless demagogue who traffics in bullying, threats, insults, intimidation, and lies: Gone.

I could go on, but what’s the point? You get the idea.

This election was historic. There’s no going back. We’re not going to return to the pre-Trump normal. It’s over. His supporters, of course, celebrate that. But unless they’re one percenters who’ll benefit from the coming kleptocracy or radical right-wingers itching for even more of a fight, I don’t think there’s going to be much to celebrate – at least not for long.

Creating Space for Possibility

So . . . what about yoga?

Yoga is a practice that enables you to open up more space in your body and mind on a daily basis. For that opening to occur, there has to be some sort of holistic shift – some combination of physical, emotional, psychological and what could be called psychic (ineffable, spiritual) movement.

Stuff moves. If we learn to pay attention, we feel it. Sense it. Then, harnessing breath and intention, it’s possible to work with that movement to let some of the energies that keep us constricted, tense, bunkered down, shut in, isolated, and disconnected to process, and release.

Often, after a good practice I look at my mat and visualize a pile of dirty broken glass: Glittering shards, muddy rubble. A heap of stuff that’s broken free and been let go of. It’s not a pretty metaphor. But getting rid of shit that’s constricting and clogging your psyche doesn’t lend itself to beautiful imagery.

Yet it does feel so damn good. And the beauty does come. It comes in being able to connect with a sense of self that’s clearer, brighter, more peaceful and more knowing. Once the space has been cleared, it’s possible. It happens naturally. There’s more lightness. There’s more light.

There’s more room for possibility. There’s a new chance to see the world with fresh eyes. To see wonder and beauty again.

A Brighter Connection

President-Elect Trump created a powerful energetic matrix with those rallies, those chants, those hypnotic speeches. He has powerful charisma – it’s undeniable. He created a vortex. Shared meanings that many of us cherished were gleefully sucked in, and slated for total destruction.

It’s powerful. And more and more powerful men are coming on board. Who knows where we’re heading with them taking control of most of the machinery of political power in the U.S. – for now, the most powerful country in the world.

Those of us who are repelled by the vortex and want to resist it must work with ourselves on the inside. It’s crucial. Yoga is just one method. There are certainly other ways to engage the same process. But it does need to be done. Otherwise, our connection with ourselves and what we love gets sucked dry. And then, we have nothing positive to offer.

It’s equally critical to connect with others who share our desire to co-create an alternative politics and culture. If we clear space internally, and then connect with others, we bring a brighter self to a catalytic gathering. The more brigher selves that come together, the more the sparks fly. Fires get lit. And something new and beautiful will emerge.

We can’t predict what it will be. Like a good yoga practice, we must commit to engaging with the process. To breathe, ground, and center. To work hard and let go. To fall down and get up, again and again.

To balance long enough to ride the wave through. To fall into the water and trust that we know how to swim up to the surface. That we can hold our breath, and that we will breathe again. And that we can then reach out to others who could use a hand, and help them do the same.

An ex-political science professor, Carol holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago and has written numerous professional reports for nationally recognized foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies. Currently, she writes about socially engaged yoga and offers workshops and teacher trainings on topics including the making of modern yoga, the yoga service movement, and 21st century Karma yoga.

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter and her website, Carol Horton, Ph.D.

This article was originally published on Carol’s blog:

Photo used with creative commons license by binoimalphoto.