Admit it: You’re the weird one in your family. Your friends comment on how different you are than you used to be. People laugh and roll their eyes when you talk. You’ve gotten used to getting strange looks and have accepted you probably will for the rest of your life.
Yeah, me too.
Practicing yoga changes you. First, your habits change. You start molding your schedule around your favorite classes and saying things like, “I can’t stay out late. I have yoga in the morning.” Next, your relationship with your body changes. You start choosing foods that feel good to your body, which means you have to skip those late-night Taco Bell runs with friends. You may even cut out or cut down on socializing staples, like alcohol or caffeine, making you that water-drinking weirdo at the bar. And then, your relationships with others might start to change. As you honor yourself more, you may start setting boundaries where you haven’t before. You may approach a previously volatile relationship with more compassion. And you might even start to apply that whole “We are all one” thing people always talk about.
Living your yoga takes some courage. You either know going in or figure out very quickly that it’s going to rock some boats. People feel comfortable with the status quo, and when you start changing things in your own life, it will affect theirs, too. They may react from a place of fear, which can come across as judgment, anger, mocking, or withdrawal. To stay strong and compassionate, and to continue to live your yoga in the face of those responses is a major act of bravery.
I’ve heard some amazing weirdo stories lately from yogi friends who fearlessly live their practice and aren’t afraid to show it. One student had an outdoor wedding in the summer. She didn’t want to get overheated in her wedding dress, so when she got warm, she did a cooling shitali breath right there at her wedding reception. If you want to stand out as a breath-loving yogi, shitali is definitely the way to go.
Another friend and fellow teacher feels passionate about compost, so she took her compost worms to her son’s elementary classroom to teach them about the benefits of composting. While other parents might think she’s a little strange, the kids loved it. She joyfully embraces the nickname “Worm Mom.”
I remember marking myself as a total weirdo when I briefly lived in Chicago a few years ago. I took public transit on a daily basis, and at the time I was really getting into the idea of all people as a manifestation of God’s love. One of my daily practices was to thank my bus driver any time I got off at my stop. One day, I remember hearing some girls laughing behind me, saying, “Who thanks the bus
driver?! It’s not like they did anything for you!” But to my yoga brain, they did. And more importantly, they were a human, just like me, worthy of acknowledgement and respect, even on the cold streets of Chicago.
I’ve heard yogis talk about how difficult it was to become the only non-drinking member in their party-loving group of friends, or how
other parents judged their yoga-based child-rearing practices. Cookouts are constant challenges as family and friends struggle to understand and accommodate our different diets. It would be easy to hide our yoga-based practices. Easy, but not authentic. And one of yoga’s great lessons is how to truly be yourself. Your freaky, weird, worm-loving, human-acknowledging, public-shitali-breathing self.
How does your practice make you the weirdo in your life?