I used to be one.
No matter where you go in the world, you encounter them. South Africa, America, Australia, Germany and most especially, India. In fact, I think I used to be one.These are yogis who walk around in their incredibly expensive yoga gear and preach to people about the superiority of their style of yoga ( ‘Bikram Yoga is stupid’ – I am guilty of saying this!), how much they practice (’12hours a week…), how many famous teachers they have praticed with in exotic locations (because XYZ said you must NEVER practice on a Moon Day’), and they are particularly good at pointing out that what everybody else is doing wrong according to so-and-so.
This is not yoga.
Yoga is not about talking, it is about doing. And it is most definitely not about bragging or trying (consciously or unconsciously) to make new or fellow yogis feel inferior or bad about themselves. That’s just a waste of time and energy and, guess what? It doesn’t make you a better or ‘purer’ yogi. Besides, what is purity? And what makes a yogi?
There is this concept of ill-defined purity that people associate with yogis, as if you’re never supposed to lose your temper or want to buy anything new if you claim to do yoga.You do not have to give up all worldly possessions, don an orange nappie and live in the wilderness to walk a yogic path. I would say this is extremist.
In the eight limbs of yoga according to Patanjali, there exist Yamas (Universal Morality) and Niyamas (Personal Obersvance) that we should practice, with asanas and all the rest, as they will guide us on our individual journeys of enlightenment. These are great guidelines or characteristics which one doesn’t master after their first drop-in yoga class and they are not realised as soon a you buy a yoga mat or do a headstand. These are qualities of a human being that can not be ‘achieved’, they can be practiced at every moment of every day. They are reminders of our humanity and at the same time unity with something higher and greater than our bodies.
Many people practice yoga asana for years before they even look up what the Yamas and Niyamas are (which you can find here if you’re interested). Now does this make them artificial yogis? I don’t know. How does that affect my journey? It doesn’t. The point is, that all the information is out there and in you. People discover things in their own time. There is no ‘best yoga’ and there is no race to be the best yogi. There isn’t even a prize. (Ok, well, there is an International Yoga Competition which I don’t understand, but that is a rant for another day.)
How we perceive people is not necessarily the reality. It is our perception. And most of the time our perceptions differ greatly from one another. All we can do is accept people for who they are the moment we encounter them and hope they do us the same courtesy. Even yoga snobs. Because they might not be snobs at all.
P.S. This is an incredibly funny and relevant book I read before I went to do a yoga course in India. I was super nervous and overwhelmed and this booked help lighten the mood.