Mats in the Midst of Hoopla: Yoga To Be Taught At The RNC

This week, Yoga For Vets founder Paul Zipes is going to teach classes at the RNC, as part of Huffington Post and Yoga Off The Mat’s offerings to the political process. 

To appear non-partisan, they’ll also be teaching at the DNC as well.  The inclusion is seen as a victory by those who might consider themselves to be a little smarter, wiser, and more spiritually attuned. And it follows on the tails of absolutes such as, “Everyone should do yoga,” “All veterans should do yoga,” “Yoga will save the world.”

Neither Jillian and I for absolutes. Yoga has to be a choice.  I hope the yoga mats are spread out next to the food vendors, the guys selling t-shirts in red, white, and blue, book sellers, and all assorted RNC regalia. I hope it smells like corndogs and bacon. In other words, the best case scenario is that it’s just one of many things people can choose to do. 

As we’ve said before, different boats for different folks. Some might want to try yoga, or maybe they just to mix it up with their fellow Republicans while they are there. Frankly, we don’t care one way or another, and we hope the yogis don’t run around like over-eager cheerleaders. In other words, we hope they mellow out.  A yoga class at the RNC is (in the large scope of things) not going to make that much of a difference. The reason I bring this up, is to make clear neither Jillian or I see yoga as the panacea for the world’s ills, and to underscore the importance of choice.

As for veterans, some might really like yoga, others might like to climb a mountain, pilot a boat, fish, dance, do art or write. It’s up to them, and I can’t say one is better than the other. If what our men and women fought for was freedom, then they deserve a wide array of choices.

Choice is everything.  We don’t support a point of view that makes yoga a “lifestyle choice” and comes redolent with a patched together hybridized religion, or political ideology.  We don’t think mala beads are better than a rosary. WarRetreat isn’t about changing anyone, as much as it is to accept the individual as they are, helping them find resources so they can reconnect with themselves, and letting veterans and families discover enough about themselves to experience their own transformation and trusting them with it.  

The only thing missing from this year’s RNC will be Andrew Breitbart, a fine person to spend an afternoon with, watching him roller skate around a rally for the troops, waving my Army flag.  I can hear him now: “Yoga? At the RNC? I love it. Let me get my skates on.”

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Kanani Fong. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kanani Fong

Founder, WarRetreat.Org, devoted to helping with the aftermath of war through movement, breathe, and yoga. Army wife, long time mental health advocate, writer, specializing in military and veteran outreach for film and books. Projects include Restrepo, and High Ground.

2 thoughts on “Mats in the Midst of Hoopla: Yoga To Be Taught At The RNC

  1. If you care so much about “helping (veterans) find resources so they can reconnect with themselves, and letting veterans and families discover enough about themselves to experience their own transformation and trusting them with it(your words from above)”, than maybe you should not be close-minded about how they chose to reconnect. We never know what sparks our interest and allows us to grow unless exposed to it. We are then left to make our own choices based on what we have tried. How is trying a low impact activity such as yoga (inexpensive and can be modified for any injury, disease, age, poly trauma victim, etc) different from the other activities you listed: climb a mountain, pilot a boat, fish, dance, do art or write? I can tell you from experience working with veterans at a local VA that lots of folks either lack the funds or are physically unable to participate in 4 of the 6 things you listed. Just a thought-stop closing your mind, and just open your heart. There is a whole world of possibilities out there.

  2. Author : Melissa Nordin (IP: ,
    URL :

    I don’t think you’ve bothered to read the entire content of my post. Your cynicism is really misplaced. It’s ironic because you run a yoga site, are a yoga teacher and the meanness and accusations –well, let’s say you’re pissed off and you don’t wear it well. If you’re at the #RNC, maybe you need to take a break.

    Look, yoga might not be EVERY veteran’s choice. And what we want to make clear is that while we find it helpful, we’ve read the studies, we’re also are fine if they decide it doesn’t work for them. We are never going to be such fierce advocates that we forget that the most important thing is to give someone who is trying to find their way CHOICES.

    You might not know that Outward Bound For Veterans offers free courses for veterans. Similarly Ride 2 Recovery, Soldiers to Summits, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, Yoga For Vets, and a host of other nonprofits are constantly fund raising to bring programs to veterans, and others such as Team River Runners, Veterans Writing Project, and Exalted Warriors work within many VA Hospitals. There are organizations that are working their hearts out for veterans, and we understand: yoga is just another choice. And quite frankly? We think it’s fabulous that yoga is even at the front line with things like bike rides,swimming, triathlons, mountain climbing. We LOVE that everyday, our number of friends includes veterans who participate in a range of activities and are empowered by them. It also includes veterans who are yoga teachers, and they too aren’t interested in absolutes.

    We’re not close minded, but by accusing us as such, and by aiming your cynicism and inferring we don’t care about veterans, you’ve really shown a side of yourself, that isn’t good.

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