Do you have what it takes to be a self-proclaimed yogi? Or does the word “Pantanjali” sound more like an exotic fruit to you than a wise guru? Test how much you know about yoga with this simple test!
1. Yoga is a form of exercise.
True! Yoga asana practice is a form of exercise! It is a great combination of strength training, stretching, balance, flow, and weight-bearing postures that can be done at any age.
This ancient exercise started in India and was first described by Patanjali in the infamous Yoga Sutras, which was written much later than the practice was first believed to be introduced, in about 3000 BCE. While some of the yoga poses are described in this text, they make up only a small portion of the Sutras.
Ashtanga Yoga, one of the most popular ancient traditions, has eight limbs (or parts), with exercise being just one of the limbs.
2. You can’t be a yogi unless you are a hippie, crunchy, eccentric beatnik.
False! There are ALL KINDS of yogis and yoginis out there today, and the rules are far from concrete. Part of the beauty of this practice is the ability to tailor it to your personal needs.
The ancient practice includes some beliefs that are thought to be hippie-ish, leading to ashrams in the foothills of the Himalayas and individuals attempting to become “self-realized” through renunciation and seclusion, including living with only the bare necessities in the woods, and eating raw granola.
But yoga can be practiced in a modernized culture, too, which has been demonstrated across the globe. As long as the universal concepts are being recognized, you can live in a nice house with a leased car and a full time job and still consider yourself a yogi.
3. Yogis don’t eat meat.
True! The rumor that yogis have to eat a raw or vegan diet is not true, however. This idea originates from two of the limbs of Ashtanga yoga described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: pratyahara or control of the senses, and dharana or inner awareness and concentration.
Yogis who have mastered these difficult mental practices describe following the path by way of Sattva. This is the idea that everything in nature falls into the spectrum of three categories: Rajasic (action), Tamasic (lethargy), or Sattvic (purity). This includes the foods that we eat.
Meat is considered to be a Tamasic food. Advanced practitioners of yoga describe control of the senses and concentration on the Divine comes easier when the body and mind are not influenced by things that cause mental impressions.
Keeping the diet bland and free from stimulants like caffeine, depressants like alcohol, and spices like garlic allow for a more sound body and mind and, in turn, a deeper yoga practice.
4. Yoga is a religion.
False! Although many yogic principles are founded on ideas from Hinduism and Buddhism, yoga itself is not a religion. However, it is difficult to have a deep understanding of yoga without a desire to be closer to God, no matter how you choose to get there.
According to Swami Vishnudevananda, “There is unity in diversity; we are all children of God.” Yoga recognizes every religious and cultural beliefs, with the understanding that there is one Universal thread connecting everyone—God.
And whether your God is the Holy Spirit, Rama, Ganesh, Isis, or Allah, yoga accepts them all.
5. Yogis have special powers.
True! A consistent and humble yoga practice might not guarantee that you will levitate from your yoga mat in Lotus Pose or master the ability to predict the future, but yogis have special powers.
Think back to your first yoga asana class. You may have experienced feelings of anger, frustration, fatigue, sadness, or bliss. Maybe you mastered that arm balance, or overcame fear when you stood on your head. Whatever came up during your time on the mat brought you closer to your emotional self.
When the physical, emotional, and spiritual self unite, a greater understanding is obtained. And a greater understanding of the Self is a powerful thing.
Now how many items were you able to answer correctly?