Often times when we tell people that we do yoga there is the common response of, “I’d love to do yoga, but I never got into it. I’m just not that flexible.” This always bothered me, given that I do not think of yoga as something that is a physical practice. Generally when I hear people say that I will correct them and offer instead a practice of meditation, or non-harming or non-hording. Recently I was having just such a conversation, yet I did not offer the ideas of meditation I just blurted out, “You do practice yoga. You believe in peace, not harming and love right? Well then you are a yogi.” With this and my own problems with meditation and asana right now, I began to wonder what it truly was to practice yoga.
Many times when I ‘break’ from outward practices of yoga I feel guilty for even suggesting that I teach; every time though I always admit to teaching and practicing yoga. Every time too, I find the question of what it is to be a yogi. Often I have dismissed this as just being my egos way of justifying the situation. Now, with this ‘break’, I have not just asked myself this question, it has plagued me. There are so many times in our lives where our intended practice is interrupted by the idea of going with the flow and not being dogmatic. There is a balance to it all, and without going over the edge, a break form it all can be a great practice too.
It is here, in a place without a daily asana, scripture, mantra or meditation routine that I find myself in. There are other things on my mind, I am very ill, and the small routine that I did have was interrupted by the idea of having a life within this material world. It is when I am in these spaces that I find myself being challenged by others on the ideas of yoga. I end up educating others on the ideas and disciplines of yoga, that I find myself clinging to the yamas and the niyamas and the life style ideas of yoga more and more in this space. I have found that when I reach these places I am more likely to be hard on the ideas of being a yogi, of living as one, even if I am not doing a physical practice or any outward idea of being a yogi, I am finding more strength and power in the words and the parables that I share with others. I find that the inner yogi is stronger than ever.
Further it is these smaller and smaller spaces where one finds the gratitude that can slip from any practice. It is when we do not have the good things in yoga that we miss them. It is much like anything else in life that is wonderful, if it is over indulged in then it will become too common place. They will no longer have us raise our eyebrows and make us smile. Often too much of a good thing will make us turn against it. There is also the idea of not having those attachments in a place of yoga. It is in these ‘breaks’ that there is a found recognition of attachment, each time it lessens and the routine sticks for just a little longer.
This question of yoga has haunted me for quite some time now. Just a few days ago an instructor of mine, Meena, and I sat for coffee and discussed this very thing. She had once asked her Guru about the same thing. He had told her that if she did not have the drive to do the asana like she once did than maybe it was just not right for her to do it now. If she was just not finding the time or the energy it could just be the universe forcing her to take a break, and that was okay. In fact that was good.
I have now found that being a yogi is not about doing the asana or even the meditation, in fact for one to be a yogi they can be ignorant to the idea all together. It is not about all the material things that we have attached to the word yoga, it is about our interactions with ourselves and our world. It is about what we put out there and what we take that make us yogis. It is just our sheer sense of it all.