Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Was a Yogi

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Was a Yogi

dr martin luther king jr was a yogi

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a yogi

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't a practitioner of asana, yet he is the truest yogi that ever walked the planet.  He lived his life demonstrating strong yogic principles. 

During the late 1950's, Dr. King traveled to India and studied about ahimsa, or non-violence. He also studied social change.  These are the same yogic principles and philosophies that Mahatma Gandhi laid out in the 1940s when he led India's peaceful revolution for independence. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived his life by the four paths of yoga that are discussed in the Bhagavad Gita.  These four paths include:

  • Raja Yoga - the path of meditation
  • Jnana Yoga - the path of intense self-inquiry, often considered the most challenging of the four paths
  • Bhakti Yoga - the path of devotion, often thought to be the simplest and safest of the four paths
  • Karma Yoga - the path of selfless service

Dr. King was one of those incredible individuals who lives a yogic life and sets an example for us all.  It's important to take the time to reflect on some of his yogic qualities, to be inspired and to challenge ourselves to do better than we ever imagined possible in his example.  


Dr. King demonstrated fearlessness, or in yoga we would say Abhayam.  Abhayam is purity of mind, steadfastness in the yoga of knowledge, fearlessness or self-control. 

Most people would have been intimidated and even afraid to stand up to millions of people and assert his dream of equality.  Many people would have allowed fear of consequences to stop them from sharing the vision.  Dr. King had courage and stood in the face of many who opposed him to speak his truth.

From this we can learn the importance of standing in courage and believing in yourself to speak clearly about the changes you want to bring about in the world around you.  We can be inspired to not let others stand in the way of saying and doing what is right.


Dr. King had patience and fortitude, or in yoga what we call Dhriti. Dhriti is all about having the strength to regulate your senses and bring awareness, which calls for patience.

Just imagine where we would be if Dr. King hadn't been so patient or if he'd given up after just one march, or one demonstration.  Dr. King was patient and had the fortitude to sit through march after march and many demonstrations to end segregation in the United States.  He put forth consistent and continuous energy into bringing his dream to life.

We can take away from this that we must have patience with ourselves and with others.  We must be willing to put in the time and energy necessary to bring our dreams into reality. 


Dr. King demonstrated charisma and radiance, or what we call Tejas.  In Sanskrit, Tejas means fire or illumination.  He had a sincere balance between his words and his actions.  He practiced what he preached at all times.

To have a True Radiance of Character, one must be true to themselves, they must be trustworthy, honest, open and most importantly pour their inner compassion out to the world.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the most non-violent person I've ever heard of.  In yoga, we call this ahimsa.  Ahimsa is often referred to as "non-violence," but it is actually about non-harming.  This is our first yama in yoga.  The yamas are the first step in the eight limb path, and ahimsa is step one of step one for us as yogis.  Dr. King practiced this yogic quality to the fullest extent.  He set the stage for others to live and love in a non-violent world, a world without harm from segregation and racism.

We can be inspired from this to overcome through non-violence and to make changes in our environment and our community in the same way Dr. King changed the United States and really the whole world.


Dr. King had a significant amount of self-discipline.  In yoga, we call this tapas.  

Dr. King had the strength needed to control his words and his actions in a way that helped him to rise and everyone around him to rise.  He always took the highest path and was a true example for others.  He maintained high levels of self-awareness and self-control and was not reactive to the angry actions of others around him.

We can learn from this the importance of staying calm under pressure and to remember that what others say and do is a reflection of who they are, not a reflection of who we are.  Therefore, we don't have to react or respond to prove ourselves.  

He may not have attended yoga teacher training or been spotted on a yoga mat, but Dr. King was one of the greatest yogis to ever live.  Dr. King was most clearly a Karma yogi.  His whole life was dedicated to the selfless service of others.  He understood more than any of us that the suffering of one is the suffering of all, and that to harm another is to harm the self and all others.

"We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline."

Dr. King said, “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”   This really embodies all of our yogic philosophies in one sentence. 

Yoga Sequence for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

When I think of Dr. King, I think of freedom, liberation or the yogic concept of Moksha. Backbends are typically associated with Moksha in yoga.  I hope that you enjoy this heart-opening sequence in celebration of Dr. King as much as I do!  As a special touch, I enjoy listening to the "I Had a Dream" speech during Savasana.

  • 5 Sun Salutation A's
  • 3 Sun Salutation B's (High Lunge Variation)
  • Tree Pose
  • High Lunge
  • Warrior II
  • Reverse Warrior
  • Triangle Pose
  • Half Moon Pose
  • Chapasana Pose
  • Dancer Pose
  • Locust Pose
  • Bow Pose
  • Child's Pose
  • Seated Forward Bend
  • Happy Baby Pose
  • Reclined Twist
  • Savasana

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

These are some of my favorite Dr. King quotes that really show that Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. was a yogi.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”  ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Celebrating Black History and especially Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the ways we can live our yoga off the mat.

50 Best Martin Luther KIng, Jr Quotes for Yoga Class