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Peaceful Living Blog

NVC Academy Co-Founder and CEO Mary Mackenzie shares her thoughts monthly in our Growing Roots newsletter. Read and enjoy Mary's current and past blog posts from her deep experience as a CNVC Certified Trainer for more than 20 years.

Living at the Intersection of Yoga, Activism, and NVC

Living at the Intersection of Yoga, Activism, and NVC

Itzel Hayward

Skill Level:

All Skill Levels

Time Investment:

5 minutes

Date Published:

Hi friends,

My name is Itzel and I’m happy for this opportunity to share a bit about myself and how I came to teach NVC.

I was an activist before I knew what the word meant. When I was a child, I often argued with the adults around me about what I thought was “right.” If I had a nickel for every time a grown-up said to me, “You should be a lawyer,” I probably would’ve collected enough money to pay for the law school education that I eventually got.

I left my traditional legal career path after more than a decade to become a yoga teacher. I’ve now been a yoga teacher for nearly 15 years and an activist for much longer than that. I know of yoga practitioners who don’t think you can be both, believing the pursuit of yoga is all about peace through detachment from worldly matters, while activism—with its outward, collective, and engaged nature—stands in direct contrast to that. I disagree.

I follow what ancient yogic texts call the householder path, which includes embracing the joys and challenges of worldly living. For me, this includes building community, nurturing relationships, and holding the understanding that my liberation is inextricably linked with the liberation of others. As a yogi choosing to live in the world, I am committed to using my yoga practice as a tool for social change.

When I started studying to become a yoga teacher, I had already been practicing Nonviolent Communication for two years. For me, the two practices complemented each other beautifully—strengthening my commitment to both inner transformation and social change, increasing my capacity for compassionate action, and inspiring me to work with others toward creating a more compassionate and equitable world for all beings everywhere. 

Once I became an NVC trainer, I remained committed to my activism work, teaching NVC primarily to people of color, members of the LGBTQI community, people with disabilities, and members of other historically marginalized communities, with a focus on using NVC as a tool for liberation and healing. But I also had a vision of one day teaching a course for allies interested in confronting racism in their own lives and actively working toward racial justice and equality. 

Then, after the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, I heard the voices of others interested in doing that work grow louder. So I reached out to Kathy Simon to co-create the NVC course that I had been envisioning. We’ve been teaching this course since 2020. It’s called Responding to Everyday Racism, and starting March 6th we’re teaching it again through the NVC Academy.  

This is just one small part of the work I do, but nearly all of my work lies at the intersection of yoga, NVC, and social justice. I’m grateful for getting to do this work and for all of my teachers on my path. I look forward to someday working alongside you, striving to create a more peaceful, equitable, compassionate world together.