In the yoga world (as in the world at large) you will run into a small population of die hard opinionated people who take their belief systems to an all time extreme. In yoga these over-opinionated folks tend to take the teachings of the Yamas and Niyamas quite literally and very passionately. I have total respect for these people in the same way that I have total respect for people who are really into their religion. However where these yoga extremists lose me is in their judgement of others… Criticism and harsh words go hand-in-hand with everything yoga is not about.
You know that yogi who starts bawking about the philosophic teachings of yoga in that typically condescending and self riotous kind of way? Whether they’re really into sobriety, or are sexually repressing themselves in the name of brahmacharya, or are super-vegans who live on a diet of nuts and berries they really, really like to put themselves up on a pedestal. And you know what? More power to ‘em. If they want to take their practice there, I say “live and let live.” As long as they keep it off my mat and out of my face.
However the moment someone takes their own views and shoves them at me in a forceful and frankly unpleasant way, I shut down. Mostly because I’m not into being called names or singled out or made to feel badly about how I practice yoga in my life.
Here’s my point: When a yogi gets in another human’s face in the name of a yogic teaching, say, Ahimsa (or the teaching of nonviolence) I have a real problem. It baffles me that someone can become so judgmental of and so cruel towards another human being in the name of not harming other things. How can you miss the irony in that? Couldn’t it be argued that name calling and cruel judgement of others is just as harmful as eating a burger? If someone is truly arguing that the world should operate around peace, love and harmony (and specifically nonviolence), shouldn’t they maybe start with how they treat and speak to their fellow man?
What I’ve learned in my 25-years of life is that you cannot change others with harsh words and insistent nagging. Beyond having an intelligent conversation with someone where you explain your point of view in a calm way, what can you do? Couldn’t it be argued that lecturing people based on the Yamas and Niyamas taught in yoga is not dissimilar to Bible-Thumping-Christians telling gay people they can’t get married (or worse are going to hell) based on teachings from the Bible?
When does your philosophy become more about ego and less about the actual intention behind yoga?
I would argue that the answer is: The moment you climb up onto your soap box. Live the life you want to live and change the world with good intentional words and thoughtful respectful actions. Lead by example and you’ll find that far more people will follow you than if you try and shove your point of view down their throat with a vegan patty of some sort or a lot of philosophical babble they didn’t necessarily ask you for.
Namaste (which for the record means that ‘The light within me honors and respects the light within you’); live it – don’t just say it.