When you begin yoga you may feel as if you are bombarded with all sorts of fancy words. Ishta devata, mudra, ahimsa, asana…the list could go on for days. You will probably start to wonder if you signed up for a lesson in Sanskrit or a yoga class! While all of these words do have a deep and meaningful purpose in my practice, I can honestly say that none of them mean anything if you don’t have a good and honest intentions.
I’m sure you have seen how corruption can destroy some of the most sacred things. In today’s world it seems as if nothing is safe from the destruction caused by the ego. People claim to be priests, mentors, Christians, yogis and all sorts of positions that deserve our trust and respect. To a single person, one bad encounter with an ego-driven person can destroy every bit of faith we have.
I became a yogi because I felt a strong connection to the work I was doing on the mat and in my every day life. The two became synonymous to me. I was struggling with self-acceptance, insecurity, humility and patience. When I forced myself to face the challenges on my mat, I began to realize that I needed to face these struggles in my real life as well.
What I have come to realize is that we are surrounded by people who–just like us–are real and flawed. There is no such thing as a person who doesn’t need a little spiritual work. Some of us choose to face our flaws and deal with them in a constructive manner, while others choose to pass their insecurity, anxiety and fears off onto others so that they can feel better about themselves.
I have seen many yogis who are extremely talented but lack any sort of spiritual work. Yoga is not a competition, it is a personal journey. Other yogis should serve as inspiration, not intimidation. I can promise you that–no matter how hard you practice–there will always be someone who can fold deeper and lift higher than you. If you go into yoga with a competitive spirit, you will end up with an injury–and if you manage to keep your body intact, you will injure your soul which is far worse than any physical injury you could ever imagine!
Those of us who call ourselves yogis are not on a higher spiritual plane than everyone else. We are merely people who have decided to take a deeper look at our practice–on and off the mat–and share this knowledge with other people. Just because you have a piece of paper that says “Yogi” on it does not make you your own teacher. What makes you a true yogi is admitting that you still have a lot to learn from others. If you no longer need someone to put you back into alignment then your practice is over. Being alive means that there is work to be done and thus your spirit has room to grow. The greatest teacher is one who understands this, disregards their ego and continually seeks wisdom from other yogis.
Always remember that the reason we practice is not to get that perfect headstand and forearm balance. Difficult postures are the reward you get for a patient and mindful practice. Your daily goal should be to move toward healing of both the body and the spirit. When yogis speak in fancy words that you don’t understand, follow their actions instead. You will quickly see if they know the true meaning of those words.