So, What is a Yogi?

A yogi can be defined as one who practices yoga. However, I’m going to guess you’re not entirely satisfied with that answer. The field of Yoga is vast, and everyone you question might have a different reply. Despite the variety of thought and opinion, perhaps we can shed a bit of light on the topic and gain some clarity.  What is a yogi, anyway?

The Bhagavad Gita is one text that has an abundance of guidance for defining a yogi. For example, The Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, Verse 8 states: “A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything—whether it be pebbles, stones or gold—as the same”.  Additionally, in Chapter 6, Verse 29, it says: “The true yogis, uniting their consciousness with God, see with equal eye, all living beings in God and God in all living beings”.  Again and again, we see a yogi being defined as one who experiences all things as divine and all things as one.

The Hatha Yoga Pradapika is another text that provides us with some insight. It explores the important activities and behaviors of a yogi. In the Hatha Yoga Pradapika Chapter 1 verse 19 it states that “yoga asana should be practiced for gaining steady posture, health, and lightness of body”.  Also seen in Chapter 1, Verses 55-58 there is discussion of the observances of non-harm, truthfulness, non-stealing, self-restraint, and non-possessiveness; as well as the conducts of cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrender. This text clearly defines a yogi as one who systematically works towards towards a goal.

I think Paramahansa Yogananda paints a beautiful picture of how all of these ideas come together in the book “Autobiography of a Yogi”.  In Chapter 24 he says, “A yogi engages in a definite, step-by-step procedure by which the body and mind are disciplined, and the soul liberated. Taking nothing for granted on emotional grounds, or by faith, a yogi practices a thoroughly tested series of exercises which were first mapped out by the early sages.” He further goes on to add that “Anyone who practices a scientific technique for divine realization is a Yogi.”  Yogananda shows us how a yogi uses systematic action to reach oneness.

It is also important to note that yogis can practice in multiple environments and with many different techniques. For example, a yogi may be either married or unmarried. A householder yogi is sometimes called a karma yogi. These individuals live within society and carry out their daily duties without expectation of reward. Furthermore, they lead a balanced and spiritual life while undergoing their yogic practices and seeking the divine. The lotus is sometimes seen as a symbol of the householder yogi since they maintain calmness and grace above the muddy and murky waters of life.  Some yogis are also renunciates. These yogis surrender all their social responsibilities to devote themselves to spiritual practices. Their lives’ sole purpose is to seek divine salvation. Renunciates spend their lives dedicated to meditation, self-inquiry, and yoga. Additionally, a yogi may be man or woman. When referring to a female yogi, the terms yogin or yogini are also commonly used. Despite their differences, yogis are able to see past the physical body by using systematic techniques to experience the unity of all.

So, there you have it. A short introduction to what it means to be a yogi.  What are your thoughts? Are you a yogi? Do you want to be?