In 2012, after many years of avoiding and side-stepping, Barak Obama made the public statement that he was in favor of legalizing gay marriage. It is a rare moment when a very public figure declares, with grace and humility, that he has evolved, changed, grown. Obama's public acknowledgment was a humble gift to his public. It wasn't just his proclamation that he changed his opinion that touched so many; it was his public acknowledgment that he had evolved. Ultimately after the Supreme Court decision in June 2015, Obama came out in exultant celebration of legalized gay marriage.
"Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens," he said. "And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."
That famous moment in time changed the lives of millions.
Why did Obama change his mind? What small experiences in his life led him to open his heart and face his fears? Did he meet one person who radically changed his perspective? Or was it incremental, like he suggested, "two steps forward, one step back," lots of little experiences that ultimately shifted his perspective? I'm not sure it matters. When people open their minds to new and different ideas, when they face their fears, change comes and good things happen.
For the last two decades, Yoga has occupied a significant place in my heart and in my mind. I have deep gratitude for the way my practice has grounded me. For the past few years though, my Yoga has started to feel less like grounding and more like an anchor; I have noticed myself feeling stuck. I still love it, and I feel myself going through an evolution. A dedicated Bikram practitioner for over twenty years, I have found myself questioning my loyalty to a single practice, wondering if I am doing justice to myself and my students by practicing and offering just one style of Yoga. It is not that I have fallen out of favor with the practice. No way. I love the Yoga and I feel grateful that my 46-year-old knees can do the things they do. I thank my Bikram practice for that.
My personal perspective vis-a-vis Yoga has been to keep it safe, familiar-- Bikram Yoga is what I do. Bikram Yoga is what I know. And so, like Obama, I have clung tightly to what I know, what feels safe and free of conflict. My evolution has come in the form of many little baby steps of curiosity. What else is out there? Who else is wandering the streets of this amazingly Yoga saturated city? What are the students learning? What are the teachers saying? And so I began exploring. I went on my own Yoga adventure. It was scary at first to dive into this new world. I took lots of different classes, talked to different teachers, dipped my toes in the scary waters of "What if?"
And here's what I've found. Like Obama, I take two steps forward--Vinyasa Flow is hard and fun! And one step back-- I need my Bikram to keep my knees healthy and my hips open. Hot Fusion is so efficient. But Bikram lets me really relax mentally. And with every new Yoga experience I have (and there are a lot of choices out there!), I find my perspective shifting. I want my home practice, my stable, grounding, familiar Bikram practice. And I want more. The world of Yoga has grown in leaps and bounds. The community has gone from itty bitty to ginormous in the past two decades.
What I teach my students every day when I am at the front of the class guiding them is to take risks, to have adventure, to be open. And so here I sit, writing this proclamation of my own, acknowledging that I have had a closed mind, that I have been afraid. In my recent Yoga adventure I've seen so many great things, Bikram Yoga included. How will the future of The SweatBox look? Of course we'll maintain our regular amazing classes and teachers; changes will be slow and steady.The beautiful bright cherry red door that opens into The SweatBox will still open into The SweatBox. Who we are fundamentally will not change. We will always be caring, compassionate, knowledgeable teachers, committed to our students. But our door will be open a little bit wider, making room for new ideas, new visions. And if you're scared, tentative about the changes, I want you to know that I get it. I've been there. I still go there. But my mind is open now and it feels good! Remember your daily Yoga practice--everyday is different; it is a process that never ends. As we move into the future SweatBox, remind yourself that we are all a part of this process of discovery. Where this journey will take us isn't clear. If it was, it wouldn't be a journey. One thing I know for sure is that the best is yet to come.