I recently read the first chapter of Far From the Tree; Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon.
It was heavy, so I read it again. Then I skimmed it one more time. He discusses identity and teases out the intricacies of the parent/child/society relationship, particularly how it can be difficult for parents to accept their children as having their own identities instead of simply being an extension of themselves. He goes on to describe how this difficulty can be further compounded by flaws (mental disability, physical disability, homosexuality, etc.) as perceived by the parent and/or society. He also notes that even when we try our best, as humans, we fail at empathy because we only know what we know from what we have experienced. Moreover, that experience is often inadequate until we submerge ourselves in the communities we are trying to understand because then we can begin making connections from our lives to others. Of course, he put it far more eloquently than I did:
“All people are both the objects and the perpetrators of prejudice. Our understanding of the prejudice directed against us informs our responses to others.”
Do you remember that condition I mentioned in my last post? The one that makes it easy for me to get hurt? Well, it’s called pregnancy and I am coming up on week 13. (Surprise! Yay!) Being pregnant is coming with a lot of preconceived notion-busting. I’m getting used to my own identity shift and I’m noticing that society is getting used to it as well, or maybe I’m trying to get used to society’s view of pregnancy. This shift in identity also got me thinking that just as our prejudices against ourselves and others can cloud our perception and influence our actions, perhaps our preconceived ideas about how we are connected to our yoga practice can dull the experience and prevent us from getting the most out of it.
Our prejudice of what yoga should be like can get in the way of a valuable learning experience. For me, I went into yoga with my pregnant self with the idea that my practice would not change drastically. That I would modify as needed and that I would have a lovely, pregnant yogi calm about me as I gracefully transitioned through the stages of pregnancy hopefully with minimal flatulence. The reality was humbling. Even though I consider myself fairly experienced, I’m a novice in this new body! It wasn’t fair of me to prejudge what my pregnant yoga experience might be like. I kept trying to make it an extension of who I wanted to be instead of letting the experience lead me- even though I promised myself I would listen to my body every step of the way.
Fighting prejudice of all types is harder than it seems. Some things are so ingrained that we don’t realize it until something happens that forces us to look straight at it.