What does a yogi look like? How does a yogi act? What are the rules and commandments of "fitting in" with the yoga crowd?
Are yogis the people with perfectly toned yoga bodies wearing Lululemon, adorned in mala beads and “om” tattoos? Are they compassionate, vegetarian saints, shopping at Whole Foods with a cart full of kale and quinoa (never any cookies or booze)?
What Defines A Yogi?
I am someone that strongly dislikes being defined or being forced to conform. I am a "rebel". I want nothing more than to be free, to be myself, to be authentic.
I was first introduced to yoga around age nine. Instead of going to church on Sundays, I would practice yoga, read from the Bhagavad Gita and chant sanskrit mantras with my mother. Soon I realized that was odd and different from everyone else, and I wanted nothing to do with it.
Somehow drawn back to yoga in my late teens, I've been practicing consistently ever since. There have been times when I have wanted to give up and get out of this "yoga thing". But I am still here, still practicing, still dedicated - now more than ever. This is my path. This is who I am.
What Does A Yogi Do?
I wear mala beads and use them to meditate. I am named after Hanuman's mother and I am a vegetarian. I am kind, compassionate and selfish at times. I am moody and messy. I suffer, I laugh, I get fearful and ashamed. I like to look good and feel good. I love kombucha. Malbec and Stella Artois. I rock yoga pants, Ganesh t-shirts, short dresses and heels. Depending on the day, I practice yoga in silence, listening to Rihanna or jamming to Krishna Das. I like to chant and I like to party. I am spiritual, I am human.
I love yoga. Yoga can't really be pinned down and defined, and neither can I.
So what's a yogi to do when that concept or idea starts to become another stereotype or image to fit into?
Yoga is living, breathing and ever-changing. There are no rules. There are no exclusions. There is no conformity. You don't have to look like anything in particular. You don't have to act a certain way. Your Warrior II doesn't have to look perfectly like mine. You are free to be who you are. Yoga is all accepting, all encompassing, all unifying.
Vegetarians drinking green juice, all their chakras aligned, standing on their hands in yoga pants have become an image of what yogis are. It is no more than an image and concept in people's minds. Those things don't define anyone.
Those practicing yoga for spiritual, mental and emotional reasons are no better or worse than those practicing for chaturanga arms, a yoga booty and six pack abs. Eventually, people practicing for the purpose of an ass-kicking workout will inevitably go deeper. Yoga does the work. It does the magic.
Yoga is about you, the practitioner. Whoever you are. It's about knowing your true self and evolving to your fullest potential. It's about awareness. It is about connection of all the fragmented parts of yourself, connection between yourself and others, connection of mind and body.
14 Things That Make Me A Yogi
There are no rules or definitions, but I do know some things that undoubtedly make me a yogi.
- I practice... and practice more. It is my space, my freedom, my devotion and inspiration.
- I am aware. I am aware of all parts of myself, all the layers. I am aware of the thoughts, emotions, aches, pains, judgements and everything in between. I am aware of the space that holds all of that.
- I am centered and grounded.
- I am present. I am with my breath. I am at home in my body.
- I know myself, love myself and accept myself. And there are plenty of times when I don't. But I know how to come out of self-judgement and self-loathing.
- I go with the flow. I ride the waves of life and find the ease.
- I have an ego. I remind myself that I am not my ego.
- I see the light in everyone. I appreciate everyone as they are. I love.
- I breathe deep and live from my heart.
- I am flexible and supple in body and mind.
- I am a student of life. I am always learning and evolving.
- I don't follow rules. I am who I am. I will never fit into any category, definition, image or concept.
- I am authentic and honest. On and off my mat.
- I am not all these things, all the time. But the awareness remains no matter what comes and goes on the surface. I know how to return to my center, to my most true and pure self, unified and whole.
What makes YOU a yogi?