For every three people you tell about your yoga practice, you are likely to find one who is quick to say why they don’t like yoga, how they didn’t feel like the “stretching” was enough of a “workout” or how they straight-up “hate the spiritual mumbo-jumbo.” And it hurts. The practice means something to you, and someone who doesn’t know much about it told you they don’t like it, to your face.
I know my practice means something big to me, and it makes me feel like I need to fight back when others vocally diminish it. But a part of my practice is to let go of my urge to be a self-righteous stick-in-the-mud, so in the face of anti-yoga sentiments, I have to remind myself that not everyone wants or needs me to share yoga with them.
As someone with a teacher training certificate and a schedule of weekly yoga classes, it is kind of my job to share yoga. But it’s not my job to mount a high horse in my luon leggings and throw Patanjali’s sutras in someone’s face whenever they say yoga is “just stretching” or something else sparks my urge to disagree and debate.
Okay, so hold onto your foam blocks because next, I’m going to make a parallel between yoga and religion but want to say for the record: yoga is not a religion. (More on that in a future post).
The Sundays of my childhood included going to church. I remember being taught that as a good Christian, it was my duty to help others “get saved.” Having Jewish, Muslim, atheist, and agnostic friends and family, the younger me stewed in panic over what might happen if I did not heed the proselytism I heard once a week. The reality was that my intervention would have hurt those I loved and created an unwanted rift between us.
As I got older I learned that it was simply up to me to work at being a good person. Just like everyone around me, I had the freedom to decide if a traditional connection to organized religion was a part of my own path to do so. We all make choices to examine what we are taught and to be fervent in our beliefs, just as we make choices to love and support those in our lives, rather than judge and condemn them.
I must learn to accept that my students, my friends, and many people I have yet to meet are more amazing than I am giving them credit for. They are surprisingly strong, incredibly smart, and uniquely inspiring people. They will make their own choices. And perhaps they will discover they can connect with yoga their own way, in their own time, if they are open to it. I’m eager to share, but won’t be offended if someone isn’t interested in listening.
Fellow yogis: How do you respond when someone nay-says your practice? Let me know in the comments!