How to be a Natural Yogi
When I began practicing yoga with my husband, we were living in a tipi by a river, surrounded by verdant hill sides in a virtually isolated location. We would jump into the river directly upon waking, cook over the fire set in the middle of the tipi, and practice Ashtanga Vinyasa in the meadow beside. This lifestyle allowed us to embrace the spirit of yoga on practically all levels, without any cost involved, without any motivation besides the feeling of deep connection within ourselves, between each other and with the environment in which we were living.
During the year 2015 in the USA alone, over nine-billion dollars was spent on yoga products (mats, clothes, accessories). This startling statistic is more than just that- it represents, on one hand, the the current new wave of ¨interest¨in yoga; on the other hand, it leads one to ponder, what actually IS this current new interest? Yoga asana (posture), which is the most widely understood definition of yoga with the West, can be found everywhere. What once was pursued by a select group of individuals and studied intensely with an experienced master is now found being taught on youtube, facebook, in gyms with electronic music, on a surf board, or even inside inflatable, heated ¨pods.¨ Given this information, the question becomes even more broad: what IS the current new wave of interest?
What is yoga, and what makes a yogi?
The Yoga Sutras, written by Patanjali, is largely recognized as the most authoritative text on yoga (sutra implies the most concise way explaining something). The first sutra defines yoga as ¨the removal of the fluctuations of the mind.¨ Following this sutra, the proceeding sutras expand upon the first, describing yoga as a systematic process of meditation, through which one gradually moves the attention INWARD, gaining mastery over the mind. Eventually, this can enable one to rest in his or her true nature, which is beyond identity. This process of self-realization is the meaning of yoga.
My intention is not to label any approach to learning or teaching yoga as wrong or right. It is simply to point out how easy the essence of yoga – the fabric which composes its meritorious foundation, a foundation that has made yoga a pursuit historically worthwhile of devotion, more so than keeping up with the latest fashion or sweating in a gym, for example – can be lost amidst approaches that are laden with intentions not at all congruent with those described by Patanjali.
Under the definition offered by Patanjali, one may have experienced the essence of yoga without even defining it as this. Yoga may occur in a quintessentially´yogic´environment, or alternatively in a mundane setting. But perhaps there are ways of going about practicing yoga and living in general that make arriving at its intended essence easier than others.
We can call a natural yogi one who embodies inner connectedness and peace of mind. This individual does not get carried away in craving or aversion for external conditions; he or she remains steady within the self, acting from a place of clarity. The goal remains pure, desiring the greatest good for all beings, rather than personal flattery or gain. He or she partakes in a wholesome lifestyle, one possessed by non-violence, truthfulness and compassion.
Yoga was not intended to be an elite practice. It has been passed down over thousands of years to develop, in one generation after the next, qualities that promote steadiness of mind, inner peace, health and vitality. Yoga´s central theme is to remove or transcend the veils of false identities. By remaining present to this core simplicity, and making choices daily that promote such transcendence, we will naturally subsume the meaning of yoga.
How you can develop the natural yogi in yourself- 5 first steps:
Forget about what you're wearing, what colors, what fabrics, what brands. Wear what makes you feel comfortable.
You don't need a mat or a yoga studio or a mirror to practice yoga. With clear, altruistic intentions, you can practice everywhere.
Meditation is an integral aspect of yoga. If you are finding it difficult to sit still in meditation but have no problem doing headstands, then stillness is the hardest and perhaps most important ´asana´ for you. Work on calming your mind & thoughts and practice meditation as often as you can, even 15 min a day is worthwhile.
Practice. Practice. PRACTICE. Feeling like a natural yogi does not happen overnight. Although one can begin feeling the benefits of yoga even after one session, it takes years of self discipline and regular practice to apply these benefits of yoga into daily life. But everyone must start somewhere, even if it's a short sun salutation and sitting with the eyes closed in silence for 5 minutes each day..
Self-discipline is key. Think about the life you're living and what it takes for this life to become a pathway to a healthier, happier you, In the life of a natural yogi, boundaries become easier to set, you focus on the things that are important, you don't have the energy to judge others and you become connected to the natural processes of the world. Choices regarding what you consume (food and beverages) may change, as you realize that what you put inside your body directly effects you mood, state of mind and state of physical well-being. You will likely begin caring more where your food comes from, how it was prepared and pay attention to how it effects your energy.
Enjoy & PRACTICE.