Heard this phrase for the first time at one of our retreats in Italy. One of our participants had attended a workshop in New York and someone introduced himself to the group with these words. It goes without saying that during the retreat this phrase became our retreat slogan and still today, we use it in our catching up mails as one of our favorite opening sentences.
An interesting way of introducing yourself but, what makes someone a true yogi (or yogini)?
Someone who spends at least 2 hours a day on the mat? Someone who’s far away from alcohol, smoking, parties? A veggie for sure and someone with a very spiritual mindset?
For me, yoga is much more than all of the above. What lots of people tend to forget is that the gymnastics on the mat is just a tiny part of what is called ‘yoga’ and, what does it mean to have a ‘spiritual mindset’ anyway? You can spend a day on the mat doing your gymnastics but I’m sorry to say, it ain’t yoga…
Yoga really starts with something called Yamas and Niyamas.
I’ll keep the theory short but it’s worthwhile to read it to get a better understanding of ‘yoga’.
Yamas are precepts of social discipline. In short: Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, protecting your energy and abstention from greed.
The vegetarian lifestyle could be related to the yama of not harming for example, but does it mean yogis can’t eat meat? No, not really, just be conscious and mindful of what you eat I would say.
The more you become aware of your yamas and truly live by them, the more piece and balance you will enjoy and the simpler life gets.
Niyamas describe how to interact with internal world, how to deal with yourself.
Niyama is about self-regulation. It helps you to maintain a positive environment in which you grow. The five niyamas are contentment, purity, self-education, austerity, and meditation on the divine.
The asanas (postures) and breathing exercises can be seen as a preparation for meditation.
In the retreats that I organize, I give quite of bit of attention to the Yamas and Nyamas.
When it comes to non violence, it’s not allowed to hit other participants on our retreats 🙂 ? Duh, for sure not, but in my world, non violence is also towards yourself. Why push yourself into an asana? Sometimes it’s better to take a step back, to be gentle with your body and not go into a pose for a 100%. Some people, also teachers, can be quite violent to their own bodies, even on a yoga mat.
Protecting your own energy comes from brahmacharya. In the old days standing for sexual restraint but I take it as knowing your limits, balance. So, on Friday evening for example, we usually go out to a wine bar. Brahmacharya could mean keeping it to one or two drinks instead of drinking the whole bottle of wine. Simple, right?
Many people say that our retreats changed their lives, maybe not drastically but the retreat definitely did ‘something’. Sometimes the results are only seen after a while. I love reading the emails from participants, contacting me weeks or even months after the retreat, telling me what changes they went through.
A week to rejuvenate, disconnect with the world and reconnect with yourself can be quite an eye-opener. And knowing and actively practicing the whole philosophy of yamas and nyamas can play a significant role in this.
So far, my thoughts on the basis of what it takes to become a true yogi. Can one ever be a true yogi in this modern world might be a question to answer in a next blog…
It’s not always easy to keep the good vibrations you had on a holiday once you return to your daily life. I invite you to share your thoughts here below.
What do you do to remind yourself of the memories and good feelings you experienced on a holiday, once you’re back home?
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