“Ahimsa” is a Sanskrit term that goes back millennia in Indian yoga literature. It’s usually understood to mean “non-harming”, or “non-violence”, and has for generations influenced complex debates around diet, the treatment of animals, just war theory vs. pacificism, and attitudes towards conflict resolution. Wolf’s COVID-era contemplation of ahimsa guided her towards viewing vaccination as a public health virtue, and an empathetic duty.
“While the concept of ahimsa’s direct command is not to kill,” Wolf wrote, after detailing the medical and social benefits of vaccine intervention, “its wider, and more positive meaning is simple: to love.”
Indeed, her essay is subtitled “Protecting myself against COVID-19 was my way of showing love for the people in my community.”
But according to the backlash to the essay on social media, a large proportion of yoga consumers aren’t feeling that love. They aren’t looking like much of a community, either.
Within three hours of Yoga Journal posting a teaser of the article for their 1m Instagram followers, the post had wracked up over 1000 comments. Brigade-style, the majority of commenters accused the publication of propagandizing for Big Pharma and abandoning “traditional” yoga principles like natural health and non-judgment. They posted now-old misinformation chestnuts minimizing the dangers of COVID and falsely claiming that COVID vaccines are killing countless people.
One non-Indian practitioner of Ayurveda — an unregulated naturopathic medicine originating in premodern India — offered a mini-sermon on the inadequacy of vaccines. Peppered throughout were soft-QAnon references to “harmful satanic drugs”, that the pandemic was planned, and the ableist argument that those who have died from COVID weren’t exercising enough, or drinking the right amount of green juice. One commenter…