Have you ever had a self-righteous person roll their eyes at you or berate you for one of your lifestyle choices? It’s an awful feeling. In the space of an eye roll, you can go from feeling good about a choice to feeling guilty or wrong. Have you ever had a self-righteous yogi roll their eyes at you or berate you for one of your lifestyle choices? It feels even worse.
One of the cornerstones of a yoga lifestyle, the practice of Ahimsa is one that many yoga teachers and practitioners are familiar with. The classes that we teach and attend encourage us not to compare ourselves to others, not to judge others, and not to judge ourselves. As a teacher myself, I am constantly urging students to love and accept themselves and others.
With such a strong and constant focus on positive thinking and acceptance, if there is one community that I would expect to be welcoming, non-judgmental, and encouraging without fail, it would be the yoga community. In many ways, the yoga community epitomizes these qualities, but unfortunately every once in a while it can be a very self-righteous environment.
Ahimsa is widely understood to mean simply: non-violence. Practicing non-violence is easy as long as you don’t go out of your way to harm someone or something, right? Sure. However, sometimes we can forget that practicing non-violence refers not just to violent actions, but also to violent words, thoughts, and judgments. Viewing the concept of Ahimsa in this light, it is easy to see that in order to live Ahimsa, one must not only practice non-violence, but also non-judgment.
I have certainly received my fair share of yogi eye rolls and other forms of judgmental behavior in the past, and I used to really let this behavior impact me. As a constant imperfect work in progress, I’m sure that I have doled out an eye roll or two myself, but I’m doing my best to curb this destructive habit. It might feel gratifying in the moment, but this is an unhealthy form of gratification that is created by taking someone else down a notch in order to lift yourself up.
Being a true yogi is about far more than physical pose alignment and the ability to recite yoga sutras, it is about the way that we approach the world. No matter what from of yoga that you practice, how often, or how skilled you are: if you are practicing judgment, you are not practicing good yoga. Don’t let a self-righteous eye roll take you from yogi to bully…no matter how good it might feel to your ego.
The next time that a self-righteous yogi tries to chastise you for not making the same choices as they do, don’t sweat it and don’t let it get you down. The need to elevate themselves through negative judgments is their burden to bear, not yours.
Set an example by practicing ahimsa yourself, and recognizing that self-righteous people have a right to their opinions, just as you have a right to yours. Don’t perpetuate the cycle by judging others for judging you. Instead, just politely remind them of what Ahimsa means and encourage them to practice it themselves.
Written by: Caitlin Turner a.k.a. Gypset Goddess