How You Can Be a Yogi Without Doing Yoga. ~ Emily Taggart

Via on May 4, 2011
Photo: Ängsbacka Kursgård

My man doesn’t go to studio yoga classes, and it’s okay.

“Does your husband do yoga?”

I get asked this a lot. I used to just say, “No, it’s not really his thing—he’s tried it, went to class regularly for a while, but decided it wasn’t for him.”

This is mostly met with puzzlement—probably since I am on my mat so frequently.

Since diving deeper into the yoga community, we’ve been in social situations where people I know have said things to my husband like, “You really need to start going to the studio.” Though well-intended, that sort of language completely turns him off (we both have a stubborn streak). I even had someone ask, “What is your husband’s spiritual practice? Does he meditate?”

Photo: Barry Silver

My honest answer is that he lives and sees the world in a way that brings him peace, rather than living a defined spiritual practice—he doesn’t read the yoga sutra, sit in meditation, or listen to Buddhist podcasts. This answer inspired a subtle shoulder shrug, not-so-subtle arched eyebrow, and “oookay,” from the person asking me the question.

Seriously, people, we have to stop this. We must fight the tendency towards yoga a-holeness. Not just for us, but for the students who say, “I wish my girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife would start doing yoga.” Why?

Asana does not always equal yoga, and we don’t want to seem like a “you’re with us or against us” community.

I teach on Saturdays, so I’m usually away from home between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. One Saturday, I came home and found my husband in the backyard holding a circular saw. He was sweaty, covered in saw dust and smiling just like I was after teaching two classes. After I had left to teach that morning, he had woken up and decided to build a porch off the side of our shed so he could have more workspace. He leveled the ground and framed the structure all by himself.

Working with his hands to create spaces around our home quiets his mind and puts him in a state of flow (flow: when we become one with our actions). Make no mistake, it’s hard work—maybe even harder than holding chair pose for ten breaths. After his day’s work, when the tools are all put away and the shed is finally locked, he is smiling like he just got out of an awesome savasana.

Yoga is not a perfect triangle or getting into handstand. Yoga is skill in action. There are volumes like the Yoga Sutras that teach us that yoga stops the spinning of the mind. So when people ask me, “Does your husband do yoga?” I think about how he doesn’t have to get on the yoga mat and put himself through vigorous asana to achieve stillness and contentment (besides, I do enough of that for the two of us).

He finds the same thing I find in a vinyasa series by working with his hands—by landscaping the front yard, planting trees, building a fence, or restoring his bike. That is his yoga, and it is just as important and powerful to him as my yoga is to me.

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Born and raised in Appalachia, Emily Taggart made her way to California searching for a place to call home. Feeling restless (and out-of-shape), she found herself on the mat again, years after some forgettable instances of flirting with yoga. Yoga woke her up, welcomed her home, and unleashed a creative force and joyful love of life that was dormant in her heart. As her practice spilled off her mat and into her life, she decided to become a teacher to share the gifts of this amazing practice with others. Emily writes for fun on her on her blog, yay, and tweets as @yaynamaste.

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15 Responses to “How You Can Be a Yogi Without Doing Yoga. ~ Emily Taggart”

  1. Nice Article! I have been exploring the "you're with us or against us" mentality in the last few months. I have come to understand it up close and personally and am working hard not to have that type of mentality.

  2. mletag says:

    Thanks, Carolyn! Like everything, it sure takes practice – well, for me it does :)

  3. Great blog, Emily. I think the Bhagavad Gita actually says this far more clearly and explicitly than the Yoga Sutra:

    When a man has let go of attachments,
    when his mind is rooted in wisdom,
    everything he does is worship
    and his actions all melt away.

    God is the offering, God
    is the offered, poured out by God;
    God is attained by all those
    who see God in every action. (BG 4.23-24)

    which is pretty close to the main point of your blog, right? For more like this see:

    Gita in a Nutshell #1: Live and Act with Love and Purpose.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  4. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  5. Hi, Emily. When I posted this on Twitter, I made up a new title I thought would attract more readers:

    My man has his own way of doing Yoga. No need for mine.

    If you like this I will change it for you here on the article, too. If you prefer the current title, that's fine, too. It's also good.

    Bob

  6. yogicher says:

    Good points, Emily. The picture of the yogis – behind the window – reminded me of pictures I've seen of chickens crammed into cages, enroute to be slaughtered. Hmmm.

  7. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  8. Gauri says:

    we forget that a yoga routine (attending classes etc.) is a function of us having so much leisure time. It wasn't discovered in a yoga studio. It was discovered by folks who had the desire to leave ordinary life with it's endless dedication to survival tasks and spend all their time in meditation (which of course is the point of yogasana). So for your husband to find it via immersion in daily tasks, makes total sense. Especially with the right intentions and mindset, as one can be miserable doing those things without that. It sounds like he has both.

    • mletag says:

      Excellent points & perspective – thank you! Just like when I get grouchy it's time for me to go to a yoga class, it's time for him to go organize his tools when things get a little too heavy.

  9. Joe Sparks says:

    When housework and gardening become social activities, when the end of littering and pollution are triumphant campaigns in which the whole population participates, when the planning and construction of a park becomes a people's project–then we will be close to the functioning of the future. We will be approaching that style of life where each of us enriches and beautifies our surroundings in everything we do. We will be doing yoga.

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