My first job was with a very small company that wrote programs to make computers accessible to blind and visually impaired people. The owner of the company is blind himself and we worked out of his house. Every day after lunch, he liked to take a short walk to get a little exercise, and he preferred to walk with a person rather than use a cane or his seeing eye dog. He would hold the arm of the person he was walking with just above the elbow so that he would be slightly behind the person and could feel when they went up or down or changed direction before he reached the same point. On my first day of work, he decided I should learn how to walk with him so we went over the basic rules like stopping for a moment at curbs and describing any changes in terrain that might not be immediately apparent from how I was walking.

As we started off, I very carefully scanned the ground in front of us for anything that might cause him to trip or stumble. Near the end of the first block, he suddenly stopped and jerked back so forcefully I was nearly pulled off my feet. I was horrified to see I had run him into a tree branch. After apologizing profusely, I immediately walked him into a second branch. He had been very forgiving about the first branch, but after the second, he decided we should stop and talk. I explained that I had seen the second branch, but it was so far over my head, I did not think he would hit it. He is 6’5’’ and I am 5’4’’.

I had never thought about it before, but I do not notice the height of things that are more than 6 or 8 inches above my head; they are just high. How high is usually not important because I will fit comfortably underneath them. For once however, it was important and I was surprised to find I could not judge how high things were; from my angle the difference between 6’3’’ and 6’8’’ is not much. Of course, from his perspective, a few inches made all the difference in the world. We decided that from then on when I could not tell if he could comfortably pass underneath something, I would slow down and he would duck. I am happy to say that the second tree branch was the last thing I walked him into.

We all have our own views of the world. In yoga classes, this can become apparent rather quickly as we find poses we prefer and those we do not. Usually at the beginning, favorite poses are those that make us feel good or those that are easiest for us. Some find in the first few classes that they like forward bends either due to their calming qualities or because they have flexible hamstrings. Others naturally do backbends easily and still others enjoy poses that require physical strength. Later on some students enjoy poses that they have worked hard to achieve, such as a difficult backbend, handstand or an arm balance.

There is nothing inherent in any pose that makes it better or worse than any other pose. If we look at yoga poses dispassionately, we can see that all have their benefits. It is our perspective that colors our view of each pose. In a perfect world, we would like (or dislike) all poses equally.

This same sense of perspective applies to our lives. The world and those around us are as they are. How we react is in response to how we view them. If we like someone and they are having a bad day, we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. If we do not like the person, the tendency is to react negatively; our reaction depends upon our perception.

Ideally, we would see the world clearly; our perspective would not make a difference. We would be able to see tree branches, yoga poses and the world around us as being as they are. Yoga can be a place to start. By noticing our tendencies, our likes and our dislikes, we learn about our perspective of the world and ourselves.  Though obstacles like tree branches may always exist, we may not necessarily have to walk into them.