Sinners, Saints, Sattva & Yogis. ~ Justin Kaliszewski

Via Justin Kaliszewski
on Mar 20, 2013
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saint patrick

There’s been some snarky shit circulating in the Denver yoga scene these days.

From studio to Facebook, some of it even spilled onto the pages of elephant. Saints, sinners and yogis all crying out who is purer than whom…

Somewhere between a Queen Bee being bitten by a Ballerina or some such nonsense, an arrow got slung my way and I was indirectly accused of not being very “sattvic” because I like to party with some suds after a class from time to time. (Think Friar Tuck here.)

As an outlaw and a contemporary yogi, I hate to pass up an opportunity to throw fuel on the fire.

Now, I’ll admit that I had to look it up. Truth be told, I don’t have a fluency or even much of an affinity for all the fancy “sandscrpit” that’s spoken in more traditional classes. Turns out I was being accused of being impure, of spreading spiritual disease through the dissemination of beer following practice.

Whether you have been stung by a bee, or shown up by a ballerina, if you’re a popular teacher or just a studio owner who wishes they were, integrity means living one’s truth, not living someone’s truth.

Here’s my truth:

>> I like to drink beer.

>> I like to smoke weed.

>> And I like to eat pus… I mean, pork. I like to eat pork.

Does this make me any less “yogic”?

Such an interesting question to even ask… what if I do it all in a really mindful way?

I have hurt and been hurt—and I know about truth because I know the price of lies, not because I know the Sanskrit word for it. I have robbed and been robbed—and I know about integrity because I know what it’s like to have none, not because I can quote Patanjali.

I, for one, would rather celebrate spirit with a real sinner, than cry about forms with fake saints. Besides being much more fun, sinners grant us the grace of speaking from a place of Truth. A truth that is born of acceptance and forgiveness, not ideas and opinions.

I can’t stick my foot behind my head, but I know how to get my head out of my ass. And I may not be able to do all the fancy poses, but I know how to walk my talk. Not yours… not your neighbors’. Mine.

It’s your truth that matters. Not mine and damn sure not my Facebook friends’. We are yogis, not saints. In order to get over each other, let’s first get over ourselves.

It costs us nothing to consider.

And I am not without reason. I’ll consider that by serving beer at community yoga events that I’m not sattvic, if you’ll consider the role of sattva in contemporary life. Not as an antiquated notion of purity through ritual, but purity in intention. Consider how your actions, speech and thought, converge to elevate those around you.

Perhaps consider, while you’re at it, the good that’s not being done when we misuse a potentially powerful teaching tool like Facebook as nothing more than a forum for personal feuds.

Consider all of this, not enclosed within a cave of tradition, but within a contemporary yoga setting.

It’s not words like “fuck” or frosty glasses of beer that make us less sattvic. Sattva as a practice means to lead from within, from a purity of intention.

Who really suffers from the stubborn refusal to meet students and fellow human beings where they are, to guide them along the lines of their essential bias, instead of our own?

Let others stir the pot and talk themselves hoarse preaching to the converted, singing songs in the name of their own supposed state of purity. The rest of you, yogis, I challenge… to use Facebook—and indeed every tool at your moment to moment disposal, from beers to boobs—to lead.

To let your actions teach without words.

Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

Asst. Ed. Caroline Scherer/Ed: Kate Bartolotta

Image: starbeard/Flickr


About Justin Kaliszewski

Justin Kaliszewski is an award-winning artist, avid adventurer, and the renowned creator and co-founder of OUTLAW Yoga. Author of The Outlaw Protocol—How to Live as an Outlaw without Becoming a Criminal, and the children's book The Adventures of Babu—From There to Here, he creates connection by delivering transformational yoga-experiences across the country, and at the Outlaw Yoga Littleton studio. Find him on Instagram, Facebook, on the Outlaw Yoga Youtube channel, and or on his website.


22 Responses to “Sinners, Saints, Sattva & Yogis. ~ Justin Kaliszewski”

  1. Michelle Marchildon says:

    "I can’t stick my foot behind my head, but I know how to get my head out of my ass." This will be immortalized.

  2. Jennifer says:

    great! as if the" most evolved" don't smoke in India….not my experience! So glad you're a human!

  3. shannon says:

    Fucking fantastic! Love this, and I raise a very large glass of red wine to you!!!!

  4. Ann-Lee says:

    I'm wit you brother man!!! My seventeen year old son has already memorized your 'truths'. 🙂

  5. Steph says:

    I was a part of the CPY teaching community until moving about a year ago… I read elephant journal and other facebook friend's post/pages regularly to stay connected to my yoga community there. I was really troubled with the recent "drama" on this site and throughout facebook and couldn't help wonder wtf is going on. Why is something meant to come from the purest intentions suddenly taking on such a day-time talk show feel. Thank you for sharing some real truth and putting out there what a large population of fellow yogis have likely been feeling without the means to express it.

  6. Kristin says:

    I practice yoga in Denver. I'm not a teacher, just a student. Having worked the front desk at a studio, I'm starting to understand some of the drama. It sucks it happens. And, I'm sorry that you're offended that someone said something that offended you.

    Yoga is a job for many. I don't always like my non-yoga job and I bash it from time to time, but I don't let me know clients know. I don't openly share the negative comments of other. It's kind of like parents who are unhappy in their marriage, I know many try not to fight in front of their kids. So .. whether you're the good guy or the bad guy, why hash it out to an audience of media & students? I've taken your class before because it's fun, but when the drama started coming into your message and practice – It felt a bit awkward.

    As a yogi and student, I don't want to know about the drama going on behind the scenes. I want to drop in to my favorite classes and studios and do my thing because it's better than doing it alone.

  7. allyyogi says:

    Justin…. once again you have put into words what so many of us feel. You have rocked the studio when I have been privileged to be in it. There is no judgement or smugness in your energy. I strive to be just like you!

  8. J.R. says:

    Rock on my friend!

  9. MariaLew says:

    I just have to say I got a great cookie fortune two nights ago: "A master can act without doing anything, teach without a word." Great article!

  10. Robyn says:

    Thanks, Justin. As someone relatively new to yoga, I have sat around wondering if I'm "wrong" because I am not a vegetarian. Am I wrong because I don't practice a certain type of yoga at a certain time of day? What if I work till midnight and can't get up at dawn? WHAT THEN?!!!? It's so not worth the stress. I agree that there is a certain essence yogis take on, but that essence definitely doesn't involve judging everyone around you. So, I'll raise my margarita glass to you tonight.

  11. Bernadette says:

    While I do agree with some of the ideas you are putting out there (and I'm not a regular reader of this journal, nor am I aware of the 'drama' everyone is referring to, but I feel strongly compelled to write an overly lengthy reply to this article), I think that there are yogic concepts being mixed up here. Of course it is ok not to live a sattvic life – this may or may not hinder your own path and your decision shouldn't be up for judgement by others. Eating pork, however, is a violation of the principle of ahimsa, and no amount of asana and loving guidance of yoga students could make up for the killing of another being for pleasure of the senses. Too many Western yogis conveniently ignore this essential part of yoga practice, and it is one of the easiest to put into practice. Just stop contributing to the killing of other beings for your own enjoyment right now. It certainly is easier than raja kapotasana, and requires no effort whatsoever.

  12. Bernadette says:

    Yes, Indian babas may smoke chillum, but firstly there is more than enough yogis in India who are just faking it to take the easy route through life and get free charas, food and shelter. That doesn't mean it's going to get you closer to enlightenment. But others shouldn't judge whether or not you are smoking weed, drinking beer, or how you lead your life. However, eating meat is not a matter of sattvic or not, but a matter of being on the path of yoga or not. If you eat meat, you are not on the path of yoga. No hash-smoking smoking yogi in India would consider eating meat. No great deeds could ever 'make up' for the bad karma accumulated by that action, to put it simply. I know I'm being judgmental, but I really think it's time for meat eating yoga practitioners in the West to stop justifying their actions by saying things like 'but I only eat free range organic chicken from the farmer next door, and I give thanks to the chicken for sacrificing its life to nourish me' because the organic chicken didn't give his life voluntarily, it has been killed for you and possibly been robbed of a chance to evolve on his/her own path.

  13. fragginfraggin says:

    Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

    — Socrates

  14. paul says:

    What is missing from this is a definition of yoga, one i assume the author would like not to offer because it will show he has no understanding of yoga's history, or its use. Saying that no matter what one does it is ok if done mindfully or only to oneself is only trying to excuse to do any behavior, reenforced by saying "don't judge".

    If I say, "I delude myself in a really mindful way" it means I am deluding myself. If I say, "it's ok if some guys in India do it" this means I can do anything – nothing about being Indian makes a person less inclined to the human experience (also 'sandscript' is borderline racist, definitely insulting, and certainly intended so (amongst the many veiled insults in this article)).

    The use of sanskrit terms (and terms from another language generally) is a way to make them technical and specific, and more to their own meaning rather than a translation of the word which will not have the same scope (like truth vs. satya). This is seems to be what is being argued against- if you make definitions, standards, there is something to be accountable to, which statements like "I'm living my own truth, you're living your own truth" seek to avoid by making 'truths' relative and so without bearing to any meaning but that which i create (ie, make up).

    Those who want to live without a standard and without accountability should not practice yoga as it will make them hypocrites, and should also avoid making any moral claim (like "don't judge") as these will also make them a them a hypocrite by definition. ("It’s your truth that matters. … In order to get over each other, let’s first get over ourselves." – I cannot get over myself if it is my truth that matters. etc.)

  15. Liana says:

    I got the impression 'pork' was being used as a euphemism for another word beginning with 'P' that can also be eaten 😉

    Nothing unsattvic about that!

  16. Liana says:

    Justin I LOVE this! And it feels wonderfully well timed.

    If I'm what I'm understanding is what you were writing, you're basically saying we've gots to do shit our way and that there's no point living what's good for someone else, we've got to be in 100% alignment for who are where we are.

  17. Gloria says:


  18. melissa says:

    Not sure what happened or is going on in classes or with you…. BUT I do appreciate these words. People may say that it makes you a hypocrite by definition blah blah. But someone has/had to say it. I totally agree. You live your truth and not someone else's. We are teachers but just like students we are on our OWN path. Some teachers are about learning the challenging inversions and others are about learning the sutras. It is what that person needs at that moment and not for us to judge as harshly as we do. I urge all yogis to reconsider their jaded hatred on one another.. stop talking about each other and HEY I HAVE A YOGIC IDEA! Maybe focus on yourselves instead.

  19. denver says:

    Dear Justin–

    I wouldn't criticize you for having a beer or smoking a little weed. I do notice a few things that make me sad, very sad.
    1. You are a "recognized" leader in the Denver community, no? It seems to me that you should have to "earn" that right, rather than play rock n roll in class or offer a frosty one after to gain likes. It is unfortunate that you've now equated the act of "walk my talk" with yoga. In fact, just because you are able to spout your own version of "truth" in public and encourage everyone else to do the same does not mean that you're in touch with real "Truth" with a capital "T." Which, in my opinion, is what Yoga is all about. Not your truth, not my truth, but the ever-expansive field that is Reality. I really hate to say it, but perhaps yoga is not about empowerment (I'm sure I will be condemned to some sort of hell for saying that). Maybe it is about seeing beyond our little truth to something inevitably more, to seeing that yoga is about LIFE, about LIFE FORCE and using that wisely, whether we consider that life force to be using our time on earth wisely or where we spend our energy, thoughts, emotions and learning skillfully how to bring them more under conscious direction, to make better choices as family members and consumers, to spend our attention like we would spend our money… carefully.

    2. The fact that you are a leader in your local Denver community and unsure of what Sattva means highlights the fact that YOU ARE POORLY TRAINED in the systems of yoga. I don't blame you for not being interested in Sanskrit… it's boring. BUT, it IS a part of this tradition that you claim to teach. You shouldn't have to be an expert, but if I were in your class, I would want to know that I am learning from someone who actually studied it. Not just placed another "empowering" quote in front of another warrior pose and told me to breathe, but someone who has actually sat, deep in themselves, contemplated the teachings in the tradition they were teaching and applied it to their own life.

    3. Consider this… What if, in all your beer drinking associated with yoga (I am not saying beer drinking is bad, I consider myself a connoisseur) but IN ASSOCIATION WITH YOGA, you don't take into account the idea that there are actually people who come to yoga because they are alcoholics, they've been alcoholics, they're drug abusers, they've been drug abusers and THEY WANT TO GET OUT. Yoga, it seems to me (and I could be wrong) is more about healing than your "truth." I was always taught that we should hold a space for EVERYONE to show up. Not just those who are okay with drinking and smoking.

    4. What's more… The comment from Kristin about not wanting to know what's behind the scenes and just being able to come to class and do yoga. WOW. This really clarified the state of things for me. We're yogi's. We cannot do this thing alone. We need each other AND we need those beings ahead of us to be AHEAD of us, to show us the pitfalls and to remind us of the promises of yoga. That there is Greatness in the world. But, we cannot learn from someone who is teaching WHAT THEY HAVEN'T YET LEARNED! You can't learn kindness from someone who is a bitch (no matter how sweet in public they are or published they may be), you can't learn joy from someone who holds dearly to darkness in their hearts, you can't learn clarity, true clearness of mind, from someone who is swimming in the muck, nor can you learn to love from someone who is a sexual predator.

    Now, if yoga has devolved into such a state that those to whom we are looking up to at the front of the room are not in any way focusing their efforts inward, toward achieving the gifts of yoga which the yogi's who have gone before us say this effort gives us, then everything which happens on the practice floor from there on out will not get you there. We, as students, MUST hold our teachers to the standards that they are trying to get us to attain (which should be at least in some small part, congruent with what practitioners who have gone before us have stated).

    Justin, thank you for standing by your integrity and your words. But this does not a yogi make. Perhaps it's high time we all took a good solid look at WHAT YOGA IS/WAS and ask ourselves: "What AM I practicing? Does the person I am learning from have what it takes to really lead? Does what I want exist in accord to some degree to what the yogi's who have gone before (not just in the last 5-10 years but literally for hundreds of years) have stated are the benefits of yoga?" Of course, if you're in it for the beer, Denver has some really great micro-brews with less drama (unfortunately, less spandex, too).

    Just some thoughts.

  20. disgusted says:

    you are absolutely gross!!! Please do us all a favor and leave the community!!!

  21. REality says:


    You are not about yoga, you are about you. The problems that swirl around you are because you don't see the folly in that. The world does NOT revolve around you.

    Go live your truth, enjoy it, but don't claim to be something you're not, and by that I mean a good yoga teacher.

  22. CJ Thomas says:

    Anyone who thinks it's clever to make thinly veiled references to loving vaginas is an idiot.

    I know you, I know why you were fired, I know you are a liar. The true story is not as flattering for you is it.

    I doubt you're smart enough to even realize the truth, but karma works in wonderful ways, I hope everyone gets the karma they deserve.