Life Lessons from Yoga #8

You might not know the story of others.

Part of my August series on life philosophies learned from yoga.

In yoga, our goal is to be free of judgment, both of our selves and of others.  You might feel a particular way when you walk in to a yoga class but you have no idea what kind of day, week or life all the other yogis around you have had.

Some people might have tight hamstrings and others might have über strong arms.  You might feel like you aren’t good enough because the yogi next to you is able to launch in to a handstand and hold it for twenty seconds while you are afraid to even kick up.  But maybe that person has been practicing handstand every day for 10 years, or maybe she was a gymnast in college.  Your tendency might look down on something who isn’t even trying, but maybe she just found out she’s pregnant.

If you see someone overweight and unable to touch his toes, you might be witnessing the first part of their journey of transformation.  Maybe he has wanted to try yoga for years but was too intimidated to show up to class.  Or maybe he is recovering from an injury that benched him for months.

Perhaps the person on the mat next to you is there for the first time since they experienced deep grief over a death or are coming to do yoga after a recent diagnosis that they or a loved one needs to begin treatment for cancer.

We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses, and maybe one particular one is being highlighted at any one time.  Some days everything aligns and we might feel like the star of the class and sometimes we might look like the lazy or weak one if we’re recovering, having a bad day, or the class isn’t highlighting our strengths.

Yoga reminds me that when we deal with people, sometimes it’s easy to forget in what context we might be intersecting their life.  Often times we just project our own way of assessing the world during a particular day and time on someone else.

Can you think about this when a person honks and speeds around you in traffic?  How about the rude people you encounter on the phone after holding for 20 minutes?  Then there is the unfocused co-worker who has not been pulling his weight.  What about the insistent salesperson, the unyielding teacher, or the irritable mother?  What is their story and can you cut them some slack in case you found them on a bad day or bad year?  We might not understand the reasons they might be for acting the way they are.

It’s a reminder to me to have some empathy for others, to give them the benefit of the doubt.  You never know when the day will come when you might need some support and understanding, some gentleness in judgment.


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