Yogis Don’t Eat Tacos I: The Social Rules of Yoga

In last week’s blog Yoga: Expectations and Assumptions I discussed our mind’s tendency to set preconceived notions around future events or people and how doing so dilutes our experiences and pulls us out of the present moment.  Today, I’d like to go further into assumptions around a modern yoga practice.  Many years ago my friend Brian and I would go to yoga class together then head out to Newport Beach for “Taco Tuesday”.  At the time we were new to yoga and to the preconceived notions of how a yoga practitioner should eat, behave and live.  We didn’t see anything wrong with going to yoga then eating tacos and having some beers (and I still don’t). The apparent hypocrisy to some didn’t even cross our minds until one of our serious yogi friends said: “What the heck are you guys doing, yogis don’t eat tacos!”

This quote has stuck with me for years, and always makes me smile.  It constantly brings me back to living life in balance and to also living life on our own terms.  I love yoga, it is dear to my heart and continually makes me a better person by challenging me to honestly look at myself, my actions and my purpose.  But I also love tacos, pizza, burgers and beer.  They say “the only constant is change”, yeah except for my love of the latter.  I laugh when someone assumes as a yoga teacher and wellness coach that I’m a vegan (I’m not and predominately follow a paleo lifestyle and diet) or when they assume I don’t drink coffee and that I practice yoga “every damn day” (I live by a daily cup of bulletproof coffee and practice yoga 3-4x a week at most).  My point is two fold; assumptions limit our experiences and prevent us from truly seeing someone or something clearly, and when we give in to other people’s expectations or assumptions, we limit our true potential, we hold ourselves back from becoming our true selves.  I know that for myself, if I don’t occasionally have a beer (ok, more than one) or let myself go wild on a cheat day, that at some point I will begin to lose balance with who I am and what I enjoy and I will will not be living a life in which makes me happy.  How you live and how you feel is solely up to you, no one has the ability to make you happy but yourself.  Do what makes you happy, work in what makes you happy and live in a way that makes you happy.  We only get one of these lives and have a limited amount of time to experience all it has to offer, don’t lose a minute of it living up to someone else’s expectations.

Modern yoga is an extremely valuable practice to partake in.  Yoga balances our minds, bodies and spirits, improves our overall health, relieves stress and can create a sense of purpose and community.  It can also be taken way too seriously.  Modern yoga is constantly being taken out of a contemporary context.  Unless you live in a yogic-community, I hardly doubt you have 10+ hours a day to practice, study and mediate. In today’s high-paced world, most people don’t even have 10 hours a week to devote to practice.  With this being the case, traditional rules and practices don’t really apply to a modern yogi.  We now have the unique opportunity to use yoga as a tool to find health and balance while still enjoying living a modern life, it’s a pretty darn sweet deal when you think about it. Wearing Lululemon pants, drinking $10 juices and practicing yoga in a room with 100 people does not make you a better person, and doesn’t determine how you should live your life.  Being a modern yogi means; taking the insights you gain from class and using them as a way to guide your thoughts, speech and actions once you leave your mat.  Eating raw, shopping locally and driving a hybrid don’t really matter if you’re doing it all to live up to the assumptions of how a modern yogi “should” act. The key is to ask yourself “What works for me, what gives my life balance and purpose?”  There was a great story posted last week which summarized a philosopher’s talk in class.  He filled a container with golf balls, then filled the gaps with pebbles.  When there was still more room he proceeded to fill the remaining space with sand.  He still noticed there was more space so poured a nice beer over the whole mix.  When asked what it all meant he said: “The golf balls are the big things in life, the things that matter; family, friends and happiness, the pebbles are things you enjoy doing and enjoy being a part of, the sand represents the small things like our jobs and money.  And the beer?  Never forget there is always time for a beer with family and friends.”

Using yoga as a way to better your life is a powerful and impactful tool when it is done with in the context of what it means to live a modern life.  Use it to find balance, happiness and purpose, respect it.  But don’t take it too seriously, it’s really just yoga and never forget- there is  always time for tacos and beer with friends and family.  Maybe yogis do eat tacos after all.

Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.