It’s become more and more passe to insist that we share the same belief systems, likes and dislikes, and values. In many parts of the Western world, there's much less pressure than there used to be to believe in the same religion or lifestyle.
So here’s my question: If I were to ditch yoga, would that be ... OK?
A while ago, I wrote a piece for MBG about how I’d started a style of yoga, realized that I’d had intense resistance to attending class, and struggled with the question of whether that resistance was of the lazy variety, or of the “this just isn’t for me” variety.
I didn’t get into the longer and more involved story about the injury I’d encountered with another style of yoga, or my love of the practice — I ended the piece by joyfully celebrating that for me, running was what I was most enthusiastic about.
But in response to the very idea that I might ditch yoga altogether, I received emails, tweets, and a few nasty comments.
On the milder side, people suggested that I needed to try a different variety of yoga. I love it when people are passionate, and I trusted that this was where people were coming from when they kept suggesting alternate styles. Not knowing the full breadth of my recent yoga injury from an alternate style, they were trying to be helpful.
In fact, I’d once caught myself getting dogmatic about yoga with my friend Margo, when she confessed that she “hated” yoga.
“You 'hate' yoga?” I said, incredulous. “You’ve tried it?”
“Yes,” she said. “I don’t like it.”
“You don’t like it?” I said, still incredulous. “And you’ve really tried it? Really? You’re sure?”
We’ve all got to laugh at ourselves, sometimes.
However, other comments on what I had written were condescending and belittling — hardly yogic.
This got me to thinking about dogma and belief systems. What if I had been stating that for me, yoga just wasn’t my thing? What then?
When we attach too rigidly to a belief system, it shuts down the potential for connection. My best experiences in yoga classes have been about connection--connection to myself, to pushing into my self-imposed limitations, to my physical body, to the teacher, to the practice, to the other students in the class.
When connection is available to us, more is possible for all of us. When connection is not available, less is possible.
Let’s just say — hypothetically — that I just didn’t like yoga.
Would that be OK? How much of that yogic compassion and acceptance would people be willing to bring? The content of this example just happens to be about yoga. The truth is that everyone has some of this, somewhere in their lives. People get dogmatic about approaches to raising children, veganism, Paleo diets, vaccinations, organic vs. non-organic, political parties, education reform, and so much more.
Disagreement is one thing. Failure to accept that someone might be different than ourselves, and making them wrong for it, is another. Disagreement keeps open the possibility of connection. Belittling and judgment shut that down.
It’s worth investigating the places where we feel fairly certain that we are “right.” Certainly, I’ve seen myself doing this more times than I’d like to recall.
We all do this somewhere in our lives, because we are perfectly imperfect human beings. The point is, do we have enough presence to catch ourselves, and to stop the Dogma Train before it runs off the rails and gets insulting and unkind? Do we have enough presence to practice, in an active way, the very values and belief systems that we so ardently say we subscribe to?
When I feel the shadow of self-righteousness lurking, it requires a lot of energy to stop and take a breath — but that’s what we all need to do. Why? Because beyond the opinions about political parties, eating habits, and yes, yoga, what we need more than anything is each other. That’s what we’re here for. That’s why it matters that we practice yoga.
Do the yoga, or don’t. Either way, let’s work together to drop the dogma. Let’s take the deep collective om, and put more energy into connection than into winning an argument. That’s living yoga.