Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Core Qualities of Yoga, Part 12: Clarity

Shunya Mudra for Clarity
This post is part of a series that explores a variety of core qualities and suggested practices to consider for inclusion in your classes and private sessions (whether on a mat, in a chair, or a combination of both).

by Beth Gibbs

When we bring clarity to an issue, we see what is happening, correctly assess the situation, and consciously choose to take action.

How do we get clear on what’s happening in America today? Our country’s lofty values of equality, democracy, and opportunity for all live side-by-side with a pre-existing condition we’ve suffered from for centuries – systemic racism, and prejudice, the main causes of social, legal, and economic injustice. Some symptoms are: the decimation of indigenous peoples, enslavement of Africans and legal segregation through Jim Crow laws, internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II, and the separation and internment of South American migrant children from their families at the southern border. The latest horror of police abuse, the public killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, that we witnessed in real time on our digital devices is one more symptom of this country’s dis-ease that needs to be healed.

As yoga teachers and therapists, we seek to heal our students and clients using the eight limbs of yoga to help them find clarity, contentment, and resilience. We can use that knowledge to help our country heal. Let’s start with vidya – clear seeing.

Vidya is the opposite of avidya - clouded perception. Avidya results from an inability to see the larger picture of our lives, our world, and how we move through them personally, professionally, socially, and culturally. Here is what happens when clouded perceptions influence our thinking and behavior:
  • If our perception of a situation is wrong, wrong action likely follows.
  • If our perception is correct but we doubt ourselves, we may take no action or wrong action.

It’s most often the influence and power of our unconscious thoughts and implicit biases that cloud our perceptions and prevent right action. However, if our perception is correct and we are clear in our understanding, right action will likely result even if the outcome is not what we expected or hoped for.

As yoga practitioners concerned about systemic racism, and prejudice, we can employ svadhyaya – study and self-knowledge, to learn about the onset of our country’s dis-ease, track the course of it, become aware of the symptoms, overt and subtle, before deciding what action we might be willing to take. Consider this:
  • Slavery existed in this country from 1619 to 1865
  • Legal segregation followed from 1865 – 1964
  • The Civil Rights Act banning discrimination on the basis of race was passed in 1964
That’s a long time to be dealing with a chronic dis-ease. The diagnosis is clear but the treatment is complicated. We can view the Civil Rights Act as an attempt to manage the symptoms, but it has not and cannot cure the dis-ease.

When we accept the fact of the diagnosis and the truth of the condition, we can start the healing within ourselves to bring clarity to our own clouded perceptions, blind spots, prejudices, and implicit biases (we all have them). Then we can:

Face it. Sometimes we need to take a step back and examine the presence of diversity and inclusion in our own lives. How diverse are our schools? Neighborhoods? Places of work? Friends? Social settings?

Trace it. Understand how and why it exists, and how and why we may be ignoring or denying this reality.

Embrace it. Accept that it is unpleasant and upsetting. We will need to sit with this discomfort because it is our current reality.

Replace it. Consciously take right action in whatever form we choose.

This process starts with each of us.

I recently joined a peaceful protest in my town. It looked like many that we see on television – large, diverse, and calling for change. When asked what actions we could take to make a difference, the speaker said, “If you see something, say something, and then do something.”

Here are three things we can do.

1. VOTE in November. The yoga community is doing its part to help. Find out more here.

2. Do your research. You can donate to relevant organizations, join grassroots efforts, or volunteer with programs that offer direct help.

3. ​To increase mental clarity and openness to transformation, Joseph LePage’s book "Mudras for Healing and Transformation" recommends Shunya Mudra.


1. Find a comfortable seat.

2. Bend the middle fingers down to touch the mounds at the base of the thumbs.

3. Use the thumbs to hold the middle fingers in place.

4. Rest the backs of the hands onto the knees or thighs.

5. Relax the shoulders back and down, with the spine comfortably aligned.

6. Hold for two – five minutes or longer if comfortable.

Cautions: none.

“Clarity affords focus.” — Thomas Leonard

Elizabeth (Beth) Gibbs
, MA, C-IAYT, is a certified yoga therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists and is a guest faculty member of the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy. Her masters’ degree in Yoga Therapy and Mind/Body Health is from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is the author of Ogi Bogi, The Elephant Yogi, a therapeutic yoga book for children. For more information please visit her website at:

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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