April 24, 2014

Someone Call the Yoga Police. ~ Raychel McMahon

fun yoga

I smoke cigarettes. There. I said it.

I, a health-conscious, earth-conscious, yoga practitioner smoke cigarettes.

I’m not proud of this habit. Far from it. I recently dated a guy who had no clue I smoked for four months. I think it’s a gross habit, terrible for the body, smells gross, is harmful to the environment and is just plane icky.

But I’m hooked. I began smoking at an early age, like most of us do. The allure of anything relating to “grown up” made me try it. When I was younger, I would sneak outside my parents’ house in the middle of the night, when the world was quiet and still. I would look up at the stars and light up a stogie and breathe.

Cigarettes have been my best friends for six years now, and it’s a complicated relationship. They have been my best wing-men. They have stayed up late with me when the boogeyman wouldn’t leave my dreams alone. When my best friend died, they were always there to listen. Filter after filter. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded to “inhale peace, exhale grey.”

I want to quit smoking. In fact, I just bought one of those fancy electronic cigarettes. It helps, as I can breathe again, and everything I own doesn’t smell like an ashtray. I feel better, more self-reliant.

But does smoking cigarettes make me a bad yogi?

Does the fact that I’m still struggling with aparigraha (non-attachment) discredit the thousands of hours I put into my physical practice?

Does it devalue my teaching? Does each carefully planned step in my vinyasa lack spiritual significance because it all comes from a smoker? Is my meditation practice less fulfilling, or my service to the community less meaningful, because I am working on letting something go?

Sometimes, I feel like a yoga poser.

I hate the term “yogic.” I think we have been abusing it, and need to stop judging ourselves. As a community we are so attached to the ideals of yoga, what we must do, all the foods we need to stop eating and clothes we must cease buying because some dude with long hair said so.

Yoga is not a country club, there shouldn’t be a bunch of rules and regulations we must abide by. There are some member guidelines called the yamas and the niyamas, and to my knowledge there is no mention of gluten or Lululemon in those.

Adhikara is the sanskrit work for studentship, it also translates into authority and ownership. That means that we are in charge of our practices, on and off the mat. We must think for ourselves, as yogis. The next time you are in a yoga class, look around the room during parsvokonasana and see how many different variations there are.

Variations on life are allowed. We should take as much assistance as we need, and have patience until we’re ready to finally get that hand to the mat.

I dare you to be you. I dare you to do the most un-yogic thing you can think of (but let’s not get crazy). Put the butter on the popcorn. Get angry. Don’t make your bed. Or light up that cigarette.

Do it without judgment.

Now that’s living your yoga.

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Apprentice Editor: Chrissy Tustison / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: via Flickr

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Raychel McMahon