Over 10 years ago, when I first started practicing yoga, I didn’t have a lot of examples of being a yogi. In my search for studios, I used The Real Yellow Pages®. The book version, because the internet was still young.
But now we have many, many examples. Entire websites! With articles, lists, photos, instructions. Entire social media feeds, with photos, captions, hashtags, photos, lists, videos, photos. With all these examples, you’d think it would be easier to know.
However, I still sense some confusion about what being a yogi means. Such as:
- Does it mean using crystals, drinking kombucha, eating only vegan raw food, and quitting your corporate job?
- Does it mean changing your name, wearing a mala and a Ganesh shirt and snazzy leggings, and having tattoos?
- Does it mean practicing every day, for years, without missing a day?
- Does it mean posting inspirational memes and nude asana photos on social media, with #spiritualwarrior and #authenticlife?
My answer is the same to all those questions:
It can mean that. Do it if you want. But you don’t have to.
These days, it’s easy to think you have to “be” a certain way to be a “real” #yogi. You’re bombarded with content, especially images. And when you’re bombarded with images, it’s easy to fixate on appearances. It’s easy to be convinced that certain clothes or foods or jobs or accessories are somehow necessary.
But deep down, when we really question ourselves, I think we all know better. We know that of course, yoga isn’t about leggings and Instagram.
Yoga is not about outward appearances.
That’s a convincing sentence, right? But we humans have been seeing longer than we’ve been reading. Our reactions to images are often very different to our reactions to words.
You see a svelte, fit, able-bodied person contorting while wearing a Ganesh shirt and leggings. Ancient part of the brain triggered—bam! Your next thought: the body and the clothes are essential. That completely legitimate, true sentence you read previously—that yoga is not about outward appearances—is gone. The completely contrary thought, in reaction to the image, is utterly reasonable. It MUST be true!
Insecurity rears up when you get caught up in visuals. When you focus on external appearances, it’s easy to be distracted by the divisive duality of the Piscean Age, the EITHER/OR. For example:
- You’re a yogi OR you’re a corporate loser with a 9-to-5 job.
- You are slim enough to wear fitted yoga clothes OR you’re not attractive.
Alternatively, when you focus on who you truly are, and strive to meet others as they are, it’s easier to achieve the inclusion of the Aquarian Age, the loving, generous AND. For example:
- You eat only raw food AND you’re a yogi.
- You are an omnivore AND you’re a yogi.
- You don’t drink alcohol AND you’re a yogi.
- You have a spiritual name AND you’re a yogi.
- You prefer your birth name AND you’re a yogi.
- You work in a crystal shop AND you’re a yogi.
- You work in a cubicle AND you’re a yogi.
I could go on, but you get the point, right? Being a yogi is about being the realest you. Being a yogi is about being the best you—the best friend, partner, parent, lover, volunteer, spouse, colleague, or any other outlet that’s meaningful to you.
Be who you are. Appreciate who you are. Learn from who you are. Share who you are. And embrace the diversity from everyone else embodying themselves.
Stephanie Kohler is a yoga teacher, musician, and writer based in Atlanta, GA. In everything she does, she strives to balance effort with surrender, precision with laughter. More info on her offerings at www.stephaniekohler.com. Live life, love life, live love.