As we’ve learned from the many follies of confessional writing online, Yoga is not a place for judgement. Except that it totally is, and I am judging every single person who has ever sat next to me in a yoga class and not “om”-ed along with everyone else.
Let it be known: I will never judge you if your heels don’t reach the floor in Downward Facing Dog. I will never judge you for losing balance in your Warrior 3. I will never judge you if can’t lower down with control for Chaturanga. In sum, I will never, ever judge you for your physical practice. But I will judge you for your God damned manners.
So to all those people in class not joining in the “Om”, I SEE YOU. Well, I hear you. Or don’t hear you. You know what I mean. Your silence has been duly noticed, and has inspired a completely un-yogaly sentiment in me that shouldn’t be interrupting what is otherwise a joyful practice.
Let’s be clear. I am not someone who is rooted deep into the spirituality of yoga. Like many belief systems, there are some things I take from it and some that I leave behind. I am not a staunch yogi by any stretch, and I think that’s just because I was raised to think critically. It’s OK to question components of the whole, even where you generally believe in the sum of those parts, and it’s OK to intellectually challenge the things that don’t sit right with you. But this is something I do within the confines of my own mind, or with close friends over brunch. I don’t sit in class openly casting aspersions on things other class members abide by. So by all means: question yoga, even if you enjoy its practice.
BUT DO NOT BE RUDE. It is NOT OK to be rude when you have entered into a setting where certain outward practices are required. Obliging shows respect. If you enter a friend’s house and they ask you to take off your shoes, even if you LOVE wearing shoes, you will take them off. This is the condition of entering the friend’s house: you follow their rules. To do otherwise would be rude. If your friend asked you to kill a kitten upon entry, that’s a time when you can decline. But a harmless, otherwise innocuous condition should be followed out of common human decency.
Likewise, if you visit another country, you might not learn the entire language spoken there, but for courtesy’s sake and to make YOUR EXPERIENCE fuller, you will take it upon yourself to learn the basics, for instance “hello”, “goodbye”, “please” and “thank-you.” “Om” is yoga’s hello”, “goodbye”, “please” and “thank-you.”
The only sort of person I can think of who would keep on their shoes when asked to remove them, or who would find themselves so superior as to not say “ciao” in Italy is a butt-munch. You heard me. BUTT. MUNCH. You don’t have to be shoeless forever. You don’t have to learn the Tarantella. You certainly don’t need to be enlightened to every single philosophical principle of yoga. But you do have to be polite. I will not compromise on politeness.
So if you happen to be on the mat next to me in a yoga class, know this: my ears are pricked to attention. And if you don’t “om”, I will squeeze you with my mind vice, and seethe about you in open letters on the internet. What I really want to do is pull the mat out under from your rude ass.