While growing up, I learned that a yogi was someone who completely dedicated themselves to living a spiritual life. A yogi renounced sensual pleasures, controlled their senses, and exhibited even-mindedness at all times. A yogi was someone who was revered for their ability to transcend ego-gratification and materialism. I was taught that yogis reached such an advanced level of consciousness that they no longer had the commonplace desires of an average person, let alone any desires at all. A yogi no longer suffered attachment to likes and dislikes, having surpassed all of the emotional ups and downs that the average human being experiences. Yogis did not share their own evolutional paths or direct others; rather they utilized their wisdom to creatively guide others to find deeper insights and truth within themselves. It took great discipline and initial sacrifice to become a yogi, gradually working towards letting go of the outside in order to go deeper within ourselves. To this day, I still attach all of these qualities to a yogi and regard such a person as someone who lives in this world, but isn’t influenced by it.
Today, our idea of a yogi doesn’t fully encompass the breadth and width of the human potential. I imagine this has been the case with many spiritual concepts and philosophies evolving over time and moving away from its roots. Take for instance, ‘mindfulness,’ I suspect that our modern day understanding of what this includes does not begin to delve into its origins and intertwined history.
Although the physical practice of yoga (asanas) is a very important aspect of spiritual development, that is only one component of it. Therefore, only practicing asanas, does not make one a yogi.
Yoga is first mentioned in the Vedas, the oldest literary text known to humankind. The Vedas offer steps to self-realization, depending on where each person is at in their spiritual progress. In this way, everyone has a place to start towards the goal of attaining inner peace. Yoga is a way to realizing our own nature and truth.
Karma-Yoga, the path of doing actions without focusing on the results, should lead us to Bhakti-Yoga, the path of devotion, which should lead us to Jnana-Yoga, the path of knowledge. Spirituality, the realization of the self, cannot be achieved unless we walk on all of these paths.
One of the key components of yoga is having a meditation practice. Historically, we practice asanas to prepare the body and mind to sit in meditation. It is actually known that as you practice the asanas, it will automatically lead you to meditate. Giving ourselves quiet moments for self-reflection and withdrawing our senses from outside stimulation leads us on the yogic path.
We cannot let go of the unnecessary if we cannot first identify what it is that no longer serves us. Meditation helps us to realize what is holding us back in our natural evolution and what we need to do to remove it. The result of our practice is stability of mind, transcending ego, and freedom from attachment, all of the characteristics of a yogi.
You can begin a meditation practice by sitting for one minute each day. Developing a consistent practice is more important than the length of time you meditate. Gradually, as you grow more comfortable, you will want to meditate for longer periods of time.
As a practitioner of asana yoga, yogis should help inspire our own practices. We all have it within ourselves to live in superconscious awareness. It may take a great deal of time, patience, and diligence to realize the magnitude of our potential, but in all of us resides the ability. We are powerful in so many ways, capable of reaching higher states of consciousness. We have it within ourselves to end our own suffering. Each one of us absolutely has the potential to be a yogi!