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November 10, 2011

What Does It Really Mean To Be a Yogi? ~ Khaleelah Jones

Photo: Peter W.

Three months ago I quit my job, packed my bags and moved to London.

Sound like the makings of a Lifetime movie? Perhaps that is what I was expecting.

In my visions – although I didn’t have much money, I worked on my computer from a cafe near Trafalgar Square every day. Sipping an espresso in my favorite sparkly yoga pants and catching glimpses of Prince Harry on a jog, I packed up my computer and headed to the nearest yoga studio for an hour of bliss followed by, perhaps, a stroll through Hyde Park in the setting sun. Each day is capped off with a long, restful meditation session.

This did not happen.

As it turns out, it rains a lot in London (go figure) thus negating the ability to take strolls in the park. And that Wi-Fi that we have become used to in the U.S.? Here, you’ve gotta pay for it. As for yoga…living off your savings is not a great option if you like yoga. Extensive research yielded very few studios (i.e., none) that were affordable for student beans. Breaking into the teaching scene has proven even more daunting (though by no means impossible). So—what is left of my yoga practice?

Many a better yogi would point out the ready availability of a home practice. After all, I am a yoga teacher – can’t I just teach myself? Unfortunately, one of my major downfalls is my inability to do just that: I need to be guided. There is nothing I love better than the bliss of Samadhi – losing myself, completely and utterly, in the practice, and I feel that a big part of that is being guided by a teacher so I don’t have to think about what’s coming next.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a practice where I can lose myself in the bliss of the moment without worrying about the future. And the biggest question I face over and over again:

Am I a yogi if I’m not doing yoga?

I acknowledge that there are other forms of yoga and that asana is just a small part of the practice, but in my heart, I feel totally at a loss and it niggles at me. My identity as a yogi has been completely wrapped up in this one little facet of yoga when it is so, so much more.

Since I have started dwelling on the fact that I am no longer a “yogi” (in the sense that my daily practice has subsided), I have started trying to do one yogic thing every day. Whether it is doing a little pranayama or focusing on a particular a Niyama, I have begun a daily practice that has included the other seven limbs of yoga in a much more inclusive way than I ever have before.

After several weeks of really beginning to live the eight limbs so mindfully – so much more mindfully than I ever did when I was wrapped up in my asana practice – I have started to feel that familiar tingling of Samadhi throughout the day – and it is thrilling. The feeling I had experienced only in Savasana has started to permeate the little moments in my life when I least expect it – walking through Covent Garden or standing in line at Caffe Nero, and I’ve begun to realize that being a yogi is so much more than asana practice – something I had forgotten.

Known as the girl who could talk herself out of a paper bag, Khaleelah Jones has always loved sharing her voice with others, particularly as a yoga teacher. Khaleelah has been practicing yoga (in various forms, obviously!) for over 7 years and has been a teacher for a little over one year.

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