A friend of mine is currently on a retreat near Kathmandu in Nepal. It’s a three month retreat and it’s closed. Which means three months with no mobile phones, no internet connection and no newspapers. In fact no communication with the outside world at all.
As a result, she might be one of the few people, just now, who don’t have Donald Trump at the forefront of their minds.
I certainly can’t claim to be in a Trump-Free-Zone. He keeps popping into my head during my asana practice, during pranayama, and when I’m sitting quietly in meditation. Not to mention the rest of my waking hours.
The frequency of his visits is important for me to note. I’m clearly troubled by him and I think it’s worth considering why.
So when a friend posted this photo of Trump in lotus pose (padmasana) it made me wonder. How is Donald Trump’s path aligned to the path of yoga? How yogic or non-yogic is Donald Trump? What would it take for Trump to become a yogi?
How yogic is Donald Trump?
In short, hardly at all.
But perhaps surprisingly, he’s not completely bereft of the qualities required of a yogi. I would score him as “1 out of 10”, rather than “0 out of 10”.
Trump has a great deal of drive and passion and is committed to what he believes in. And that’s where he overlaps with yoga. Drive, passion and commitment are also qualities required in yoga, if we are to progress, and get the most out of the practice.
So I’d give Trump at least one tick, in terms of tapas or burning zeal.
But in all other respects I see discrepancies between Trump’s approach and the yoga path. Certainly, he’s not the first person who comes to mind when I think of any the following: • ahimsa – non-violence or non-harming • satya – honesty or truthfulness • asteya – non-stealing or non-coveting • brahmacharya – continence or sexual restraint • aparigraha – non-acquisitiveness • saucha – cleanliness • samtosa – contentment • svadhyaya – self-study and study of yogic texts • isvara pranidhana – celebration of the spiritual.
These nine qualities, as well as tapas, are referred to collectively in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as the yamas and niyamas^1. They represent the ethical principles that underly yoga practice and help guide practitioners along the path of yoga.
Donna Farhi, author of ‘Bringing Yoga to Life’^2 ascribes a very special purpose to the yamas and niyamas. She says they help to “restrain our habitual tendency to see ourselves as separate”. In other words, they can help us to see how much we have in common with others: how interdependent we are.
Nothing could be more at odds with Trump’s policy of, for example, restricting migration on the basis of nationality and religion.
Yoga is for all, regardless of age, gender, health status, nationality, sexuality or religious beliefs. All can benefit from yoga, not just in terms of physical and mental health, it can also shape how we relate to each other and see each other.
Yoga could even be for The Donald! But boy, he’d REALLY need to apply himself!