Just as we have our good days, we have days when the world leans on us so heavily that our patience decreases and our snark level overflows. It’s called being human and living the human experience. Welcome to it. It’s a beautiful thing, actually.
So forgive yourself for these bad days and forgive others for the days when you can see they’re struggling and just trying to keep it together.
That’s not what this article is about, however. This article is about the fact that, though yogis are not perfect (obviously), we have a unique set of tools to recognize our imperfections and choose to embrace our positive traits (such as talents, personality quirks, and unique gifts).
At the same time, this toolkit lets us work on acknowledging and bettering our not-so-shiny qualities (like our tendencies towards jealousy, competitiveness, or just plain rudeness).
Let’s get real for a second.
Some people look at yogis as hippie-dippie weirdos.
Granted, we have our fair share of eccentricities. We own many freak flags, and yoga encourages us to let them fly. Yoga allows us to find what makes us special, what makes our hearts beat fiercely. It screams, “Go for it! You’re a sparkling miracle of stardust and joy!”
Because of this, many people perceive yogis as perfect beings who own their fate and control their emotions, taking retreats to quiet islands or mountainsides to peacefully meditate and work out their internal struggles.
I’m left dazed, confused, and scratching my head each time the clerk at a grocery store find out I’m a yogi and makes a big deal about how peaceful and calm my life must be. Really, I just want to get a bottle of wine and some ice cream and get back home to my sweat pants and movie.
So enlightened, right? And on a side note, a few clerks have seen my bottle of wine and made comments like, “What?! Yogis don’t drink!” Again, another head scratcher.
“That’s not very yogic.”
All too often, we utter “that’s not very yogic”—almost as if to say, “you’re not a yogi because you feel or behave a certain way.” I’ve heard, for instance, that it’s not very yogic to have a glass of wine or to point out and laugh about someone’s ridiculous, selfish, or rude behavior.
To me, a glass of wine is an accessory to a beautiful meal that can unite friends in laughter and togetherness. Is this not very yogic? And when people get their feathers ruffled and post scathing social media rants like total assholes, is it not yogic for me to shine a positive light on it and laugh it off?
Should we all drink green juice 24/7 and bury our emotions, only to have to inevitably and unwillingly excavate them at a later time?
What does being yogic really mean?
Look, yogis are people, too! We are humans made of human bits and pieces, human emotions, human struggles, and human mistakes. The only real difference is that we practice the art of observing our reactions and of making more compassionate decisions compared to most other people.
The keyword here, though, is practice. You are still going to get angry, you are still going to want to scream, still going to want to hit people, cry, smash things, and throw drinks in your ex’s face. And maybe these behaviors will even slip through into your reality from time to time.
But because you're a yogi, you can see these things begin to build: you can witness the breath shift and become shallow and hastened. You can feel your pulse quicken, feel the shoulders tighten, feel the teeth clench and the tears well up behind your eyes—long before most other people.
You are able to observe this in yourself because you are aware. You have practiced watching yourself and soothing your reactiveness. The earlier you can sense your reactive, bitter side begin to show itself, the earlier you can meet it with the arsenal in your yoga tool belt.
You have control over the breath, you have the ability to slow down, you know what it’s like to soften and settle into uneasiness because you’ve been in Pigeon for five minutes in a Yin class before.
To be yogic is to be self-aware.
Yoga is one of the most powerful tools for gaining and developing self-awareness. Sure, we still get angry; pretending you don’t get angry is like pretending to be a robot, and no one finds that honorable.
So be in touch with your emotions and own them. Yoga aids us not only in recognizing our emotions, but also in realizing why we feel the way we do. Yoga holds up a mirror and encourages us to take a look at our own issues before we react—before we have the chance to be assholes.
Yogis are special, magical beings. We do own our fate and we are in control of our emotions. But we are also humans, and humans are—to put it bluntly—messed up.
Still, this is what’s beautiful about life. We get the chance to make mistakes and to learn from them. We are granted the opportunities to feel pain, anger, and sorrow to highlight, bold, and italicize emotions like happiness, love, and bliss.
Let your practice remind you of what’s positive in your life, shift your perspective, and calm your body and mind. As my friend Kathryn Budig says, “give your emotions room to breathe, but don’t be ruled by them.” This is what makes us yogis.
Look at the light side as often as possible, and don’t beat yourself up when your human stuff bubbles to the surface. There are a lot of jerks out there; yogis know better than to add to that population.
So have your glass of wine, and please, don’t be an asshole—that’s not very yogic. Shine on.