Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yogis, Yoga-bots, and Yoga-doers

Yesterday in the Kundalini class I attended, the teacher referred to our class of novices as “Yogis” which struck me as odd.  Kundalini is a bit odd on its own (more on that in a later post), but this particular phrase became a sort of capstone of oddness for the whole evening.  I have never been called a “yogi” before and I always assumed it was a term only given to the most serious practitioners of yoga: that strange breed of person who actually pays attention to the alignment of their chakras and uses the word “karma” in a completely serious, not-sarcastic way. 

So, because I’m a complete dork and language fascinates me, I went online and looked the term “yogi” up.  The results caused only MORE confusion.  Merriam-Webster defines “yogi” as:
         1.  a person who practices yoga
         2.  capitalized : an adherent of Yoga philosophy
         3.  a markedly reflective or mystical person

So, according to definition 1, I could be a yogi!  I’m, after all, a person who practices yoga.  However, neither of the other definitions really apply to me, and I hadn’t even considered whether or not capitalization changes the meaning of the word.  Is a lower-case yogi a lower level of yoga practitioner than the all-powerful, mystical upper-case Yogi? 

A Wikipedia search further complicated the whole issue.  Stop shaking your head at me and scoffing under your breath.  You know you use Wikipedia as a trustworthy source when you’re researching, don’t lie.  Anyway, Wikipedia has the following to say about the word “yogi” (note the lack of capitalization in the wikipedia definition.)

A yogi or yogin (Sanskrit: योगी, feminine root: yogini) is a term for a male practitioner of
various forms of spiritual practice. In contemporary English yogin is an alternative rendering for the word yogi. [1] Another rendering is the word Jogi (یوگی) which is mostly used to refer to wandering Sufi saints and ascetics. In Hinduism it refers to an adherent of Yoga. The word is also often used in the Buddhist context to describe Buddhist monks or a householder devoted to meditation. Chatral Rinpoche for example is a famous wandering yogi from Tibet.
The Shiva Samhita text defines the yogi as someone who knows that the entire cosmos is situated within his own body, and the Yoga-Shikha-Upanishad distinguishes two kinds of yogins: those who pierce through the "sun" (surya) by means of the various yogic techniques and those who access the door of the central conduit (sushumna-nadi) and drink the nectar.

... So... there’s that.  Great.  Thanks Wikipedia that helped a lot. Well, at least we now know that the word “yogi” rendered in Sanskrit is really pretty.
So am I a yogi, a Yogi, a yogini or none of the above? Do you have a personal definition for the word “yogi” (and/or Yogi)?  What’s your favorite name for a person who does yoga?  (mine is “yoga-bot.”  Not sure who coined it, but I first heard it from Miriam Schildkret.)

And, most importantly, where can I get this “nectar” the writer of the Wikipedia definition was drinking?

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