A dear friend of mine, who is really adorable and awesome but tends to pack her schedule and constantly be doing minimum 3 things at once, really needed yoga. Well, she didn’t know she needed it but I knew it. I had been practicing yoga for a couple of years, not regularly but enough to know this was an awesome thing to be doing. And I knew this friend would love it, as would her tightly wound body and racing brain. The problem was, the message she was getting from many in her Christian faith was (and still is), that yoga is “bad” for Christians because of its roots in Eastern religions and philosophies. She told me this and I was really surprised, so I googled it and sure enough, yoga is considered a threat to Christian beliefs.
A part of me thought this was ridiculous! But a part of me understood the resistance. I have been in yoga classes where the room was decorated with Hindu relics, incense was burning, the instructor wreaked of patchouli oil (I can’t stand the smell), the cues were mostly in Sanskrit (part of me would be proud when I knew what the heck it meant, part of me would roll her eyes at the elitism I perceived- just say chair pose, OK?) I understood where my friend’s resistance came from, as in her milieu, it was just assumed that yoga was not a healthy endeavor for their faith, and anyway, there were practitioners who taught a Christian-based practice.
But I really wanted my friend, and her fellow resisters, to experience a practice that would challenge them physically and give them some of the other mental benefits that I had come to enjoy. So even though I was not certified to teach at the time, I asked her to invite some of her fellow yoga-curious-but-resistant friends, and I would teach them in her living room. This eventually led to someone’s basement as we needed more space, then my becoming certified, then teaching in karate studios, gyms, a spa, a yoga studio, a university (Yale Men’s Basketball team), a high school lacrosse team, two addiction treatment centers, and a corporate wellness center. Recently, someone asked me where I prefer teaching, and I answered, “wherever people are who think they are too stiff/hyper/impatient/fat/old/unhealthy/Christian etc. for yoga.”
There is something fascinating about being in the middle. It feels natural to be curious about different perspectives. If I am completely attached to an ideology or a perspective, I am more easily threatened by another one. I used to be envious of people who were staunchly attached to a belief or perspective. I thought, gosh, how much simpler life must be if you don’t have to consider different viewpoints, you don’t have to take context into account, and wonder if you may be wrong? Black-and-white thinking seemed really appealing. But it also felt, and still feels, like a cop-out. It would be so simple to declare, for example, that everybody who even today is smoking cigarettes is a totally irresponsible idiot who doesn’t care about their health or that of their loved ones, doesn’t care how their health issues affect our insurance premiums, and all of the other ways their nicotine addiction affects our society. The same could be said for people who regularly drink soda and eat processed food, avoid vegetables, are sedentary, etc. It is so easy to be judgmental and make assumptions. I would even argue it is normal, and human. Our brains are designed to look for and be drawn to what feels familiar, and what aligns with our existing belief system, and to mistrust the unfamiliar and what does not confirm what we believe.
Today, though, we are facing a huge task. We are so tired of all of the information that is bombarding us, and our willingness to do the work to sift through the noise, the misinformation, the agenda-driven media, is often depleted. We do not have the bandwidth to do so, or we simply do not prioritize it. So we do what is simplest - we consume what is sent our way by our friends and the media sources we trust. The problem with this is we are often like fish in the ocean, who do not know they are in the ocean, because they have never left it. We are smart, we listen, watch, read, discuss - but we don’t often pause to consider what is normalized in our safe spaces.
We have all heard the alarming statistics of how much mental health has declined among our young people, the academic slide, and how much they are struggling to focus and behave in school. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know that I believe our kids are like the canaries in the coal mine, and I am always curious about how they are behaving and thinking, as they give us important clues as to levels of harmony and health in their systems (internal and external). When our kids are acting in ways that are not healthy, I think it’s a good indicator that something that has been normalized in their environment may need to be addressed.
And this starts with us (the adults). What is normalized for us? Are we being discerning? Particularly in these areas:
I truly hope that this blogpost was helpful. As I write this, I am cognizant of the tension and exhaustion around me, with people accusing each other of being white supremacists, of not caring about teachers, of being irresponsible individualists, of being bigots and transphobes, of using identity politics for ulterior motives, of wanting to control others. There is certainly plenty of information out there to confirm all of the above. Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed, as I do some deep-dives into controversial subjects and curiously listen to and read some of the media that make the “other side” recoil. There really is a lot of absurd (to put it nicely) stuff going on in the world right now, and I often feel like grown adults are being a bunch of kindergartners. Sigh. But this is why it’s especially important to dip our toe outside our safe bubble and be curious about what the “other side” is thinking. If an issue, and the people on the other side of the issue from me, seem simple and bad, I make myself remember, they are human, with the human need and desire to be safe and feel loved. I don’t want to be like the people who are missing out on the amazing benefits of yoga, because I had adopted a belief without being curious about what I could learn from it, and how I may become a better human.
May you be safe.
May you be healthy.
May you be happy.
May you live with ease.
Wellness coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.