Teaching and doing yoga makes me like everyone, a lot. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. I like my girl friends and my guy friends and my boyfriend and my sisters and my mama and dad of course…but I like them more than I liked them before I started practicing yoga. But I also like the mailman, the dude making my yerba mate latte (and I like him a LOT more after drinking the yerba mate latte), the guy who plays guitar on Bull Street, I like the woman walking down the street wearing too much perfume, the little boy playing soccer in the park, I like the hipsters, the hippies, the worriers, the dreamers, the Walmart front-door greeters…
I like them all.
I even like myself more. Thank you, yoga. You’re the best.
It’s weird–how does practicing asana (postures), pranayama (breath control) and meditation (sitting around and not doing shit for ten minutes of your life) lead me to really like everyone? It’s like I have a huge crush on everyone I meet and see and already know. How does yoga do that?
During some point in my yoga practice, sometimes in the beginning, sometimes in the end or somewhere in between, I feel vulnerable. That really human kind of vulnerable. That feeling of oh yeah, I’m sad sometimes, and life sucks sometimes, and I have a heart in the center of my chest that can be broken. A little reminder that I am fragile.
But at other times, I feel strong. My body feels alive and electric and light. A moment or two of feeling like yep, life is freakin’ awesome, and sometimes I do and create amazing things, and sometimes I feel like a million bucks and want to celebrate all night. Hell yeah bitches.
Other times, I feel mean when I do yoga. Sometimes I want the teacher to shut up, sometimes I think, Georgie why the hell are your hip flexors so tight, why can’t you do this pose, why can’t you concentrate today, why is your balance off, why won’t the people in the waiting room be quiet, why won’t the cars on the street quit honking their horns, what in God’s name is that smell?
I knew, half-heartedly, that all humans feel these emotions. I knew that we all suffer, that we all have joy. But it wasn’t until I started teaching a lot of yoga classes that I really learned this. I can see it in the students, their little journeys of happiness and frustration and vulnerability, all in an hour and fifteen minute yoga class. When I see this, and know exactly (to an extent) what they’re going through, how they’re feeling, it cultivates a lot of love for those people. I start to like everyone, a lot, because the ability to relate and see your experiences in someone else makes you a compassionate being.
In the Yoga Sutras (think, Ultimate guide on how to practice yoga, on and off the mat, for all aspects of your life) Patanjali gives us a guide for how to treat people according to the emotion that they experiencing. He says to treat the happy with friendliness, the suffering with compassion, the virtuous with delight, and disregard for the wicked. There are many tips in the Yoga Sutras on how to practice yoga, but I really believe that if you only practiced this single sutra, that you would lead a pretty damn good life.
The funny thing about this sutra is that we do not just fall into one of these categories-we are not constantly a happy, suffering, virtuous, or wicked person. Each one of these characteristics lie within each of us, all the time. It just depends on which one is being expressed at the time.
It is especially important to remember that suffering is within us all. We all know how sorrow feels, how dreadful it can seem. When we understand this, our interactions with other people will be from a place of wanting to curb that person’s suffering. Even if it’s just a random person on the street, they too, suffer, just like you and I do. You don’t need to know them on a personal level to understand their suffering. Smile at them.
And how could we possibly contribute to someone else’s suffering when we know how horrible it feels to suffer? Sometimes we forget that people other than ourselves suffer. But just try, endlessly, to remember this one little fact.
Go further: strive to remember even that the person who annoys you the most, the most negative person you have ever met, that guy who just turned without using his blinker, the kill joys, the sexist boss, the homophobes, the murderers…they too, have their stories. Not only do they suffer just like us, but they have a unique view on this world, on how to live, on the Truth. Even these people contain answers.
I want to know all of the stories, all of the things that the people of this world think the be true.
Is God speaking.
Why not be polite and
When it comes down to it, we all possess happiness, suffering, virtuousness, and wickedness at some time or another. We have been told for years to treat others the way we want to be treated, but this will come so naturally when we remember that the things we feel are also experienced by everyone else.
Loving everyone won’t just come from reading this blog post. Believe me, I have read about compassion over and over, for years, but never really got it 100%. Like everything else in life, it takes practice, and the practice never ends. Doing eighteen thousand downward facing dogs won’t help either. You’ve got to go out into the world and try it. Look at people in a different way. Look in their eyes and see their sorrow, their happiness, see what is so unmistakably YOU about that person.