This summer in Washington DC has been hot and it’s not just the weather. Living in the nation’s capital during the most heated election in the history of the world has set my social media newsfeed and my friends’ opinions on, well, just about everything on fire. Normally I’m content to my civically engaged, but conversationally disengaged attitude towards politics, however this year there’s been a shift.

Instructing a classroom full of charged journalists, staffers, lobbyists, and political consultants means I can’t not address the elephant (or in some cases donkey) in the room. I’ve noticed one of two shifts in my students: an almost electric energy caused by excitement in them, pushing them to take their practice further than it’s ever gone before; or a daunting and unrelenting fatigue caused by election-overload or sleepless nights glued to cable television. So in the end it’s not the political party that’s causing the disconnect in my classroom, it’s the energy levels. When you’re teaching a fast paced flow class this can create a disconnect.

So I’ve decided to step up my political game this season. While I’m certainly not looking for a debate, I’m trying to understand the passion behind my students’ and friends’ politics, even when they’re voting for someone different than me. That means asking questions I’d honestly rather avoid and listening to opinions that sometimes scare me. But in my opinion it’s better to understand where these people are coming from than shutting them out or worse, “unfriending” them (gasp!).

And when those people are in my class I devote time at the beginning of practice trying to remind them of the things we all have in common. Sometimes that comes down to things as mundane as this Frosé (Frozen Rosé) trend that’s sweeping the nation. Some teachers might dismiss the idea of conversation at the beginning of yoga class as a waste of time, but there’s more to yoga than the Asana and that sense of community makes me and my students feel much more comfortable as we flow together.     

So to all the yogis out there, I hope you take the time to get to know the person on the mat next to you. Because you can certainly unfollow someone online, but in the practice room their “ass” might be right in your face. Open your heart, understand where people come from and spread love.