I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people tell me that they’re not really into yoga, before going on to describe their approach to life in a way which correlates almost exactly with yogic teachings. There are many ways you can be a practicing yogi without so much as mentioning a chakra or chanting Om. Here are six ways that you may already be more yogi than you think:
You Recognize You're Not in Control and Surrender to It
Time and experience have shown you that even with the most carefully laid plans, you cannot control all the factors that affect the way things work out. You’ve learned fighting that is both exhausting and futile. Instead, your approach is to set your intention, to prepare as best you can, and then to let go and trust that things will work out one way or another. If you’re doing this, you’re already well on your way to cultivating the yogic attitude of non-attachment to outcomes. This doesn’t mean you don’t plan for the future; instead, you make plans while fully accepting that things may not work out as you intended. Rather than being a “weak” attitude, you know that this is actually a position of great strength. You do the work for the sake of doing the work because it is the right thing to do, not because you are obsessed by one particular outcome.
You Know That You Can Control Your Thoughts
Life has taught you that the one thing you can control is the way you think. You know that success and happiness are mindsets, and you take care to choose thoughts that enhance this, and to challenge those that don’t. (Learn more in Finding Happiness.) Cultivating good thoughts and a purity of mind is an important concept for yogis. An increased ability to step back from your thoughts, and consciously select the ones you want to encourage is one of the great benefits of yoga and meditation practice.
You Try to Cultivate Compassion for Others and Yourself
If you’ve ever realized the value of kindness, you’re in line with the yogic principle of ahimsa, or non-violence. Maybe you’ve gone out of your way to see a situation from another’s perspective, you’ve responded to confrontation from someone else with kindness, or you’ve let go of your negative judgments of a person or yourself. You know that life feels better when you approach it with kindness. (Learn more in Ahimsa: A Self-Practice.)
You Have Learned (Sometimes the Hard Way) to Respect Your Body
For some of us, this takes years. Often it ends up being injury or exhaustion that have to teach us that “No pain, no gain,” is no way to treat your body. Perhaps after years of hardcore marathon training, you’ve chosen to embrace a slower pace. Maybe you’ve learned that rest is a priority, after too many nights with inadequate sleep. Or maybe you’ve reined in your drinking or smoking, noticing the negative effects they can have on your body. All of these are ways of applying ahimsa to yourself. They are also ways that you appreciate your body as something that deserves to be looked after. It is your vehicle for achieving all you wish for in this life.
You are Honest as Much as Possible
After ahimsa, in yogic teachings, comes satya, or truthfulness. There are many reasons you might be motivated to adopt a more honest approach to life and in your dealings with others. Perhaps you’ve experienced the pain of discovering another’s lies, or maybe you’ve lied and damaged your relationships as a result. You might simply have realized how stressful, tiring and disheartening it is to lie to people. When you start to be as honest as possible (and this takes practice!) it becomes far easier to lead a life with integrity - the sort of life you feel proud of. (Read more in A Life With Integrity.)
You Appreciate the Value of Being Present
Although most of us spend a huge amount of time ruminating about the past, or projecting into the future, the moment when you remember to be present can be a revelation. If you’ve ever purposefully brought your mind back from wandering off and consciously directed your attention to what is happening right now, you’ve practiced the yogic principle of mindfulness. Maybe you’ve even found certain activities where you can become completely absorbed mentally in what you are doing and experienced that wonderful feeling of being “in flow,” where time becomes irrelevant and you are fully present in the moment. The more you do this, the easier it gets and, as an added bonus, the more in tune you become to all the great stuff that life is filled with.
In short, yoga isn’t all fancy postures and intricate rituals. Leading your life with consciousness and awareness is what really matters. If you’re doing that, chances are you’re already far more yogi than you think.