Meeting Each Other Where We Are
The other day, I had a new student come in for my intro-level Ashtanga class. Based on our conversation before class, I got the impression she was quite advanced. I went into class with that expectation, and quickly realized that my evaluation was wrong—even remembering to breathe was quite difficult for this student. That’s not meant as a negative reflection on her at all—rather, it was a reminder to me that what yoga means to the general public is often very different from what it means to an Ashtangi who is practicing six days a week. Of course, I had to change my approach to meet this student where she actually was—if I kept with my initial impression of her as an accomplished practitioner I would have wasted our time.
My yoga practice and instructing yoga is a constant reminder to me of the importance of meeting people where they are. Just like you can’t ask a beginner to do an advanced asana right off the bat, we can’t always ask the people in our lives to match our understandings. As yogis, we often go through such deep challenges and transformations on our mats that can yield us greater wisdom, compassion, and patience than people who aren’t attempting a growth practice. I know that most of the time, a lot of us yogis just feel like hot messes, but the truth is that we are more than likely garnering huge lessons from yoga that not everyone can relate to.
Of course, for me, this also means compassion for myself for where I am. I look at yogis who are much further down the path and sometimes I’m a little down on myself for not having their level of understanding. But I see my teachers recognizing me for where I am, and not only accepting me for it, but respecting me as well. This has been a huge lesson to me, to extend compassion and respect to those who don’t do yoga or have any sort of mindfulness practice and might struggle with things like patience, humility, and equanimity in day-to-day life. That kind of energy is not always pleasant to be around, but it’s a chance to practice real-life yoga. The more we can put ourselves in each other’s shoes, the more easily we can offer compassion and acceptance for one another.
And just imagine what a powerful tool that is—meeting each other where we are instead of judging each other according to our own understandings. I can sometimes get a little starry-eyed with what yoga can do for the world, but that seriously sounds like revolutionary stuff to me. I really do think these small changes can add up in a huge way, and that is why yoga is wildly valuable.