Deciding to Be a Yogi


“If you fall out of a posture you are human.  If you get back in you are a yogi.”

I have heard this countless times over the years – during my first yoga class, during teacher training, last week, yesterday. But I only truly connected with it two weeks ago, as it came ringing from the teacher’s mouth through the microphone hitting me over the head in a new way, with a new meaning and clarity I didn’t even know I was seeking. For years now I regarded this statement as something we, as instructors, tell students newer to the practice to motivate them to try again and  I found that it only works with about half my students, so I very rarely use it when leading class.  Instead, “Guys, you have time, get back into the posture,” is the way I deal with it, appealing to them as the partner I am in their practice and will continue to be as they hit their mat.

Many students are turned off by the word yogi, though I’m unsure why and this is the reason I have avoided it for years.  Yogi, by definition, simply means someone that practices yoga.  I have had students say they appreciate not being called a yogi during class or at the studio as they are there to workout, and sweat a ton and don’t consider the class a practice that can affect every aspect of their life…yet. I have had students from India tell me that to them the term yogi means the spiritual men found throughout their childhood cities, skin dusted in white and donning orange robes. That they are definitely not a yogi.

I understand the disconnect, but this week I’m going to offer you a new way to look at it. Yoga is the study of yourself.  In fact, for many of us, a yoga class is the first time we connect every facet of our Self into one being.  We are the body that houses the spirit and the mind and when we work in asana practice, or meditation, or practice the yamas and niyamas we are closer to realizing our worth and our beauty.  When you commit to a regular yoga practice you find you can let go of the goals of perfectionism because that’s not what is needed anyway.  You came here, to this planet, to be your Self, not perfect, but perfectly you.

Deciding you are a yogi means that you know that this whole journey you are taking within the confines of your practice is way more than a workout, but a work in.  You see, I am human and I do fall out of the postures even over a decade later.  And, yes, I guess I am a yogi, because even though my heart is beating out of my chest and at times I feel I have nothing left to give, I will get back in, even if I have half a second to do so before we move on to the next posture. Why is that?  Because it’s good for my mind.  I have told myself I don’t quit even when things feel uncomfortable and tough.

So, when you fall out of a posture, or simply have a wibbly wobbly moment, decide to breathe, steady yourself, maybe even smile, and then try again.  That’s what being a yogi is.  To realize you are not perfect and love yourself anyway and love yourself enough not to get mad at yourself or beat yourself up, but to simply try again. In this way you find a new way of being – to be your whole Self, everything you are and can be. You can be more than human this week, maybe it’s your time to embrace being the yogi you already are.

Originally posted to on June 7, 2016

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