Growing up with good manners was so important to my parents that they sent me to etiquette school for a few years.
Their intent was to teach politeness. What I remember the most from my schooling is that politeness is a skill. It must be practiced. Just like yoga is a practice, living politely and being gracious is a practice. And each day offers us the opportunity to be gracious.
Gracious means that we are both graceful and gentle in our interactions—and not just some of the time. Being polite in one situation may be simple, but to be gracious all of the time is more challenging. It is as Madame de Stael wrties, “The art of choosing among your thoughts.”
Yoga class begins by setting a personal intention (Sankalpa) and purposely choosing kind thoughts towards oneself. This is known as Ahimsa, and lays the foundation for how we want to practice with ourselves.
As a teacher, I encourage students to move politely on the mat by applying gentleness and soft manners in even the most challenging poses. Since yoga is portable, we can take this same gentleness into our lives off the mat. We can engage soft manners and be polite even with the most difficult people or the most challenging situations.
As Christina Sell author of the book Yoga from the Inside Out puts it,“Yoga makes us strong on the inside so we can be soft on the outside.”
It takes a strong mind to be polite and respond softly in relationship with others. I read once, “if you can’t control your mind, there’s no way you can hope to control your mouth.” As yoga is for the mind in addition to the physical body, it helps us to journey more peacefully in this world.
The more we model positive behavior, the easier it is for others to learn from us the art of politeness.
5 Ways to Be Polite Today:
1. Send a hand written thank-you card or letter.
2. Publically acknowledge someone in front of others. Be generous with your praise and offer positive feedback. Remember that recognition goes a long way!
3. Offer the gift of service. Kindly ask around and see if you can offer your help, “before” it is asked of you.
4. Share something. Bring treats to work, take someone to lunch, buy coffee for the person behind you in line.
5. Say thank you and please at least once a day.