An Untrained Yogi

I have recently had the fortune to meet a man who, through our conversation, made me realize that he practices yoga, and yet has received no formal training. Years ago, I overheard a couple of yoga instructors talking about these ‘untrained yogis’, but my experience had been only with those that I had met at the studio, either in class or in teacher training.

“What’s the difference?” you ask. Remember that the practice of yoga isn’t about the asana or pranayama or meditation or chanting. Yoga is about artful living, being happy and at peace now. We use the asanas, pranayama, meditation, and chanting as tools to study the sutras and other lessons in yogic texts on the mat, so that we can take the practice off the mat and apply it to our lives outside the studio. This being present and living in the now, having more ease and harmony in one’s life, settles the vrittis, the distractions and chatter in the mind, so that we create opportunities to see who and what we really are.

A person who hasn’t heard of the sutras, hasn’t read the Gita from cover to cover, would not know about Krishna’s conversation with Arjuna, nor would they have heard of the Yamas and Niyamas. Yet this person that I have met astounded me with how he lives his life. What he has learned, through trial and error (And isn’t that what yoga asks of us? Just to notice how our habits color our experiences?), how he treats himself and others, and the enormous capacity he has developed for accepting what is, has encouraged me to engage in conversation with him in order to discover how he has done it.

Everyone is presented with pain in their lives (I posted a blog about pain and optional misery earlier), but what we do with the experience, the tools we use, determines our level of understanding of yogic practices. He has taken difficult situations, accepted what occurred, kept the lesson, and then let go of all that did not serve him. I was in awe. People travel their whole lives barely moving in this direction, let alone mastering it to the point of creating balance, being aware of habits, and consciously living in a space of peace and ease.

Without any prompting, he shared, “Why hang on to all the pain and misery? Get past that, get to the hindsight where you learn the lesson, then move on. No baggage. Life is about living.”

In overhearing cell phone conversations in public places, I observe many people who do hang on to the misery and live in the drama. Life’s lesson is often not learned because they are too busy prolonging the uncomfortable emotions. They listen to the chattering ego instructing them to buy into the story that this is how life is, misery after misery with flashes of ‘happiness’. And because of this, most of us require some training, or even just an introduction, at a studio that offers yogic philosophy along with the teaching of tools, such as asana, pranayama, etc. Even then, it is up to the individual to practice what the instructor suggests. I know there are some people who attend classes and only have an interest in getting more flexible or improving their balance or strength. That is a choice. The other option is to check out how yoga can give us the means to be happy now.

Perhaps you know of someone like this. A person who is aware of their habits, is curious about how to live more artfully, who accepts and surrenders to what is, letting go of all that does not serve him. If you do, invite them to have coffee and pick their brain. How do they do it? What is their thought process? I know that one path that works for me is writing about my observations and thoughts regarding this practice. Visit my website to view three poems I wrote regarding my journey through teacher training and the transformation that I recognized. Leave a comment if you’ve met an untrained yogi, and share their insights. Namaste.