But you aren’t a yoga teacher

Do you call yourself a yogi or a yogini? Have you earned it?

These questions arose when I was walking with a friend, talking about being called a “corporate yogi”, because of my business background and my yogic values. “A yogi?”, he asked, “But you aren’t even a yoga teacher!”

At first, I wrote off his comment to the Westernization of yoga, where the title of yogi is bestowed on the leader – the teacher. But what is a yogi?
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“A yogi is a practitioner of yoga. The term “yogi” is also used to refer specifically to Siddhas, and broadly to refer to ascetic practitioners of meditation in a number of Indian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.” – Wikipedia

We have Westernized yoga, there is no doubt. I resonate with the humorous Western archetypes in this article Just because you practice yoga doesnt make you a yogi.

“This is the one who comes to class and participates physically, but completely ignores the divine philosophical teachings. They sit on their mat chatting to a friend about a night out drinking Jack and Cokes and eating a GMO-filled, pesticide-laden, hormone-sprinkled, factory-farmed flesh burger before hooking up in a bathroom bar after a line of blow.

They claim yoga at a cocktail party, but don’t make any sacrifices to be it. This disintegration of yoga in their outside lives means they are seeing it as a form of exercise rather than a way of being.”

Possibly the way we know a yogini is by the intention that brings her to her mat. Is it a sculpted body, tight clothes, and a calm demeanour? For me, one aspect of yoga is that you desire more yoga – you desire yogic philosophy, deeper understanding, spiritual growth and awakening.  Certainly that may be precisely what has drawn many people to become yoga teachers. After 20 years of asanas and meditation, I am considering my teacher training in 2016.

But here is where East meets West: what is a Yogi in the East?  “In Hinduism, a siddha is one who is accomplished.  It refers to perfected masters who have achieved a high degree of physical as well as spiritual perfection or enlightenment. Siddha may also refer to one who has attained a siddhi, paranormal capabilities.” -Wikipedia
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Yoga in India is not a commercial activity. It is a way of being. “Here in India, Yoga is a spiritual practice first and a physical practice second. The different techniques we use like posture or breath as are viewed as tools in the search for a higher state of consciousness, for enlightenment. The intention of the practice isn’t to get into shape, or to loose weight; it’s part of the process of self realization. Here they create a state of Yoga through disciplined and regular practice of all the limbs of Yoga. Spiritualism is assumed and found not through esoteric ideas and a ‘feel good’ attitude, but through focus and self-control.”

Do I call myself a yogini? I do, and specifically as a tantrika. My asana work occurs a few times a week. My meditation work happens several times a day. My spiritual practice happens every minute of my day. It is my way of being.

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