In Praise of the Real

Aug 27, 2020


Recently, in response to a column about being an ambassador for yoga, one of our readers wrote:

I have felt some pressure from people (students or not), an expectation that I have to be a certain way. For instance, people assume that because I do yoga I am always calm and never get angry (neither apply to me.) Or, that because I am doing yoga I am some kind of super Bendy-Wendy circus person (which I am not either).

Over the years, yoga has become something more and more private to me. A practice that I use and can go back to again and again. Yoga is my companion. It helps me reflect and awaken whether others see it or not.

I relate to this. I remember once leading a weekend retreat, drinking my morning coffee with the other participants during our breakfast. A student approached me, and with a look of disdain asked me, accusingly, "YOU drink coffee?"

The way he said it, you would have thought it was vodka.

My first reaction was to play into his stereotype, to feel bad. To want to hide this unyogic habit.

Pretty quickly, though, I saw the silliness of it. But far more importantly, I realized that by hiding my coffee drinking, I wasn't only playing into his misconception, I was strengthening it.

Don't get me wrong, I do think it's important to be protective of our practice, especially if we're teachers. I support the idea of making yoga our companion, our trusted, private, personal refuge. Boundaries are important.

But consider the power of REAL.
What if we could unapologetically say,
"I drink coffee, AND I'm a yogi."
"I get angry, AND I'm a yogi."
"I'm not naturally flexible, AND I'm a yogi."

Wouldn't this be an inspiring stance for all those coffee-drinking, uptight, stiff follks out there?

Wouldn't our willingness to share ourselves honestly give others permission to step into the practices with that same authenticity?

Wouldn't it send the message that anger, stiffness, caffeine-dependence - none of those things mean I'm less of a yogi.

They mean I'm like you. And therefore, nothing is stopping you from being a yogi too.​


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