This was published last year in Om Yoga Magazine:
Beware of the Bhogi, Man!
Have you heard of the yogic term ‘bhoga’? I hadn’t until about a year ago: My mind had instantly flooded back to when I was a child, and was petrified of this monster called the ‘Bogey Man’… Being on the periphery of yoga can be scary too! How do I know? Well, I’ve been there – Luckily, I only dipped my toe into Bhogi Land…
What is a Bhogi?
‘Bhogi’ is the Sanskrit noun used for a person who practices bhoga; and ‘bhoga’ is translated to English as ‘enjoyment’… So you may be wondering why it is that we need to be wary of enjoyment, because enjoyment is a wonderful thing to have in our lives, and it’s an organic by-product of practicing yoga. However, if enjoyment gained in the physical sheath (the Annamaya Kosha), is the sole purpose of practice, then it may not be yoga that we are practicing at all.
One of the more traditional notions reported of those practicing bhoga, is that a bhogi doesn’t adopt the eight limbs; instead chooses to dip in and out of practice, believing that further learning is not required…
Years ago, I wasn’t fully aware of the mind-body connection; and whilst I can’t say that my yoga practice was superficial – it was peripheral; I practiced for the sole purpose of the physical outcome: health and fitness, not for the personal process nor for the depth of knowledge. So perhaps back then I was a bhogi.
Too much of a Good Thing…
BKS Iyengar defined ‘bhoga’ as “enjoyment of worldly pleasures”; “enjoyment through experiences”; and simply as “satisfaction”, but we’re not just talking semantics for the sake of it, because these varied interpretations add a whole new dimension to the term ‘bhoga’…
We enjoy fine foods, sex, shopping, exercise, alcohol, technology, reading… all of these things are good, but without the balance of the not-doing them they are not-so-good. We must be aware of what our boundaries are, as there is a fine line between enjoyment and hedonism. And living inside of our human desires, and being driven by our ego and our senses often result in addictions, unhappiness, and fluctuations of the mind. This echoes the same message as Patanjali’s definition of bhoga; “—caught in the web of the world,” referring to the external aspects of life consuming the internal being.
Time for another apt quote… Spiritual author E. Haich wrote, “He alone is free who controls his urges and is not the slave of his passions, lusts and desires.” At this point, I am tempted to share with you all the occasions during my life when I have been a slave to passion, fashion, fine foods, extreme experiences and luxurious goods; and those times I’ve witnessed high profile ‘yogis’ doing bhoga very well, yet not doing ‘yoga’ much justice. These experiences are just a part of anyone’s journey in life, and it’s not my place to judge, whether yoga is involved or not, because I believe we all get there eventually… And for the record, I’m still getting there. But the thing I do personally learn from Haich’s words, is that if I suffered physically, mentally or emotionally trying to seek satisfaction in these areas, then surely satisfaction from yoga (bhoga) is also likely to lead to dissatisfaction… Or maybe it is the act of seeking that causes the imbalance. As a result, I do not over practice asana, and I do not try to cut shapes to compete, and I do not give a dandasana about what I look like in a crop top in my class – because I wear a not-crop top… It also reminds me that desire is very different from ambition, and that lust is very different to love.
Know What We’re Practicing?
It is beneficial to keep in mind the holistic nature of yoga during personal practice, as well as when we are teaching; according to Dinesh-Krsna’s blog, the terms bhogi and yogi are not interchangeable, stating that people reaping the physical strength from yoga and recommending it for enjoyment alone, are reversing the process of yoga altogether, “…we need to be aware of what we are doing. Otherwise, we will be misled and misused/exploited.”
I have taught yoga in gyms, studios, private homes, schools, business blocks and in boxing rings, and I have also taught yoga-inspired exercises where the program dictates that as the instructor you remain on stage. It really is ultimately up to us, individually, how we incorporate yoga into our lives, but calling it ‘yoga’ may not always be entirely accurate. And for teachers, it is vital we are clear to our students about what we are actually teaching.
What I think Bhoga is:
How I interpret bhoga is that it is physical exercise motivated by feeling good and looking good, without having the mindfulness and awareness on every level of being. We are often encouraged in modern yoga to reach our edge, but this can result in being driven by one’s ego, another aspect of yoga that is discouraged.
The reason why I would warn against the sole practice of bhoga, is for the same reason I would only peer from the safe edge at any overindulgence; because it is so easy to get caught up in how we look as a result of the physical practice, or how something makes us feel, or how we believe ourselves to be perceived by others. It becomes about just wanting to get it done so we can get results, and we lose sight of what it is we are actually doing, and for what reason we are doing it.
We are not to be control by yoga, nor by labels, or by anything else for that matter, but symbolically it seems that we do adopt an Inner Yogi of sorts and we also adopt a Bhogi Man, so surely if we balance these two parts of one whole with integration, moderation and mindfulness, then they can coexist.
Here are five tips to help us balance our Bhogi Man with our inner Yogi:
You can Be the Best Model of Yourself Possible...
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Super Model Hero is a holistic life shifting approach to fitness and wellbeing developed by Jordan Martin.
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