May 4, 2011

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

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.


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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