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Tough Conversations and Yoga

It’s not easy to have difficult conversations—that’s what makes them, err, difficult. While the yoga community is often perceived to be inoculated from some of the more challenging discussions of our times, at Yoga Unify we believe it’s important to provide a space and opportunity for people to debate—even if that means disagreeing. It’s in our disagreements that we open our mind and heart to another perspective. It’s when we feel challenged that we crystallize our ideals and our beliefs. And it’s when we find a glimmer of truth in a viewpoint to which we didn’t originally adhere that we learn the value and importance of compromise.

It’s because of this belief that we’re building Yoga Unify from the ground up, by yogis, for yogis. Our Governing Council meetings are transparent to all members—if you’re a member, you can access all meeting notes in your member portal. You’ll hear top teachers and community leaders agreeing on some ideas; and disagreeing on others. Finding space to hear all opinions and then working toward compromise is crucial to the ethos of our organization, as councilors create recommendations for bylaws for Consequential Ethics, Qualification and Education, and Community Investment.

Not convinced? Here are three reasons, grounded in yogic philosophy, that speak to the importance of having tough conversations—even when it could mean riling up a disagreement. Do you want to weigh in and share ideas, whether you agree or disagree? Become a Founding Circle Member to join the conversation. Click here to learn more.

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Learning how to voice your disagreements gently and respectfully is a form of ahimsa, or non-harming.

Ahimsa, described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, is the first of the five yamas, restraints for living, and is translated as the practice of non-harming. It’s not ahimsa to never disagree. Not only is that unrealistic, but restricting the expression of opposing viewpoints in the interest of not causing conflict can actually result in greater conflict. Burying emotions or opinions isn’t a healthy way to deal with them. It takes courage to learn how to voice disagreements gently, but doing so is an opportunity to practice compassion.

Sutra 2.31 tells us that when compassion is practiced unconditionally—read: even in situations in which we disagree with people—we create a powerful structure for inner healing and peace. To say, expressing your disagreement with empathy and compassion is a practice of ahimsa both to other people, and to yourself.

Finding a compromise is to honor the interconnectedness of all beings.

Vedic philosophy—which informs yogic philosophy—teaches nonduality. The popular Sanskrit mantra Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu can be translated as “may all beings be happy and free,” and draws on the idea that no being may be happy or free until all are. To say, we are connected to the same Source, the same Self. We are all one.

To find a compromise in a difficult situation is to honor this philosophy. It’s to place emphasis on the interconnectedness of all life, rather than on one’s individual and unique ego. It’s to be able to let go of the insistence that “my” idea is better than “our” idea—and to honor our shared experience. This is an instruction delineated in the fifth of the five yamas, aparagrahia. Generally translated as “non-possessiveness,” it can be understood as a practice of non-attachment. In this case, the non-attachment is to ego and a reluctance to find compromise.

Finding the courage to have tough conversations is to practice satya.

In the Sutras, satya is the second of the five yamas, or restraints for living. It’s roughly translated as “truthfulness” or truth-telling. This is an essential tenet to consider when examining why tough conversations are important in a yogic setting, because it takes for granted that life—and practice—is complex, nuanced, and, often, difficult. Pretending that life isn’t complex, or difficult, is to live in a state of willful ignorance, and not in adherence to satya.

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