“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
- John Bingham
I used to do a lot of running, and this is my favourite running quote. Millions of people put on their trainers every day and just run. They are different from each other because of their fitness, endurance, experience, age, gender, physical body type, motivation, goals, and so many other variables. But they are all the same in one all important respect - they are runners. The person who crosses the finish line first, and the one who crosses it the last are both the same.
As a yoga teacher, it is part of my job to have an online presence, and I spend a lot of time on social media. It is far from my favourite part of my job, but it is unavoidable. Those of you who are active on social media and also interested in yoga will know that the Internet is full of images and videos of uber-flexible, acrobat contortionists, performing mindblowingly complex poses and sequences. It is hugely impressive, but also a little discouraging. Now and again someone is brave enough to post a video of them falling over, and sometimes we see ‘before and after’ comparisons demonstrating commendable progress. What we very rarely see is someone doing a reasonably good job of a common yoga pose, and I think that is a shame - because for the vast majority of us that is what yoga is.
In the same way as most of the runners you see out pounding the pavements day in and day out will never run a 2.30 marathon, most of the people in yoga classes throughout the world will never do a one handed peacock pose.
Most of the people in my yoga classes will never do a handstand. And do you know what? They are fine with that. They know that there is more to yoga than that - much more.
I enjoy seeing excellence in any area of life, and yoga is no different. But I also enjoy seeing the progress people make, being part of the physical and emotional development they achieve, listening to people tell me how their mental health has improved, and watching people become friends as a result of their shared experience.
If you do yoga, you are a yogi. It doesn't matter how flexible or strong you are. It doesn't matter if you are a complete beginner or if you practice yoga seven days a week. There are no exams, no grades to achieve, no entrance criteria. You just do yoga.