I remember the first time I met a “Yoga Bigot”. I know, the term sounds harsh, but I think it fits.
I was at a party, and the wife of my husband’s co-worker asked me how I had been, and what I was doing. I told her I was “awesome!” and that I was studying to become a yoga instructor. She said, as she rolled her eyes, “Ohhhh….Yoga.” Then she nonchalantly waved her hand towards me and made a sound, sort of like “Psshhh”.
What the heck? What was that? When you told me you were a secretary I didn’t go Pshhhh. If someone told me they were working towards being a professor, minister, athlete, rock star, circus clown, garbage man, I would never roll my eyes and go Pshhh.
I had just recently come to the realization that a Life of Yoga was my path and my passion, so I felt personally affronted for a moment. But I had also just finished reading the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, so I was all about having open exploratory philosophical conversations. I was all about acceptance of other points of view. I was all about this is my path and each person is on her own path. So I accepted her reaction as her reaction, and asked her a question (pretty much knowing what the answer would be).
“Have you ever practiced yoga?” I asked her.
And she said “Oh, no, no, never. It’s not for me.” With the wave of the hand, again!
(Pshhh, I thought.)
I had arrived at this party after an eight-hour day of yoga, and a quick shower, so my head was still in the thick of it all, and I had to hold back my desire to begin espousing all of the benefits of yoga. I could have told her that I always thought I would absolutely hate yoga, because I just could never stay still, I could never quiet my mind. Could’ve said that maybe I was a Yoga Bigot too! And how I ended up loving it. And how it had absolutely, positively changed my life. I could have said that not only is it a great physical exercise, but also a form of personal therapy. That it put me in touch with my breath. It helped me give up bad habits, eat more mindfully, deal with people differently. I wanted to tell her, that with faithful, diligent practice the negative things can slowly start to fall away from your life.
But I kept it to myself. I didn’t want to turn into one of those preachy yogis. I know how easy it is to sing the praises of a new thing. I know that when we find something that we love, we just want to share it with everyone, sometimes to the point of annoyance. “Yoga, Yoga Yoga…that’s all you ever talk about, Mom.”
I can’t assume to know what was going on in her head, but the way she said it, and the glance she shot at me, made me think that she might think that yogis were some kind of crazy cult. She was giving it no chance at all. She wasn’t even going to continue the conversation with me. She literally, brushed my dharma off with her hand. It seemed very close-minded to me. Prejudiced.
But we all have prejudices. I accept that I have them myself, some that I am not even aware of. Many of my prejudices are based on life experiences. I’m still prejudiced against broccoli, no matter how hard I try to like it. But some are based on no experience of our own at all, passed down to us by our parents, drilled into us by the media, even eased into us by our friends and the company we keep.
So we make decisions based on those prejudices. The food we will try, the new music we will give a listen to, the people we will be kind and open to, the career choices and life choices we decide to value.
It’s not like this with the kids I teach. When I walk into their classroom for the first time, I ask them if they have ever heard of yoga. Some have and some haven’t. I tell them that we are going to practice yoga together. They never make a face. They never say “Oh no, this is not for me” and they certainly never say “Pshhh”.
They are children. Each new thing is a new adventure for them. They still have the beginner’s mind, open to everything, closed to nothing, unclouded by judgments. Each time I teach them, I learn and re-learn, that no matter what has happened to me before this moment, this moment is new and different, and I should enter into it as something new and different, with no expectations, under no cloud of judgment.
The conversation at that party opened my eyes to that fact that I may have brushed off someone’s choices somewhere along the line. If I have, I hope that I will not do it again. And even though my yogic choice may be easily brushed off by some, I am going to be unclouded by that conversation. When I meet someone new, or see an old friend, and they ask my what I have been up to, I will talk to them, about yoga. And the conversation will be new, and different.