On this crisp, clear morning, I walk into a nearby elementary school to vote. The long line of voters surprises me. I walk to the back of the line, around a corner and wonder how long I will have to wait. I need to get back home in time for a private yoga session in less than an hour. Still, I am pleased that the line is long, that people are voting.
As I stand there, I realize how, well, old-fashioned this activity is. So many of my interactions these days are online—they’re quick, and, with computer available, I can complete them anywhere. Yet here we are, a group of citizens lined up neatly in school, waiting to vote. In line, I have a pleasant conversation with two people I don’t know. We are polite, even knowing that we may not fill in the little ovals on the ballot in the same way.
As I enter the music room where we vote, two citizens at a table with big books check my name and address. They hand me the ballot and the ‘privacy’ envelope. We don’t have real voting booths here, the kind with curtains that you close, just 4-pack little stands with walls on two sides and a writing surface. I find an empty stand and carefully fill in the ovals, feeling much like a child in school who is supposed to fill things in neatly. Then I slide my ballot into the privacy envelope, which isn’t very private. Into another line—street, number, name again. Then, with assistance, I slip my ballot into the machine.
As always, as I leave the polling place I choke up. As old-fashioned as this arrangement is, it feels right to be voting in a public place with members of my community. As flawed as our democracy may be, voting still means something. The votes are counted. My voice matters.
I return home in time for a private yoga session with a woman whose first language is not English, who was born far away. She had voted as soon as the polls opened this morning, committed to this action, appreciative of the right that is hers and her children’s, concerned about what the outcome might be.
In our yoga session, I talk about yoga and voice. About how our quiet internally-focused practice can help us to discover our authentic, truthful voice; about how, when we align our head, neck and shoulders our voices are clear. To experience the power of this alignment, we practice the one yoga pose in which we deliberately make a sound–simhasana, lion pose.
In simhasana, we sit back on our heels and bring our palms, fingers stretched out and up, to our thighs. With shoulders, neck and head aligned, we open our mouths, stick out our tongues, focus our gaze between our eyebrows and, with a powerful exhale, make a big ‘ha’ sound. We do it several times, experiencing the ‘yogic’ version of a lion’s roar. It’s a very silly looking pose. We make ourselves vulnerable. Yet, doing it we discover something about the power of our breath, the power of our voice.
As I prepare to make phone calls on behalf of candidates whom I hope will be elected, I take long, deep breaths. This is not fun, phoning strangers who may not share my political views, or who may just be tired of receiving political phone calls. I make myself vulnerable. As I make the next call: “Hello, my name is Karen and I’m a volunteer for…..,” I remember simhasana.