Many people use yoga for a physical workout but it is also a mental one. In yoga you put yourself in uncomfortable positions with the goal of staying mentally relaxed. The challenging positions also benefit the body and you get a good workout.
Last week I read an article in XO Jane about a young woman who struggled through her yoga practice. The gist of the article is pretty simple a skinny white woman goes to yoga class and encounters a new student who she describes as a fairly heavy black girl. The new student does her yoga directly behind the author and the new student struggles during the practice. The author feels so uncomfortable watching the new student struggle she cannot focus on her practice. After the yoga session, she goes home and cries.
In that moment I realized that the author missed the point of yoga, yoga is not about physical challenges it is about mental ones. Yoga is a mental battle. The author felt so uncomfortable she mentally crumbled. In that moment where she saw her fellow yogi struggling she had a choice to make; connect by offering assistance, eliminate the distraction by focusing on her own practice, or the reaction she chose of feeling hatred from the other woman by assuming it was because she is a skinny white girl.
Aside from missing the point of yoga what really struck me about the article is the lack of humanity. The author saw another student, a fellow yogi, a woman, a human being struggle. Instead of reaching out and connecting to offer assistance, the author claimed the only person allowed to help during a class is the instructor. I don’t buy it.
Assuming someone else is responsible is sloughing off your responsibility. While I agree there may be protocol during a class, but that doesn’t stop you from saying something to the instructor after class if over or more importantly reaching out to a person in distress.
People say how important it is to do the right thing. Going home and feeling sorry for yourself then writing an article about it is far from doing the right thing. Here is what people forget to mention about doing the right thing; it is really hard. Confronting an instructor is hard. Reaching out to a person you don’t know is hard. It is hard because it leaves you vulnerable and open to criticism.
Doing the right thing is hard in the same way yoga is hard. It reveals your weaknesses and leaves you vulnerable. But if you have been paying attention to your yoga practice and look beyond the toned arms and abs, you realize yoga is about remaining calm during the uncomfortable and hard moments in life. Namaste.