The Spirit of Solidarity
The Southern fingers of the largest country on Earth crawl in between Ukraine and Kazakhstan to the coast of the Black Sea. Nestled into this obscure pocket of the planet, a thousand miles south of Moscow, is where you’ll find Sochi, Russia’s popular resort town with now familiar views of its rocky coastline and vast Caucasus Mountain range.
It is here that our athletes and hometown heroes have gathered to showcase years of hard work, determination and discipline; principles we teach and practice in yoga and ones we get to honor and pay respect to every couple of years as inspiring athletes from all over the world come together to represent us as nations and members of a shared humanity. The buzz of excitement and energy surrounding the Olympics is contagious and has the unique power to unify the world in a positive way.
...remember that the Olympics symbolize union and solidarity.
As we look on in pride, it is important to withdraw from negativity and remember that the Olympics symbolize union and solidarity. Athletes and supporters, regardless of politics, beliefs or culture draw a rare, single pointed focus and have the power to shed light on what's happening in the world in a meaningful and positive way. It is our duty to do so from a place of love and acceptance in the face of severe adversity, animosity and discrimination.
The 2014 Sochi Winter Games
This year Russia is in the limelight. We have been captivated by stories from reporters and travelers about their experiences of this country and light is indeed being shed on all the dark corners. Russia is not the first Olympic host country with political, economical or social trauma happening within its borders and it will not be the last.
In 2013, a Russian law was adopted banning gay "propaganda" from reaching children. Russian law also bans any unsanctioned protests. The black and white of it, is that those who break these laws may face persecution in the form of fines or prison sentences. Somewhere in the ample gray area, Putin has claimed that this law is about protecting the children of Russia from ideas or information about homosexuality.
This is the law in Russia. Throughout time, there have been laws in countries all over the world, including your own, that were unjust and immoral, promoted a foundation of fear and that have infringed upon human rights. The debate we are seeing in the news between Western society and Russia, is the beginning of a shift; a positive evolution of the world as we know it. There must always be a starting point and it goes without saying that some countries have evolved further than others. That will always be the case. It is up to us, as citizens of the world, to use platforms like the Olympics to learn what is happening outside of our comfort zones and start speaking up for those without the ability to give voice to their case for human rights.
New Zealand Athlete Blake Skjellerup told CNN.
"It's very important for the world to show up in Sochi and be united in this issue, to bring light to and start a conversation about what is going on."
He’s right. As Westerners who enjoy freedom and democracy, we have the chance in Sochi to show Russia and the world where progress has been made. Countries have the capacity to evolve and become enlightened just like we do as individuals. Just as yoga helps us tune in and find a deeper personal truth, cohesive worldwide movement helps nations find their edge and evolve out of social, political and economic injustice. Our own Western culture has not always been one of acceptance and peace, but we continue to persevere in our vision for justice and equality and in doing so, build the strength to fight for and inspire others.
Yoga and the Olympics are about peace and unification. In yoga, we discipline our minds and bodies by performing the same movements over and over again. This is how we recognize improved flexibility and strength. As we preach messages of love and acceptance over and over again, as we tell the world that people from all walks of life are equals and if we stay disciplined and intent on progress, the world will become stronger and more flexible in its attitudes and beliefs. We must continue to encourage love and tolerance and keep pressing our governments and leaders to rule in peace.
We should do everything we can to represent our nations well when we are proud and set examples for those who aspire to make progress. For the remainder of the games, find that center of light, love and inspiration. Trade the messages of hate and negativity and "Sochi Problems" for ones of solidarity and compassion.
Kristin Daemon is a yoga teacher, freelance writer and owner of Seaside Yoga, a new studio in the small town of Seaside, Oregon on the rugged Pacific Northwest coast. You can find and friend her on Facebook or check out and follow her blog, kristindaemon.com.