The last book I’ve had by my bedside has been The Spirit Level, authored by epidemiologists Richardson Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. It details in an easy to read fashion, using scientific research and statistical study, how our health as individuals, communities,and nations is affected by inequality in all forms.
The major tenet of the book is that “wide inequality is bad for a society, and that more equal societies tend to do better on many measures of social health and wealth” (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009, p. vi) The authors go chapter by chapter, exploring how inequalities affects societies in different realms: including mental health challenges, drug use, physical health and life expectancy, educational performance, violence, prison and crime rates. They start by laying the foundation that we Americans are not as well off as we’d like to think; despite having more access to resources and technology than ever, we continue to have skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression, preventable physical health problems (including obesity and addictions), and less feelings of life satisfaction—one might say it’s an affliction of general despair, malaise, and loneliness stemming from our capitalistic, individualistic, society.
Often times, in the West, I am sickened at how the Yoga market contributes to these feelings of competition and ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’. When you walk into most yoga studios, you’ll see an impressive amount of stuff and clutter—expensive yoga pants, and mats, water bottles and key chains, anything that they hope will excite your “grasping” mind, and help bring in more dollars for the studio. Grasping mind; isn’t this what we are trying to lose through Yoga?
At Pavones Yoga Center, instead, as you walk into the wall-less space of natural-beauty- as-far-as-the-eye-can-see, all that is there is a simple sign, inviting you to wash your feet with cool, refreshing water as you cleanse to prepare for your practice.
I think this is why I can’t get Pavones out of my mind… why I spend so many days dreaming of this place. They practice what they preach. If we are seeking to create healthier individuals and societies through yoga, we first need to work to lessen the inequality within the field. While I was at PYC in 2012, they were charging just $2 per donation based class, to raise awareness of the fact that $2 is the average hourly wage for locals in Costa Rica. Walking the walk. Talking the Talk. Operating on the Spirit Level. This is reason #72 why I love Pavones Yoga Center.