Yoga truly is a universal language. Maybe you’re new to the practice and are becoming more familiar with the sequences of asanas. Or perhaps you’ve been practicing yoga for decades and no day is complete without a series of Sun Salutations. There’s a beauty to yoga—it’s universal by nature. No matter where you are, the more you practice yoga, the more it starts to feel ingrained in you.
What is a yogi? There’s a common misconception that being a yogi involves investing thousands of hours to our practice, dedicating our lives to the Buddha and transitioning from asana to asana effortlessly—making others in the room stare in awe. At the end of the day, a yogi is anyone who is dedicated to the practice of yoga. Yogis come from all backgrounds and walks of life. They’re all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. As you start to delve deeper into your practice, you may notice yourself fully embracing the yogic way of life. (Read on in You May Be More Yogi Than You Think.)
Here are three ways to know for certain you’re at one with your inner Om.
#1 You Take Time to Invest in Yourself on the Mat
From increased flexibility to mental clarity, most of us know that yoga’s numerous benefits stretch far beyond the mat. Often, we are reluctant to take a break from our busy lives or invest in ourselves for an hour or two. Do you recall the first time you stepped off your mat? Did you feel recharged, invigorated and more content? This is because yoga has a myriad of mind-body benefits. Some of them include increased muscle strength and tone, weight control, respiratory and circulatory health as well as protection from injury.
We rarely hear people say they regret spending time doing yoga—and many yogis can’t wait to get back on their mat to reap the positive benefits. Our mat is always there for us—ready to catch us if we fall out of an asana or support us if we want to push ourselves further. Sealing our practice with savasana (corpse pose) is the best way to reap both mental and physical benefits.
#2 You Live the Yamas and Niyamas
As we deepen our yoga practice, the yamas and niyamas become part of the fabric of our everyday lives. These yogic principles are moral codes that anchor our practice and our life off the mat. They help us become more grounded and balanced individuals. (Learn more in Getting Grounded: What it Means and How to Get It.)
The yamas are things to avoid, or restraints, that involve our interactions with others. They include virtues such as practicing ahimsa (non-violence) or satya (truthfulness). The niyamas, on the other hand, are observances that affect our inner world, such as saucha (purity) and santosha (contentment). (Read more in Ahimsa: A Self-Practice.)
Just like Mahatma Gandhi modeled, the best way to learn the yamas and niyamas is to genuinely live them. We can practice ahimsa, for example, by not gossiping or by refraining from eating animal products. Santosha is perhaps one of the most challenging niyamas to fulfill, but yoga is a never-ending journey, after all.
#3 Your Practice is a Journey
A yogi knows that our yoga practice and life isn’t about perfection. It’s a journey with many twists and turns along the way. The yamas and niyamas can act as a moral code to guide us on life’s journey while encouraging us not to sweat the small stuff. Perhaps the most important principle to keep in mind is the practice of self-love. It helps us focus on what’s really important while separating ourselves from the things that weigh us down and that prevent us from growing, learning and evolving. (Learn more in Love Versus Fear.)
As we become more yogi, we’ll find that our practice has more clarity and our relationship with our self and others are less superficial. We become more conscious of our breath and we feel more connected and present—preparing us for what’s ahead.