The word "yoga" can sometimes come with assumptions that I feel hold its practitioners and teachers to such high standards that it can hold us back. I recently changed jobs, and one of the first things I heard once I share my part-time job and full-time passion is, "Oh, really? So you're vegetarian, right?" No, I'm not. "Oh, so you sing those weird songs, right?" Not usually, no.
Here are a few common misconceptions that people often have about those who practice yoga, without really understanding anything about them:
1. They're vegetarians.
Whoa, this is a loaded one. Is this mandatory? I practice and teach yoga, but I still love my steak grilled with some fries, thank you. Or chicken; I really like chicken. Does this make me a bad yogini? Does this make me a bad yoga teacher? Does this very personal choice influence other people's opinion on me? I'm actually OK with that. If I'm put under a microscope and have my choices analyzed, not being a vegetarian would be the least of my problemsI won't judge your choice, so why should anyone judge mine?
2. They say (or sing) mantras.
I don't wake up at the crack of dawn, do yoga, chant some mantras, meditate and then get on with my day. No way. I usually wake up, get myself into autopilot with my coffee, shower, get dressed, and leave for work. Do I sing mantras? Sometimes. Do I scare my neighbors, making them believe I'm invoking spirits that shall come in the middle of the nights and eat their children? I believe not. My mantra singing is usually done mentally. I don't need to show off my singing skills in Sanskrit, except if I'm in the shower. Just kidding.
3. They never curse.
I believe in the power of love and possibilities, and I believe that every single person has great potential — but I still curse and say bad words. Yep, there it is, Mom, I say bad words. Ugly ones. Sometimes I get mad and frustrated, but mostly what makes me say bad words is when I hit with my toes on a chair or other piece of furniture.
4. They practice constantly.
I love my yoga practice. I love that after years of practice I still have so much to learn, and I love that this feeling will probably last all my life. But I'm still a very lazy person, and sometimes I prefer to spend my day in the couch doing absolutely nothing productive. I should practice a lot more than I do. I also feel that if quit my job that would totally happen. But guess what? I have bills to pay and a full-time job to pay for them. I don't feel like doing yoga every second of every day. And if the week happens to be long and tiresome, I have a beer when I get home, or more than one.
5. They meditate all the time.
I don't meditate as often as I would like to, but I do meditate. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. But no matter how much I meditate, bad drivers still make me want to punch them in the face. No amount of meditation has taken care of this.
6. They're always in a good mood.
I'm usually in a good mood. I'm talkative and socially active. But sometimes, I get depressive moods, and no, yoga won't cure it. Guess what? Life happens to everyone. Sometimes, you get sad or annoyed for no reason. And maybe when I feel that way, I really don't feel like doing yoga. Maybe I just want to have some chocolate. Unlike yoga, chocolate really does cure all things.
So let's put some things in perspective: you're not better than anyone else because of yoga. You can be a terrible human being who happens to get into down dog a couple of times a week. This doesn't clean your karma. It doesn't make you a decent human being. It doesn't even things out. People are people before being moms, dads, yoga teachers, CEOs, whatever, and it's who they are as people that defines their character.
It's up to you not to put them in pedestals, because when they turn out to be only human, it'll be your disappointment. Let go of judgments and preconceptions. Form your own opinions and follow your gut when it comes to people. Trust me, your yoga teacher is as human as you are and is bound to make mistakes, just like you.