Who is a real Yogi?

A few years ago, my Sister-in-law (wife's sister) subscribed us to "The Yoga Journal", an american magazine (in print) that covers the enormous topic of Yoga and caters to what is claimed to be a huge market for Yoga practitioners (they call themselves Yogis and Yoginis). The authors in the magazine are the "who's who" of the American Yoga scene (Shiva Rea, Richard Rosen

to name a few) besides the usual battery of editors/columnists. And in general, my experience reading the articles has been very good — cogent thoughts on Yoga, it's roots and applications.


In an alternate venue (an online discussion forum), I read the writings of an American renunciate (a Swami of the monastic order of Swamis, but of American origin) write scathing reviews about the phenomenon of seemingly "Physically oriented Newagers" trying to hijack the field of Yoga and turning it into a caricature of it's intended purpose.

Swami-ji makes an interesting case, where he questions the logic of calling someone a "Yogi" just because they happen practice Hatha Yoga (the physical practice). He claims that a "true" Yogi is the one steeped in the classical way, male, renunciate, follower of the Asthanga path (Raja Yoga).

I have often asked myself these very same questions —

"Does a casual practitioner of Hatha Yoga, really deserve to call himself/herself a Yogi?"

I pondered this and the phenomenon of appropriation that is ramant in all fields of Indic studies and came to this conclusion.

{sidebar id=22}So long as one acknowledges the origin of Yoga and it's intended purpose (to lead one to the path of Kaivalyam), it is alright to call oneself a Yogi. But the bottom-line here is absolute honesty with oneself. You see, I could lie to the world about my ethics, my morality, what I practice, what I do and what I say and no one would be wiser of my "wicked ways" except myself. I can lie to anyone but myself. So, the bottom line is absolute honesty to oneself. If you (the casual practitioner of Yoga), can look at yourself with absolute honesty and affirm that you follow the eight limbs of Yoga — Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi , you can call yourself a Yogi. In fact, you are doing great if you even manage the first two of these pre-requisites.

If not, that's okay too — so long as you realize that these are the goals you need to be working towards.

Do you have to be Hindu? No! Should you deny Yoga's undeniable linkage with Sanatana Dharma? Absolutely not. If you do, you are being dishonest to yourself. You cannot be a Yogi and an exclusivist…


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