GUEST BLOG – THE GOOD/BAD YOGI…
Intro into Guest Blogger
Today’s guest blogger is Sarah Smales a yoga teacher and fitness instructor with a background in professional dance. Sarah is passionate about both food and exercise, who better to blog for gymandcocoa! Sarah is also a lifelong friend. We met in 6th form and had an instant connection during a textiles class. So when we met up for the first time in nearly ten years this summer, I asked Sarah if I could reblog this article from her wonderful blog …
… thankfully she said yes! I love yoga but struggle with not being committed to it and feel like a ‘bad’ yogi. This blog made me feel much more at peace with my own practice and I hope it goes on to help many more!
The term ‘good/bad yogi’
I’ve heard the term ‘good/bad yogi’ being thrown around recently. There are a few reasons why I struggle with this terminology.
Firstly, good and bad isn’t black and white for me. Nobody is perfect, and I don’t think we can define ourselves or our actions as good or bad… unless you’ve killed someone or something, that is pretty bad… but still, yoga is all about acceptance of ourselves and others.
Secondly, in the western world there are so many people that practice yoga for so many different reasons, and if they identify themselves as yogi’s and are benefitting from their practice then that is great! It might not be following all the traditional teachings and it might not be the same as you, but that’s ok!
Yoga is happiness
For me, yoga is predominantly about happiness. I like wine; I’m not vegan, I sometimes film myself for Instagram, and I continuously fall out of poses and laugh when I’m not meant to (‘bad’ yogi?).
I’ve mentioned before that there is more to yoga than just the asana (pretty poses) and I think this is filtering through into Western asana practice, however, diluted the teaching may be. Teachers are incorporating philosophy, and some of the other ‘limbs’ of yoga into their classes (Pranayama/Breathing, Dhyana/Meditation) and people are benefitting from the knowledge and understanding and using the teaching in a way that fits into their everyday lives, and that is amazing!
Traditionally yoga was spiritual development practices to observe your own nature and become self-aware leading to higher consciousness. Pananjali’s definition of yoga is ‘Stilling the fluctuations of the mind’, and yogic teachings generally encourage cultivating detachment from thoughts, feelings and labels we define ourselves by.
Yoga is discovery
I like discovering new things about myself, and I cherish ‘me’ time that yoga gives me every time I come to my mat. It benefits my mental health and how I feel for the rest of the day, but I still don’t practice every day (‘bad’ yogi?). I still feel like I don’t know much, as there is so much knowledge and wisdom out there and I am constantly learning and growing. I take the bits that resonate with me and use them as ways to be happier in my daily life.
The 1st Limb of Yoga is the five yamas which are social and environmental guidelines. They are ways to conduct ourselves and generally be a ‘good’ person (new blog post coming soon delving deeper into the yamas and niyamas). The thing is, these can be viewed on different levels and to different extents.
One of the yama’s is Ahimsa (nonviolence to yourself and others). I mean, this is excellent general life advice. In asana practice I remind myself to be gentle with my body, listen to what it needs and not to push it too far. Ahimsa, no physical violence towards myself. In life, I readdress my internal monologue. Ahimsa, no verbal violence towards myself. Also in life, I try to make sure I am not violent with my words towards others (I mean, and physically but this isn’t something I’ve had to think about really). For some people, Ahimsa extends to being vegan or vegetarian so non-violence to all living beings.
I am not vegan or vegetarian. I think eating ethically sourced meat is a great way to go, but for me, veganism doesn’t seem like the right option. Does that make me a ‘bad’ yogi?
Either way, read THIS great article about Ahimsa and the idea of eating or not eating meat. Here is a paragraph from that article which I think explains what I am getting at…
‘In this sutra, Patanjali acknowledges that only those very rare beings in all the worlds (sarvabhaumah) who have taken a “great vow” (mahavratam) are able to practice all five yamas without interruption (vicchinna), while—and this is key—the rest of us must adapt these guidelines to our current occupation (jati), the place we live (desa), time of day, month, or year (kala), or circumstance (samaya).’ (article by KATE HOLCOMBE)
Yoga is bits of good
I believe in taking responsibility for my actions, living with gratitude and acceptance and trying to do little bits of good each day (smile at a stranger, give way to that pedestrian crossing the road, give up my seat on the bus, pick up a stray bit of litter on the ground) but no-one is, or ever will be perfect, and sometimes I don’t notice the pregnant lady on the tube who needs a seat (oops!).
BASICALLY, my point is I think yoga is for everyone and we shouldn’t judge how others choose to practice or to live! Everyone has different ideas of good and bad, right and wrong. They are practising for themselves as are we all so let’s stop with the labels and let them get on with it!