In all the years I have been practicing and teaching Yoga, I have had countless conversations with Yogis and non-Yogis alike and they all had a common thread that I have never felt quite comfortable with – what Yoga and Yogis should (or sometimes shouldn’t) be.
I have heard it all:
“Yogis shouldn’t get angry”
“Yoga should be a spiritual experience”
“Yoga should not be seen as something physical”
“Yogis should flexible”
“Yogis should be thin”
“Yoga practice has to include physical movement / meditation / mantras and chants”
and so on and so on.
When I first thought about practicing Yoga, it was for purely physical reasons. Though I was always very much into sports, I never felt like my body was strong enough for me to really trust it. When I saw people practicing Yoga, they looked like they were very much in control of their own movements, their body was doing exactly what they were telling it to do. And that is what I wanted.
So the beginning of my journey was very much a physical one. I started getting to know my body, understanding it, even contemplating it on a different level. I learned how to improve and get stronger by growing in my physical discomfort and ultimately began trusting it.
From there, my practice often became a mental and emotional one. I started discovering meditation through movement, realising at the end of a yoga class, that my usually VERY busy mind had been completely quiet – Â save for the odd “inhale” or “you are losing your balance” or “wow this feels good” that crept in and out of my conscious mind unnoticed – for an ENTIRE hour! I began noticing how my emotional state had a very strong impact on my physical practice, and vice versa. How I physically felt emotions at the beginning of a class and noticed the lack of that sensation at the end of it.
I began understanding my physical body, not just on the mat but off it. What was happening to my body when I was angry? Could I affect that in any way? How? When I was filled with sadness, worry or grief or bother, why did it help to use certain breathing techniques?
Did I immediately feel a spiritual connection to the world outside and within? Probably not. Did I lose the need to ever get angry or upset? Hardly. So at any point in this journey, was I not practicing Yoga? Was I not a “Yogi”? Not at all.
There are millions of definitions out there for Yoga. Find the one(s) that resonates best with you and YOUR Yoga and if you can’t find any, create your own. Your Yoga belongs to You and You alone, so don’t let the world tell you what it should, or should not be.