05/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Can Yogis Be Conservative?

When I volunteered for Obama during the summer of 2008, I had a curious encounter with an undecided voter. I walked up his driveway, and I noticed a sticker from a local yoga studio on his car. It brought a smile to my face, a relief really, for I was thinking that this is someone who is open to ideas. When I finally talked to the owner of the car, he said he wasn't too sure who he was going to vote for. I was taken aback. Having been immersed in yoga for a few years now and training to become a teacher, I just can't see how someone who practices yoga can have a conservative mind.

Let's see. First it is necessary to define "conservative." Though there is no facile, universal definition of "conservative," I believe it is safe to say that today's "conservatives" look for answers for and solutions to present problems in the past. They believe in "good, old" values and traditions and are, therefore, resistant to change. They also tend to look outside themselves for guidance, most notably from religion. That seems to be true especially of the conservatives of today, especially those who call themselves the religious right.

Yoga, on the other hand, teaches enlightenment within yourself. It also tells me that the Divine is fully present within myself, and hence, the inward journey through meditation is the true path to wisdom and happiness. Therefore, I am the one that I seek. This introspection enables one to live in the moment, for anything other than the present moment is not within our ability to fully grasp or enjoy. If you look too much into future, you may be fearful of the unknown happening. If you look too much in the past, you may be fearful of the bad things repeating. Therefore, you may live in the grip of fear if you are not able to focus on the present.

It seems to me that there has been an explosion of interest in yoga. It is evidenced in the proliferation of yoga studios, books on yogic lifestyle, and increase in those who practice yoga for exercise as well as for mediation and spiritual well-being. Yoga classes at the gym? Wow, how did that happen? The fact that yoga is making these inroads into main culture may be an indication of a shift in Americans' thinking. Are Americans turning more inward? Toward introspection? Indeed, we seem to be at a crossroads. All of us. We as a nation may be growing less religious, but we are growing more spiritual.

After all, I can say for myself that I would prefer to focus on the beauty of the present than to live in fear. I would much rather live for the moment, focusing on making each moment more beautiful than the last. Isn't that what progress is?