The Huffington Post‘s Oasis, a yoga and massage center they set up at the Republican National Convention (RNC), was designed to be a peaceful space for stressed-out delegates to “unplug and recharge.” However, for Seane Corn, co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World®, a nonprofit that uses yoga to inspire and educate, the experience sounds less than zen.
This isn’t the first time Off the Mat and the Huffington Post have worked together–they first launched Oasis at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
But this time around, HuffPo, who is already known for not paying their writers, got in a bit of hot water. The use volunteer staffers from Off the Mat to operate a space where they’d be able to collect insider information and valuable news tips (like this little bit of fashion-snarking from Congressman Aaron Schock to VP candidate Paul Ryan) at the convention didn’t sit right with the National Writers Union. The online aggregate defended their model, by pointing to a sizeable donation–$40,000, to be exact–which the non-profit seemed pretty content to take in exchange for some unpaid massage therapists and yogis.
Still, it sounds like teaching yoga and giving mini-facials at the RNC wasn’t all spiritual enlightenment and relaxation. On her Facebook fan page, Corn had the following to say about the experience:
Last day of the convention. Can’t say I’m not relieved. This experience has been confrontative and intense for me. I hope we brought meaning. I hope we modeled compassion. I hope we represented something positive and unified. Whether or not “they” got our messaging, i guess, is beside the point. Anyone “getting it” is between them and their God. Me? I witnessed my assumptions, classism, rage, judgment, expectations and have had to speak truth to power on more than one occasion. I’ve learned a lot, grown a little, and see the world a little differently than I did before. As always I am grateful, but could use a little sleep…. x
I can’t say what Corn experienced there–whether it was religious individuals who have a problem with yoga, or the general negativity that tends to come with political conventions–but I’m extremely impressed with her ability to convey her weariness with both optimism and candor.
To be honest, I don’t think I could have handled the experience of teaching yoga and giving massages to the audience at the RNC with the grace and open-mindedness that Corn demonstrates. And say what you will about the instructors and educators who volunteered their time (should they have gotten paid? Yes. Did anyone make them volunteer? All signs point to “no”), but it truly is a great opportunity to evangelize for health, spirituality, and taking time out of the day to meditate and reflect.
And, if nothing else, it seems that Corn’s followers have taken her excellent example to heart. Here’s what one commenter had to say:
You are an inspiration and reminder that we all have the capacity to stay true to our highest selves and practice compassion in any situation!
I applaud Seane Corne for addressing such a powerful, but at times difficult, situation with the strength, understanding, and tolerance that yoga teaches. And I wish her luck at next week’s DNC.
Image via Seane Corn’s Facebook