What does it mean to be a yogi?
Yogis and yoginis everywhere are sharing ancient knowledge that allows us to cultivate inner peace. But why is the yoga lifestyle so life-changing? What is a yogi? Where is the line between “doing” yoga and “being” a yogi? To define what a yogi is, one must consider all dimensions of a person’s existence in order to derive a complete meaning.
Table of contents
- What does it mean to be a yogi?
- Definition of a yogi
- Hinduism / Sankskrit Etymology
- The yogic way of life
- Beyond the body
- Ethics of yoga
- Yamas and Niyamas
- A day in the life of a yogi
- The yogi’s routine
- What is a modern yogi?
- Taking steps to become a yogi
Definition of a yogi
According to Collins Dictionary, “a yogi is a person who has spent many years practicing the philosophy of yoga and is considered to have reached an advanced spiritual state” What does the practice of yoga philosophy look like?
According to Patanjali, the father of modern yoga, yoga itself is the “cessation of the fluctuations of the mind” How do we make sense of this? What does this cessation look like in the life of a yogi?
Hinduism / Sankskrit Etymology
The word “yogi” comes from the ancient Sanskrit language, which originated in India, like yoga. Many scriptures aboutHinduism were written in Sanskrit, and many NorthIndian languages actually derive from Sanskrit.
In this language, the word “Yogi” means “to join or unite.” As yoga in the traditional sense coexisted with Hinduism, the “union” intended was the union of the yoga practitioner with God.
Although today we view yoga outside of a religious context, we have retained the belief that yoga makes us aware of our union and interconnectedness with the universe, i.e., all that is.
The yogic way of life
When we hear the word “yogi,” we often imagine a person in a warrior’s posture or sitting on a rock, eyes closed, meditating. But in reality, the practice of asana or silent meditation, even if you spend three hours a day doing it, are only practices that allow us to embody the way of life we wish to adopt.
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So how do yogis focus, strengthen, align, elevate and improve their flexibility during the remaining hours of the day?
Beyond the body
There’s a reason why asana practice is often the gateway to a deeper, spiritual yoga practice. Our society often confuses this with modern scientific perspectives that focus largely on the reality of the third dimension.
But rather than identifying ourselves with a physical body, yoga shows us that our body is simply the “embodiment” of all the other dimensions of ourselves. By becoming aware of this embodiment in our asana practice, we can begin to make sense of our subtlest selves and get yoga off the mat.
There is no doubt that yogis come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. But there are some characteristics they will have in common after spending enough time on the yogic path.
Here are some essential qualities :
- Patience: they have learned to observe the external world without letting it affect them internally.
- Respect: they have witnessed the power of the loving energy they offer in situations.
- Health: This quality comes in many forms, as we are sensitive to our environment, but they learn to honor their life as a gift and choose to take care of themselves.
- Resilience: they have learned to breathe and let go of what does not serve them.
- Tranquility: They have become responsible for their ego and understand their oneness with all that is.
Ethics of yoga
Ethics, by definition, are the principles that govern a person’s behavior. Ethical principles are meant to guide us towards the good.
The yogic tradition has given us ways to act with righteousness towards ourselves, others and the planet. It also provides guidelines for our daily diet, habits and activities that allow us to optimize our ability to do so.
Yamas and Niyamas
The Yamas and Niyamas are essentially the 10 commandments, or moral codes of yoga philosophy, that are encouraged for ethical living. It is not only a responsibility, but following these principles creates good karma for a person, which means they will be blessed in their spiritual journey.
-How to treat others.
This principle is quite simple. Any action, word or even thought that is harmful to other people or third parties does not bring humanity closer to enlightenment.
Honesty allows us to avoid illusions that prevent ourselves or others from becoming the most aligned and empowered versions of ourselves.
A fair and honorable exchange or gift allows us to cultivate trust within our communities and to feel safe in a state of love.
Although we often interpret it as celibacy, indulgence in anything can lead to dependence or taking what is for granted.
Possessing or appreciating more than we need in all respects can create an imbalance between us and our environment.
-How to treat oneself.
Sattva, in yoga, is that which does not cause stimulation or fluctuations of the mind. To achieve Saucha, the yogi does things that help him/her maintain a sattvic state.
Feeling grateful and giving meaning to what the universe has bestowed upon us and being at peace with the changing nature of life brings inner peace.
Being aware of one’s senses allows one to govern one’s reactions, which allows one to create the life one wants rather than being a victim of the ego.
Exploring the inner self allows you to expand your awareness and sovereignty.
Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender
Learning to let go of what you cannot control allows you to flow and become one with the movement of life.
A day in the life of a yogi
We now know the state of mind, emotions and physical disposition that a yogi seeks to cultivate. What does the average day of a yogi look like when he or she is not sweating while doing sun salutations or contemplating the direction of travel while balancing on the head?
The yogi diet
Yogis always think about their diet, because not only does what we ingest affect us in a significant way, but food also connects us to others and our environment. The choice of food reflects the ethics and practices of the yogi.
But in today’s world of global food chains, yogis must consider that the production and supply ofplant-based foods can also be a source of violence to people and the planet.
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We have talked about Sattva, the pure state of being that yogis seek to achieve. Often, a sattvic diet is considered a way to achieve this state, which means that it is ideal to avoid stimulating foods such as spices, eggs and nightshade vegetables.
Because yogis want to avoid excess orgreed, they often eat just enough to sustain themselves. In more traditional practices, yogis often eat only one meal a day.
Meditation is the practice of concentration. You may have heard the saying, “energy goes where the focus is.”
We all know the classic meditation posture: a sitting position, legs crossed, back straight, eyes closed, a funky mudra. This is an ideal position to maintain relaxation and mindfulness at the same time in order to focus.
However, the meditation itself can be practiced in asana, while driving, and even while interacting in a room full of people. When you are able to let all sensations, emotions and thoughts flow in and out of your experience and choose which one you want your energy to flow into, you have mastered the magical practice of meditation.
Lemantra is the repetition of a word, phrase, or sound in meditation practice to enhance concentration and focus. It can be a simple affirmation like “I am brave” or a more traditional Sanskrit chant like “Sat Nam,” which means “Truth is my essence.”
The mantra not only tones the throat chakra, but also allows the yogi to cultivate the state of meaning or inner belief they are aiming for. We know that the entire universe is created by sound and that all sounds carry a specific energy frequency. The mantra is the yogi’s tool for sending vibrations into the world.
The yogi’s routine
Because peace and purity are ideal values, yogis often strive to wake up before sunrise, while the rest of the world is silent. This allows them to reflect on their inner world and set their intentions for the rest of the day.
Yogis may engage in kriyas or other practices to optimize their health and clarity. The most common techniques are pranayama (breathing exercises), Neti (nasal cleansing) or Trataka (eye exercises).
When your yoga practice awakens you to your innate interconnectedness with all things and all others, you access the power to give and do for others.
By removing the illusion of separation, we see that we are all small parts working together to serve a greater purpose. Serving only ourselves prevents harmony from flowing throughout the system.
This is why taking your time, energy and abilities and giving them to others strengthens your relationships and allows you to receive others’ gifts in return.
What is a modern yogi?
While the yogi life promises us meaning, peace and vitality, many traditional ways of living are unattainable as the world changes. The trick is to understand the fundamentals of these teachings and adapt them to our current circumstances.
Many of these practices and the atmospheres in which to immerse yourself in them are easily accessible if you are willing to give up your family, live in an ashram and own nothing.
Most of us have full-time jobs and bills to pay and often find ourselves in situations where stimulating food is the best thing we can do.
If we can spend time learning and reflecting on how to approach ourselves and others, and strengthen our ability to focus and take control of our mind, body, and soul, we are on the yogi path.
Taking steps to become a yogi
You may be drawn to the yogi life, but all of these guidelines seem a little too difficult to take in. The key word here is “practice” Aspiring yogis need to remember that every bit of energy expended to change their lifestyle counts. We are incredibly adaptable beings; when you participate in the smallest of exercises, you slowly alter your neural pathways and change your habits.
Here are some steps you can take :
- Take a moment: Whether it’s buying an item, making a food choice, or saying something to a friend, taking a moment to think about how the decision makes you feel and the impact it may have on the world will help you expand your awareness and take control.
- Learn from others: Even the most experienced yogis always have something to learn. Creating a schedule that allows you to take classes and perhaps give up something to pay for them will encourage you to stay consistent on your spiritual path.
- Learn to let go: Letting go is perhaps one of the yogi’s most powerful tools, and being able to do so means that he or she can remain in control of their attention. Whether it’s letting go of work worries during a morning meditation or letting go of the antique lamp that your new puppy knocked over, detachment allows you to be at peace with each passing moment.
Just remember that you are one with all that is and that yoga is the tool to align every part of you with this truth, and the inner yogi awakens.