I’ve always struggled with my ‘image’ as a yogini.
I entered the yoga scene over 10 years ago on the East Coast-newly injured from a skiing accident.
Once I moved to San Francisco, I quickly realized that yoga is a big scene here. The first studio I went to taught the Rocket series and was filled with hard bodies, many of whom had begun with a strong Ashtanga practice. Half of the room busted out handstands in every Vinyasa and my tight runner’s body was intimidated as I practiced in my shiny Nike running pants. I didn’t look or feel as cool as most students wearing their Mala beads and hip gear.
Then, I tried Bikram with everyone in their teeny tiny outfits. Once again, I wore my trusty running pants and got yelled at in the very first class for drinking water out of turn. As I limped out of class (locking the knee is HORRIBLE on a reconstructed ACL), I realized I didn’t fit into the scene here either.
I tried the Berkeley granola yoga scene, but I’d usually go straight from work and show up in a business suit and heels and often forget a sports bra. I’d end up buying the cheapest shirt the studio had which was often not as cool as the organic, sustainably made tops everyone else was wearing. Plus, my corporate job wouldn’t allow visible tattoos or a nose ring-so I looked suburban.
Finally, I found a Bhakti teacher who taught donation classes in a Capoeira studio. There was a range of students from dreadies to Marina chicks. This melting pot of yoga defied ‘scene’ as we were encouraged to connect and introduce ourselves to each other.
At the end, we’d root through the piles of shoes to find ours, change in a room full of half naked yogis, and hang out after class.
It was the first time I felt like I BELONGED in a yoga space. I was hooked.
But, now, as a teacher-I realize that I have to watch what I project.
I’m a Burner and with that comes costumes, parties and late nights out.
I’m no delicate, petite flower. I’d hoped to shrink down into my image of what a yogini should look like when I went to India-but the food at our retreat was amazing and I never got the Delhi Belly that guaranteed the 10 lb weight loss I was hoping for.
Clothes-wise, I usually grab whatever outfit is on top, which sometimes leads to my wearing striped-flared Burning Man style plants. Often, I’m covered in glitter from the night before and sometimes (tragically) traces of mascara as well-this even comes up in a photo shoot where I realize (too late) that I had dirty feet!
I know it’s not all about clothes-but my persona is kind of disheveled as well.
No matter how San Francisco glamorous I try to be, I’m still a girl from Pittsburgh, PA where 4 letter words are thrown around often and the East Coast rule of “Say what you mean and mean what you say” ends up not being so PC.
While my heart is that of a pure yogini, it’s a little hard to see through the tough veneer.
Luckily, I’ve run into other bold, brash, free spirited yogis who can see past the armor and into my heart. Ones who bring amazing live DJs to class (DJ Solar for example), tell off-color jokes and encourage us to dance around the yoga studio. Ones who make AMAZINGLY cool yoga outfits that are fun and edgy-YOGANINJA
And, at the most recent yoga retreat Yoga Adventures Tulum , I found a group of free-spirited, diverse, fun yoginis who celebrated their Divine Goddess, covered themselves in Mayan mud, supported each other and drank Mezcal.
And, on our final night of yoga, we dressed all in white (again courtesy of my friend at YOGANINJA), did some shots and danced together.
Not what you picture as a Yogini?? Don’t let image fool you.
“Enlightenment is not about becoming divine. Instead it’s about becoming more fully human. . . . It is the end of ignorance.”
— Lama Surya Das
These yogis realize we might be freaks and weirdos to the rest of the world, but we are being authentic to our TRUE selves-and that’s the real point-isn’t it??