Yup, I’m a yoga teacher. I’m also a former college athlete, life-long lax bro, fitness freak, and, according to most states, an alcoholic. But I don’t live the yoga lifestyle. Most of the stuff that I see on yoga websites is of absolutely zero interest to me. Why? Because I’m all about yoga as physical fitness. It’s got all the right stuff to maintain muscle mass, gain endurance, improve flexibility and overall health, and reduce body fat to tone muscle. I believe in it so much that I quit my job and started a company based on the positive effects it had on my physical fitness. But I still get odd looks from people when I tell them I’m a yoga teacher. Here’s how it usually goes.
Question: Dean, you’re a “yogi”, right? So are you, like, a vegan? No alcohol, right? Do you shun materialism? Do you only wear clothes made from hemp?
Short answer: No, fuck that.
Longer answer: I guess I would consider myself, a “yogi”, because I practice yoga. I move through the poses, focus on my breathing, and try to utilize the ending pose (savasana) to the best of my ability as a stress reliever. But I constantly think of yoga in physical terms – How does this benefit my hamstrings? Can I go a little deeper into my hip flexors today? Can I do this without pushing too far? I have very little consideration for anything that falls outside the boundaries of the physical. And I’m not alone.
Here’s a list of some people who practice yoga that probably don’t fit the common stereotype of the yogi: every professional and college athlete. These guys and girls all do yoga. So let’s try and move away from this yogi stereotype. Not that it’s a bad thing. I have a lot of friends who represent quite well the yogi stereotype which we see in popular culture, and I understand their logic and the satisfaction they derive from following this lifestyle, but it isn’t for me, and I don’t pretend to espouse that way of thinking. It’s hard to connect the idea of the universe to paying bills and getting in shape, and I don’t struggle to make the connection because it does not bring me any sense of value. So I ignore it. Does that make me a “bad yogi”? Many would say yes, but I could care less. I make my own path. And I try to attract newcomers to yoga by explaining it in terms that they can understand, rather than making people adapt to yoga’s terms.
That being said, I take many aspects of yoga and apply them to my life. The concept of inner strength appeals to me. I like the concept that you have the potential to do what you want, and that you just need to believe in it in order to do so. I like the idea of mind over body, and that through yoga (specifically through controlled breathing and refinement of the poses) you can reach an impressive level of control over your body. I apply that to my life in other situations, especially to physically stressful situations, like workouts or games, and I use breathing to restore calm.
Back to your original questions. Vegan? Hell no. I eat enough meat for a family of four on a daily basis. I have a lot of muscle mass that I need to support and it’s hard to do that on organic vegetables alone. That, and I really like sandwiches. Drink alcohol? Life would be pretty shitty without beer, I must say. Materialism? Well I’m broke so I don’t spend a lot of money, but I intend on buying an Audi A5 as soon as I can. Clothes from hemp? Not really a hemp guy. I like clothes from Nordstrom’s, though.