Biased Listening

— Exploiting a weakness

Yesterday I did yoga for the first time in months. When I do yoga, I start by recalling instructions I’ve heard from classes. In each pose, I go through common pointers my past instructors have given: feel the alignment in the hips, open arms back as if you’re leaning against a wall…I’ve gone to enough classes to remember so many details.

While recalling the poses, I realized that my yoga instructors have always been white, single and female.

‘How would I interpret the same instructions if my instructor were someone else? Perhaps someone who grew up with knowledge of the ayurvedic tradition, perhaps someone from India where yoga originated? What if the instructor was just someone who was married for over two decades?’

Reimagining the classes, I responded to instructions differently. ‘Breath long and deep’ didn’t involve strenuous stretching of my lungs. Whatever my comfortable limit was, I did enough. The instructions meant something else than what I’d remembered.

Yoga at home never lasts longer than half an hour. Yesterday lasted 75 minutes. I didn’t even try.

How am I so biased to take direction so differently? The same words, when coming from a different person, can have an entirely different meaning. I’m surprised how biased I am, how much I color the instructions by the person giving them.

However, looking at the instructions in a different light–I found a reignited interest in yoga that I hadn’t come across before.



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