Last week I finally got my yoga teacher training certificate. Does this piece of paper make me a true yogi? I don’t know. I find myself judging people on an hourly basis, having bitchy thoughts about others, feeling jealous, getting pissed…all the things a yogi should never do. So by those parameters I am really, really far away. But in my mind being a yogi is not a goal but a journey. After all, if we reached that level of personal perfection, there would be no need for us to be born again.
Do you remember Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche from my last post? I attended a talk where he discussed the Buddhist wheel of life, and how there is no heaven or hell, or good and bad karma. Later, I asked him that if there was no good or bad, or heaven or hell, then what is the purpose of our life? He smiled and asked, “Do you have hang-ups?” Of course, I said. “Then you are born to lose them.” I guess that is the simplest and most straightforward explanation I’ve ever got. Yoga and spirituality in general should help us lose all hang-ups.
But sometimes ‘yogis’ can be quite a judgemental lot. God help you if your heels are misaligned in the warrior pose. Of course, this misalignment is detrimental to your knee, but in my book it does not reflect of your degree of yogi-ness. In fact, some of the most yogic people I’ve met are those who have never practiced yoga. There’s the runner who lives in the present, the computer genius who never judged anyone or that writer I met who never loses his cool. For me these people rate higher than those who twist can into a pretzel but get livid when a class doesn’t follow their liking.
So is it essential to follow the yogic path? Absolutely not. There are broadly two routes you can follow in life–one is to chase sensual pleasures and the other is to understand and accept life as it comes. I have followed both, but I find that while sensual pleasures give you tremendous happiness, they are momentary. No matter how bad my day may be, even during the worst periods of my life my mat awaits me and heals me as I practice. And besides the practice, I think these would be the defining qualities of a modern-day yogi:
- An ability to find humour in everything (even if you get angry at first) will help you accept everything that comes your way.
- Self-awareness of your thoughts. I know when I’m mean or bitchy, but I don’t try to cover it up with some justification that the other person deserved it.
- Try to be balanced at all times. Think of your centre which is calm yet alert, even during an argument stay in your centre–don't go towards anger, or fear…unless of course the situation calls for it. Then give them hell or walk away.
- Respect your body, it is the vessel that will take you through life. Eat well and exercise.
- Even if you don’t agree with someone, learn to understand their point of view. Be aware that most of what you know may not be right.
- Enjoy spending time alone.
- Learn to meditate, even if it is for five minutes.
- Never, ever gain pleasure from another person’s pain. Unless they slip on a banana peel, then it’s funny.
Vasudha Rai has finished her teacher’s training course at The Yoga Studio, New Delhi, and blogs at www.vbeauty.co.