Yoga with a capital Y

It took me a while to get to write my first blog. Mainly because of daily dynamics like work, kids, studying, household chores and trying to maintain some kind of social life. Also, because sometimes I am just plain lazy and when having an evening without stuff to do I just want to lie on the couch and watch Scandal or Broken Skull Range and drink wine. “Real” yogis would say that’s a choice, a simple matter of priorities. Surely, like me, there are “other” yogis that will immediately recognize the judgmental tone in that statement.

Another reason why it took a while is because I didn’t know what to write about. Yoga, yes, of course, but what about it? The topic of yoga is so diverse that any subject or theme can be turned into a story about yoga. Also, yoga is a hot topic and so many already write and blog about it making it difficult to add something noteworthy.

So I chose to write about what yoga means to me in this part of the world. Because let’s be honest, the ancient yoga philosophy that dates back thousands of years and originates from the East, is not always practical in the contemporary Western society. Don’t get me wrong, yoga philosophy intrigues me; especially Pantanjali’s eightfold path. And I consciously try to integrate bits and parts of it in my life. Even though, at times I find myself integrating it in a rather opportunistic way, like conveniently forgetting the discipline of “nonviolence” when I put my teeth in a juicy steak over dinner.

Also, the spirituality, rituals and devotion that are part of daily life in the East fascinate me. But I don’t need to sit still at the foot of the Himalayas, detached from anything materialistic, to be able to meditate and find inner peace. I am convinced that doing anything with full attention and focus, being it wiping the floor or playing with your children, will also bring stillness and inner peace.

There is more to yoga than pretty poses on a mat, that’s a fact. But in the West, it is the most known, most practiced part of yoga. In a way, by narrowing it down to “just” the mat, it has made yoga more accessible and easier to start with. And perhaps by spending more time on the mat and experiencing the benefits it brings, you might also become curious about what else there is to yoga. So for me, just yoga on the mat is definitely yogic. “Real” yogis will probably disagree with me on that.

I am well aware that the term “real yogis” is rather judgmental. But there are as many different types of yogis as there are opinions. So let me try to explain what I mean with it. I am talking about those yogis Namaste-ing their way through life, with a constant peaceful smile on their face. They never curse or swear, always speak truthfully and do not harm a soul. They live by every letter in the big book of yoga, no excuses, ever. When practicing or teaching yoga, the smell of incense is never far away. It is like they speak some kind of secret language. And I am not just talking about all the unpronounceable Sanskrit terms they so casually throw at you while you are trying your best to find stillness and peace in a certain pose. It’s these yogis that give yoga a woolly image, only accessible for the happy few. Instead of lowering the threshold to step on the mat and into the unknown world surrounding yoga, they consciously set the standards for practicing yoga and leading a yogic life so high that people find it hard to relate to. Or perhaps don’t even want to relate to. It either annoys them or scares them off (or both). In my case, both.

So, where does that leave me? Am I not a real yogi? No, not in the way as described above, but I guess still real in some other way. I find it really hard not to curse or judge. Living a “nonviolent” life in the way Patanjali describes it is probably my biggest challenge ever. But I try, I consciously try.

Yoga has touched my heart, my soul and I cannot imagine a day without yoga. Being it on or off the mat. Yoga gives me a feeling of happiness, of worthiness. It has made me healthier and more sane, both physically and mentally. It has challenged me and still does so daily. It has confronted me with myself, revealing my biggest fears and flaws. So I persistently continue my self-exploration, my self-discipline, remaining faithful to my own truth and accepting where I am and who I am at this point in my life, today.

That’s the main reason I became a yoga teacher: to give back to yoga what it gives me. And it all started one day, a long time ago, on a mat. So go ahead and give it a try, step on the mat and embrace the potential magic you carry within you to become the best possible version of yourself.