Is there a difference between a yogi and a fitness instructor? The two things have blended a little bit into each others in the last years.
I guess it is a question of definitions, what is a yogi and what is a fitness instructor?
If we want to adhere to a classical definition of the word “yogi” then we would probably say that a yogi is a person that is searching for a state of Yoga, a state of union with his self, and also a union between his self and the Self of the Universe. A state of Union that is supposed to give a feeling of peace, harmony and bliss (Nirvikalpa Samadhi, or Moksha).
What is the definition for a fitness instructor then? We would probably say that a fitness instructor is somebody working in the fitness industry leading classes with groups of people doing physical exercises, often in a rhythmic way, to keep the body fit and healthy.
So, at the first sight, there seem to be not many similarities between the two things if we see them under the light of these definitions.
These two definitions are not necessarily conflictual with each others though. For example, there could be fitness instructors that are also searching for a state of Yoga, so in that case it would not be inappropriate to call them yogis, just like, after all, we might call yogi also any another person with any other possible job, if he or she has as a priority the quest for a feeling of harmony and union with the Self and with the Universe.
But how many fitness instructors have as a priority the one of spending their day searching for a yoga experience? Reading philosophical books, practicing meditation, going to retreats, choosing cruelty free diets, etc.
Surely fitness instructors like that exist, just like people like that might exist in any other industry as well, but I don’t think it is wrong to say that the percentage of yogis in the fitness industry, or in any other industry, for that matter, is probably not extremely high. The most common accepted priorities in our society seem to be others usually (for example, having a nice car, a nice house, a nice education, a sexy partner, a comfortable bank account, nice clothes to wear during the weekend, a fashionable job, a nice garden, etc).
Is it wrong if most people in our society don’t have yoga as a priority? No, obviously no.. It is absolutely normal. Imagine a world where everybody does exactly the same thing, it would be just impossible. In nature we have animals that fly, other that swim, other that dig under the ground. Each of them has an equally important role, necessary to preserve an equilibrium inside the harmonious dynamics of Life.
It would be a problem though if a bird would go to a dolphin to ask for instructions about how to fly, or if a mole would go to an eagle to learn how to dig. It is unlikely that they will manage to reach their life-goal if they do something like that.
When we want to learn a specific discipline we need to go to a teacher of that discipline, and if we want to learn really well we need to go to a master of that discipline. It is just natural.
So, if we want to learn what yoga is we need to find somebody that has practiced yoga all his life, somebody that had yoga as a priority for a long time. Perhaps we might find this person working in the fitness industry, it is a possibility. But it is more likely that in the fitness industry we will find experts in fitness, not in yoga, so if we are determined to search for a yoga master there, perhaps what we are really searching for is somebody that can teach us how to have an athletic body. Maybe that is actually our priority in life. And that is totally ok. In that case we should not be afraid of seeing ourselves as athletes, and not necessarily as yogis. Maybe, for some reason, that is our Karma in this life.
And paradoxically, once we recognise what is our real inclination and our real goal in this life, in the moment in which we don’t pretend anymore to be someone else to satisfy a fashion or a social expectation, then we actually move closer to a yoga experience, because we automatically come in touch with our true Self.