I grew up and lived in India until recently. While the West has embraced yoga like it’s own, the word ‘yogi’, along with a number of other sanskrit words, has become a sort of ‘buzzword’. While in the West, the word yogi symbolizes someone who loves yoga, does a lot of it, maybe buys into the yoga clothes trend, wears mala beads, and loves all things yoga glamorized from the East, in India, the word “yogi” is hardly used in everyday life. Because you don’t see a true ‘yogi’ in everyday life. I heard this term be used very few times during my life in India, and have never let others call me a ‘yogi’. Why, you ask?
Because we use the word carelessly without understanding the depths of its meaning. A yogi embodies certain qualities and lives a lifestyle that few of us can think of living. To me calling myself a yogi is no different from calling myself a doctor. Just because we know a little does not mean we know it all. Here are some reasons why I dont use the word yogi or yogini.
- One does not become a yogi by calling himself as one – rather, it is a title that is bestowed to you by people around you or by the community that you serve.
- A yogi indulgences in intense self study through the practice of asana, pranayama and dharana. It is his only purpose. If you do not know what those words mean, we are far from being a yogi.
- A yogi withdraws from society, as he sees society as a distraction from his yogic journey towards his inner being.
- A yogi does not put pictures of himself in contorted yoga poses on social media looking for more followers .
- A yogi eats only two vegetarian meals a day. (Yes! no caffeine!)
- A yogi does not hoard material possessions. He aims to lead a simple life often with little or no possessions at all.
- He/she lives their lives lead by the principles of yamas and niyamas (the moral codes of yoga).
- They serve society for the betterment of the people and the community at large.
- They expect nothing in return.
- They seek knowledge despite all obstacles.
- They spend a lifetime studying, serving and contemplating without aiming to be a yogi.
- They have no bonds or attachments to anyone or anything. They do not seek gratification.
To be called a yogi symbolizes a lifetime of sacrifice and hard work without being attached to the fruits of action. It is quite the opposite of many things that modern yoga portrays to us. If one truly understands the depths of being a real yogi, it is neither as glamorous nor cool. It is sheer hard work, discipline, and transformation. It has nothing to do with Instagram, Facebook or yoga pants. So yes, I choose to not be a called a yogi. At best, I am a yoga enthusiast. And it is important for us to understand the distinction so that we can pass this yoga on correctly to the generations that follow.