In the 12 years that I’ve been teaching yoga, I’ve often been asked what it takes to be considered a yogi. Some wonder if it means you have to practice X number of times a week or have to have been practicing for a certain number of years. Others have asked if there’s a requirement to do specific poses to be able to be included in that label. While there is a formal definition, I find it to be a bit limiting.
YOGI: noun yo·gi | \ ˈyō-gē \
1: a person who practices yoga
2 capitalized : an adherent of Yoga philosophy
3: a markedly reflective or mystical person
When you look at Merriam-Webster’s definition above, you’ll notice that it doesn’t include needing to have practiced for a certain period of time, and it certainly doesn’t say that you have to be able to do all sorts of party-trick poses.
To me, being a yogi means doing the absolute best that you can to be a decent person.
Through the decades, I’ve clocked in thousands of hours on my yoga mat, both as a student and as a teacher. But sometimes my yoga practice is more off of my mat than on. And for me, that’s when the bigger challenges occur.
As I was pondering what being a yogi means to me, these are the things that immediately came to mind:
- being a good person
- helping others whenever possible
- eating well
- living mindfully
- treating my body like the temple it is
- communicating effectively
- being compassionate
- meeting my body where it’s at, both on and off the mat
- living in gratitude
- practicing nonattachment
- daily meditation
- practicing the yamas and niyamas (Need a refresher for what these are? Click here)
- being kinder to the planet
- being kinder to all beings, whether they have two or four or eight legs
Performing all of these actions can be challenging, especially when I’m stressed or tired or hungry or simply living in the time of COVID. But they’re crucial to my wellbeing, and that has a glorious ripple effect on the planet. When I’m a better person — one who’s taking care of her body, mind, and spirit — then I’m less of an asshole to those I interact with. I’m also lowering my blood pressure in the process and reaping the rewards of a mountain of other amazing possitive health benefits.
Now that I’ve shared what I feel it means to be a yogi, here’s what it doesn’t mean to me:
- the ability to do fancy poses
- feeling the need to live a monastic lifestyle out of duty
- having a rigorous asana practice
- pushing yourself too intensely on and off of your mat
I could go on, but you get the gist. You’ll notice that the amount of time spent on your mat isn’t a necessary requirement to join this club. It’s your approach to how and why you practice yoga, and, even more importantly in my book, how you spend your time off of your yoga mat.
So what does being a yogi mean to you? When was the first time you’d considered yourself one, and what brought on that feeling? Share your personal definition below so we can all have additional things to ponder.