I’ve been doing yoga now for about ten years, at least off and on for ten years. In that time, I’ve met MANY practitioners of yoga, followers of yoga, teachers of yoga, people who have dedicated their lives to the study and pursuit of yoga. In short, I have met MANY people who claim yoga as their way of life.
For so long, I aspired to be like them, to be the type of person who was yoga to the core. That is what I wanted, to be “in” with them. But, slowly – and now very clearly – I see that that is NOT what I want. At all.
I love yoga, don’t get me wrong. I love asana, the eight limbs, studying it, pursuing it, living by its principles, challenging myself with it, the whole kit and kaboodle. With any luck, I will be able and keen to practice it for many, MANY more years. But, I’ve come to regard my yoga practice – my yoga life – as my own. I no longer try to live up to a certain standard. I no longer want to be a part of that certain crowd.
Over these ten years, the startling majority of yoga people that I’ve met seem to think that they are better than others. Their thought, it seems, is that their way – their beliefs and practices – are vastly superior to those of other people, other people who do not study or practice yoga, even, in some cases, those who DO study and practice yoga. Speaking frankly, many yoga people that I’ve met are downright “holier than thou”.
It is sad to me to see such a wonderful discipline, such an old and time-honored practice be represented by people who look down their noses at others, others who, in many cases, are trying very hard.
And the diversity of yoga is so beautiful! There are so many varieties of people who practice, study and love yoga these days. They don’t all burn incense, cook huge vats of locally-bought vegan food, teach for six hours each day, meditate for another six, listen to Krishna Das and fellowship around bonfires ONLY with other practitioners of yoga. And they shouldn’t have to or be expected to. Their love for and study of yoga can be just as bonafide, just as well-intentioned, just as thorough as anyone who does all of the above-mentioned things. They can be just as much a yogi as anyone in the “in” crowd.
So, even for all the years of wishing to be “in”, I realize – most happily – that I’m glad not to be. Because, my yoga life is mine. Yes, I do love stiletto shoes – LOTS of them, I do have too many chic clothes, I do read Vogue and I do love caffeine (although I’m trying to get out of that). I listen to jazz, I shop too much, I read a lot of mainstream literature, I buy my groceries at Kroger, I watch Oprah and House, and I drink soymilk instead of almond or rice milk. In the eyes of many of the yogis I’ve met, I don’t live up, I’m not a true yogi, I’m not “up” to their level. I’m a wannabe.
But, in my eyes and – more importantly – in my heart, I’m every bit as much a yogi as anyone in the “in” crowd. Is my lotus perfect? No. But, I do choose to look at anyone who aspires to or studies yoga with a cheerful eye, whether they stumble or not, for – truth be told – don’t we all? I’m not enlightened, nor do I pretend to be. But, I don’t know anyone who is truly enlightened and I certainly do not believe that enlightenment is brought about by being holier than or judgmental of anyone else.
So, I will keep my shoes, my Kroger-bought food, my Vogues, my jazz, even my daily date with Oprah. And, I will keep my yoga. And it will be as good as anyone else’s. And perhaps – just perhaps – somewhere along the way, I will create a new “in” crowd, one that allows you to be yoga in whatever way you choose.
[ A great article that ties in nicely can be read here. ]