It can be very confusing being a 'yogi' in the modern world, whatever being a 'yogi' actually means?
It's a label thrown around a lot, but Im not sure that many of us actually sit with the powerful significance of that label; a label of course which is in itself means nothing. Just a word. Semantics.
We are basically 'just human' after all, to apply any other label over the top of that is superfluous and opens the doors to doubt, guilt, feelings of unworthiness in the role we have projected upon ourself.
After all a worker bee doesn't call itself a worker bee, a tiger doesn't call itself a master hunter, they just do what they were born to do; they live up to their own purpose, unquestioningly. They feel no need to declare what they are or what they do, essentially its an irrelevance.
In this modern era of yoga with its countless, probably pointless divisions into all manner of systems and styles, it can often be overwhelming to know who or what is 'right' and whether to truly trust that you are doing the 'right' thing in your practice. How do you know you are a yogi?
Of course the simple answer is that you don't. The term yogi will only ever have the meaning that you apply to it. If to you it means that your practice is to meditate in a cave forever then you'll have clear markers of failure or success for both yourself and everyone else. If your idea of practice means that you dedicate your life to serving others, then you know what you have to live up to - or of course you just live it, Mother Theresa style, and have no need to call ourself a yogi - the word adds nothing, the practice is simply your life.
Alignment cues change and the ones we accept now will no doubt change once more over time - to imagine that we will ever have a definitive grasp of what is right for every anatomy is foolish to say the least. Students shift from teacher to teacher and from one style to another seeking and searching. Many studios seem more obsessed with opening ever more spaces and the instagram profile of their teachers than any actual knowledge or depth of practice. In a darker moment, one might say that we sit in the midst of a confusing mess.
We overlay an awful lot of complicated practices, rituals and nonsense on our practice and 'yoga'.
However most of us simply miss the first matter of importance, which is that we simply need to practice. Not on a mat for one or two hours per week for £10 (although thats a nice start if you like that sort of thing) but we need to practice every single moment that we wake up and remember to do so - that includes when we are happy, angry, sad or content; eating our toast, on the toilet, driving a car or sitting quietly.
Secondly underneath it all, beyond all of this confusion of styles, studios and prceptions of what is yoga and what isn't, like a clear sky always behind the clouds, is the truth that to practice simply is enough.
We all have an inner guide, an inner purpose. If you think that you don't, then you really must spend some more time listening out for it because it is in there talking to you all of the time. Of course if you don't listen out for it then you wont hear it.
You body know what to do, how to move, when to move, if you listen carefully to it, to its pains, tensions, spaces, likes and dislikes. It knows to skip, to dance, to stretch or to rest. Trust it to know what is right.
Your breath doesn't need you to breathe it, it is perfectly capable of breathing itself, all that you have to do is to listen carefully to it and to give it the space that it needs.
You mind knows when it needs to be still, when to act and when not to. It may seem to chatter constantly but when you permit it the space to be still and calm, it will eventually walk through the door and sit quietly with you.
We spend so much time putting expectations on ourselves, when really freedom was right there in the palm of our hand all along- we simply have to relax our clenched fist and allow it to breathe.