Bridging the Divide

September 2018

Wherever you look, humans somehow find a way to separate ourselves from each other. Not sure why, really. Most things in nature realize they need to co-exist and even rely on one another, despite their differences.

Political positioning, socio-economic disparity, racial and gender variances, geographic, religious and cultural discrepancies across the globe and within this country can drive a wedge between us, somehow convincing us that we are all separate and divided. Surprisingly, even in the world of yoga, whereby its very definition, “union” implies a sense of oneness, we still have somehow created a unique divide among ourselves.

In the ever-expanding world of yoga, it seems we have now created a division between social media yogis and old-school yogis. External performance yogis and introspective yogis. Instagram yogis and studio yogis. Hot yogis and alignment yogis. Vinyasa yogis and therapeutic yogis. Power yogis and restorative yogis. Just feel-good yogis and do-it-the-right-way yogis. Yin yogis and yang yogis. Young yogis and old yogis. The list goes on… Our choice of style, our decision to learn from a teacher in person vs. from a person streaming through device, and our level of commitment and experience in the practice have divided us too.

When I first started on my own yoga journey more than 25 years ago, I experienced that same level of questioning from more experienced yoga practitioners. I also remember feeling hurt that they questioned whether my intentions were pure or my skills were up to par. Admittedly, all these years later, I have also caught myself in that same mode of questioning of enthusiastic budding on-line yogis. While raw passion and talent is clearly no substitute for studying face-to-face with an experienced, knowledgeable teacher, I also realize that we all start somewhere. We all find yoga the way we’re meant to and when we’re meant to. And we all resonate with it in the way that makes sense to us at that particular time in our life.

What’s more important to remember that in whatever form and no matter who is doing it, the practice of yoga is an experience that enhances someone’s quality of life.  We as teachers have the responsibility to provide a safe practice, protect our students from injury and to share the teachings as purely as we can through our own reflection. But we can also work to embrace everyone who is doing their best to find and express their own path to their own truth. It’s a winding road no matter who you are. While ego plays a role in all that we do, so does self-doubt and insecurity. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg. Which one came first? And really does it matter? Of course, our little world of yoga is just a microcosm of what is happening on a much grander scale. Learning to respect one another, despite our differences, is the crux.

In the practice of yoga and meditation, we often talk about observing “the gap” or “the pause.” By gaining awareness in that moment, we can get a glimpse of a clearer vision of what truly is, without the forces of opinion, conditioned thought, cultural or external influences. In the quiet of our own practice, between our own reactionary patterns of defensiveness and judgement, my hope is that we can bridge the chasm between perception and reality, and in every realm, someday come together as one.

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