I always struggle with what to say or not say in the yoga classes I teach on, or directly after, momentous events, good or bad. The trained therapist in me knows that it is important to address what is brought into the room, whether it is directly related to what the group’s task at hand is or not. The yoga instructor in me knows that I come to the studio to teach yoga. The morning after the Connecticut elementary school shooting I found myself feeling sad and shocked. How would my students be feeling? Should I say something? Pretending it didn’t happen and wasn’t hanging in the air felt wrong and disrespectful. Blatantly bringing it into the yoga studio also felt wrong, taking away from why the students were there. I needed to acknowledge that some might be coming to class to forget all of the tragedies and stressors of the world for an hour, some might be coming to move all of their feelings through their bodies to gain some greater insights or relief, and some might simply want a good workout at the start of their weekends. I pondered what to do and say from the moment I woke up until I stepped into the studio ready to teach.
I sat before my class and simply said, “There has been a lot going on lately, in the news, with the holidays upon us, so we are going to start with some chanting. We will chant, lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu – may all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering and may all of my thoughts, words, and actions contribute to that happiness and freedom from suffering.” So we chanted for the first five minutes of class. The room filled with the vibrations of our voices coming together. Did we make a difference with our chanting? Maybe. Maybe not. Is the world a better place? Maybe. Maybe not. There was a presence, a sense of truly being alive, that filled the room as the students began to move. We cannot stop all unhappiness and suffering in the world, but we can consciously make decisions that do not cause unhappiness of suffering for ourselves or those around us in hopes that there will be a ripple effect that carries out into our communities and the world at large. We can continually tune into ourselves so that we may go out into the world grounded and centered with intentions to do what little we can to contribute to the greater good of this world.