Starting this blog has been difficult. I’ve started typing about five times; each time I’ve abandoned it because it wasn’t working.
I wanted to tell you about new evidence for the psychological and physiological benefits of yoga or about how getting your body ‘beach ready’ is very simply putting your body on a beach: My usual shtick of self-acceptance and why yoga is good for everything.
But it all seems a bit trite after the devastating events of Saturday, 3rd June, which happened on the doorstep of our wonderful London Bridge studio.
We know what happened. We know the names and stories of those who lost their lives, those who were hurt and injured and those who demonstrated incredible bravery.
It is overwhelming to think that this happened in London in our neighbourhood. Since we opened our London Bridge studio in 2011, we’ve seen the area go from a traffic-jammed commuter pit-stop to a lively, spoilt-for-choice destination for foodies and lovers of life, where – gasp – Londoners and tourists mingle happily side-by-side.
After such events, stories of incredible kindness arise, such as those who opened their homes to others who were affected by the attacks. Those who rushed to help others, even if it was just offering them some water and use of a telephone.
I think we all know that in the same situation, we would offer the same things, show the same level of kindness. Ironically, I hope very sincerely that no one reading this (and even those not reading this!) will ever be put in such a situation where such kindness is needed to override the horror.
But what happens to the kindness? It lies dormant; it doesn’t get used until circumstance shoves it to the forefront of our thinking. Us London folk, we’re capable of incredible acts of kindness: Heart melting, eye-watering, throat-choking displays of human warmth and altruism that quite rightly deserve to be headline news. But it takes a disaster for us to show that, and that’s what I’d like to address.
In this blog I’ve talked a lot about being kind to yourself: Accepting who we are and how we feel in the moment, especially in regards to our yoga practice. Most of us have a harsh, critical inner voice that scolds if we don’t manage what we managed last class, or if we don’t like what we see in the mirror.
Is it time to recognise that we can be kinder to others, without being shocked into it by horrific events?
Kindness is something we’re all taught as kids – sharing is caring! – but as a concept it seems to fall out of favour, as we get older. Even the word sounds a bit saccharine and superficial.
Being kind isn’t being ‘nice’. Nice is a watered down, hollow version of kind. My iced latte is nice. My yoga mat is nice. We’re so used to saying ‘nice’ it doesn’t mean anything any more: How was your weekend? It was nice, thanks. How was your holiday? Nice, thanks. Blah. Nice is blah.
We can be better than an iced latte, a yoga mat and small talk about a non-descript weekend. We can be kind. We can opt out of the passive aggressive micro-expressions of annoyance when someone faffs about in the queue ahead of us. We can choose not to use that ‘for f**k’s sake’ knee-jerk reaction and frown when someone else has snagged our favourite spot in the studio. So the changing room is crowded and you’ve got a train to catch? So what? I won’t go so far as to suggest beaming around at everyone like a lunatic (as a demographic, I’m aware of Londoners’ limits), but you can make life easier on yourself, and by default, others too, by not getting even getting a tiny bit annoyed and cutting each other some slack.
Think back to the last time you got annoyed: It was probably today, and it was probably over something so small and so ridiculous and so inconsequential. You probably, almost definitely, did not need to get annoyed by it. We all capable of endless, magnificent kindness, and I’m only asking that you use a sliver, a mere fraction of it.
So the next time someone irritates the shit out of you – for whatever reason, be it a fellow yogi, fellow commuter or house mate – allow your knee-jerk reaction to be one of kindness.
Yogi since 2005, Alex has practised hot yoga in studios across Europe and the USA, but Hot Yoga Society is her favourite!