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[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”18″ align=”left”]Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe, say or do. Both are nonsense.” – Rick Warren[/mk_blockquote]

acceptanceEvery once in a while, I get a glimpse of the impact yoga can have on people. The other day, I overheard my husband, who has been practicing for three or four years, tell someone that the biggest thing he’s learned from yoga is acceptance. Life, he said, isn’t about making people more like you, it’s about living your life well. And to do that, you need to “work and play well with others.”

While I’m not actually sure what I would have chosen as the biggest lesson of the practice, this is certainly a powerful one. Yoga is profoundly accepting. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga, the style I practice and teach, is famous for having said that his yoga is for everyone. My experience corroborates this. I’ve taught young people and old people, stiff people and flexible, strong and weak, injured and well. None of these qualities has predicted or dictated how deeply yoga has been able to affect a person. All anyone has to do is show up, move and breathe and yoga will share its gifts. Yoga is pretty indiscriminate.

Practicing yoga (and watching yoga accept me exactly as I am each day) has made me more accepting of myself. I have learned to see more clearly. Because I face them daily, I now recognize weaknesses that I may have ignored before. But, again because I face them daily, I have learned not to judge myself too harshly. I know that, with time and with practice, these weaknesses will gradually disappear to be replaced by newfound strengths. As I’ve learned to be more accepting of my own weaknesses, it’s become much easier to treat others the same way.

Through my practice, I have become aware of many habits and tendencies. I’ve noticed how I respond to fear. I’ve noticed how I manage success. I’ve noticed when I work hard and when I get lazy. Most importantly, I’ve noticed that the simple act of noticing a habit is enough to initiate change and growth. Nothing about me is fixed in stone. I am a work in progress. If this is true of me, it is certainly true of everyone else. Knowing this deepens the levels of acceptance that I feel for myself and for the people I share my life with.

Yoga has also helped me recognize my strengths – inside and out. This awareness has lead to confidence, but not pride. Rather than assuming I’ve got it all figured out, and deciding that it’s “my way or the highway,” as it were, I find myself curious about what others have figured out. While some of what works for me may help you, and vice versa, this is not always true. Sometimes what works for me won’t work for you at all. This doesn’t make one of us right and one of us wrong. It simply makes us different.

And that is the thing. Acceptance is not an assumption or hope that we will one day – with time and with practice – all be the same. Not at all. Acceptance allows for (even celebrates!) our differences. When we keep space in our hearts and minds for the infinite differences and variations that make up humanity, we will learn and grow more than we can possibly imagine. Which, to get back to my husband’s words, is a great way to live this life well.

The light in me bows to and honors the light in each of you.