I have been encouraging my father to try out a yoga class—but he thinks yoga is for hippies and refuses to go. Any recommendations on how to dismantle that perception?
Thanks for the advice,
My Dad Won’t Do Yoga
Dear My Dad Won’t Do Yoga,
So many dads have this perception about yoga. I know this because I have taught so many dads who are of the opinion that only hippies do yoga. Hippies did do yoga. Some of them were part of the Hare Krishna movement, which is when Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan (Devotional Chanting--what I practice at the close of every class) gained traction in the West. Your dad probably knows this because he saw it happen with his own eyes and it probably seemed a little bit weird to him. It’s quite possible that he just wants to learn more about yoga before actually rolling out a mat and getting into downward facing dog. Why not open up a conversation with him where you can both learn a bit more about the other person’s perspective?
To dismantle someone else’s belief system is never the goal. To give another person the call to action for the betterment of their own life is always the goal. Chances are, yoga may feel a bit out of reach for him because of how it’s advertised in our culture. If you really think that your father could benefit from this practice, then you must show him that it is accessible to everyone, not just hippies and athletic-type people in leggings.
The first thing that I would do is ask your dad why he thinks yoga is for hippies. Ask for specific reasons why he believes this. Listen to what he has to say. Based on what you gather by simply being a good listener, inquire further if you must, but try not to go too deep or stimulate a potential argument. Next, ask him to do a quick breathing exercise with you, just for the heck of it. You can even joke about being a hippie.
Have him place one hand on his belly and the other on his ribcage, and then you do the same. Lead by example. Instruct him to take a deep breath in, deep enough that he can feel his ribcage expand and his upper belly rise under his hands. Guide him through the exhale. Sit and keep breathing like this, together, for as long as you want. Afterward ask him how he feels. Listen to his response and be open to the possibility that he might not change opinions immediately. Then congratulate him--he just took his first yoga class!