I’m Not the Perfect Yogi

When you imagine a yogi (a person who does yoga regularly), what do you think of?  Vegetarian, or even weirder, vegan; smells like nag champa incense; a soothing demeanor; incredible flexibility in the body; a woman with a fit body in stretchy tights.  There are so many things we assosciate with being a yogi, well, a good yogi.

A good yogi.  Hmm.  In yoga, we learn to let go of judgement, of the constant labeling of things as “good” or “bad”- but still I find myself evaluating how “yogi-like” I seem.  As a certified yoga instructor, I feel I should live what I teach.

A plant based diet with little animal or dairy is certainly the optimal choice for health, and the goal of an aspiring sadhaka or spiritual practicioner.  I just had a cheeseburger the other day.  A sattvic (balanced and harmonious) state of mind is easier attained when a person avoids caffeine.  My first thought in the morning is often where’s the coffee?  And a good yogi would certainly abstain from alcohol, but I do enjoy a glass of red wine or even a cocktail now and then.

I eat granola.  I eat organic produce.  I try to not buy bottled water, and I pick up litter.  I constantly remind myself to abide by ahimsa, the yogic principle of non-harming.  I practice karma yoga by detaching myself from the fruits of my labor, though striving for excellence in the things I do.

But I’m not the perfect yogi.

Because there is no such thing.

Yoga is a process of letting go layers of ourselves, examining them and casting them aside as we search for our true nature.  We find that nature in the stillness of savasana, of a deep relaxation after an invigorating vinyasa flow, or in the simple posture of sitting cross legged with the hands at the heart center- prayer position.  We find our nature by tuning into the sound of our life essence- our breath.  By stretching and moving the body, we begin to transcend the body, becoming very present, very attuned, and aware.  When we use the breath to move past discomfort in the body, into acceptance, and surrender… we find peace.

And in those moments of clarity, I realize that the practice will work itself in me, as it has for the last ten years.  The practice will mold and shape me, gently softening rough edges and healing old scars.  It is not what we eat, or what we drink, or what we wear, that makes us a yogi.  It is evenness of mind; it is finding balance between effort and surrender; it is becoming the witness.

Inhale deeply.  Exhale completely.  Relax.

Dive deep within, and rest in the silence.  Hello, yogi.

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