Imitation is the most effective technique in yoga. Humans around the world emulate celebrities, musicians, and athletes from eating habits to fashion styles. A consistent yoga practice designs a lifestyle, and through our practice we gain habits that motive us, challenge us and help us grow. Practitioners create unknown outcomes when we imitate other yogis. A third mind will spawn from the cohesion between us and a role model. The duality of philosophies and habits will manifest a new template to live by. This fresh perspective can help you find your authentic self. The ideas you learn from imitation will help you for the rest of your life.
How to Imitate in Yoga
Find a yogi with the results you want. Then get as much information as you can on how they got there, and essentially do the exact same thing they did. It is as easy as filling in a coloring book.
For example, the last two years I have been doing Ashtanga’s Primary Series of yoga. Until last August I would practice it once or twice a month and then go months without practicing at all. However, a middle-aged lady at my studio with a full-time job, three kids, and no athletic background started practicing at the same time I did. She attended class three – five times a week for the past two years. Last week I attended a class with her for the first time in eighteen months. Her whole persona was different as she stood proudly in bright colored shorts, a new short haircut and a sports bra.
Her Primary Series was perfect. In terms of grace and fluidity, she was a whole new yogi. Curious about the evolution, I asked what had helped her progress so much in her journey.
Attack of the Kino Clones
“I fell in love with Kino MacGregor. I watched every video on YouTube of her I could find. I did two weekend workshops with her to really get a feel for her system. Next summer I am going to Mysore, India to train in Ashtanga Yoga.”
She did seem different. It takes an immense amount of confidence to live in India for three months. That level of sacrifice is rare and her transformation made sense now. The short, funky hair, new clothing, and positive mindset all came from modeling Kino. She was not some Kino copy cat, but a woman who had found her purpose.
In my personal practice my free spirit would not contain itself in one system and I explored many other yoga styles in those two years. Although I knew about modeling, its power was lost on me because I jumped around too much. Seeing her transformation motivated me to perfect my Ashtanga Primary Series.
A New Savvy Me
I choose to imitate and learn everything about Simon Borg Olivier. My knowledge of anatomy, pranayama, diet, and love of yoga have tripled since I began my study of Simon. On the other hand, my current teacher has many conflicting views with Simon. However, the duality of their teachings create a third body, a unique fusion of knowledge and experimentation. I care so much about both their opinions that I am motivated to pursue personal growth. Through this, I gain a one-of-a-kind perspective on things such as bandhas, pranayama, and meditation. I am not an expert by any means, but the process moved me past the beginner stage.
Another great use for modeling is reverse imitation. If you see someone in yoga who fails at your goal, you should not take their advice. Don’t get stuck imitating a yogi who is not getting the results you want.
Would you learn Mixed Martial Arts from a white belt with no actual fighting skills? Read a bodybuilding guide written by a skinny guy? It may not make any sense but, in yoga this happens all the time. A yogi has a goal to become pain-free, increase their flexibility and find calmness, but the person they chose to model is not flexible, is ungrounded, and still complains of pain. Avoid anyone who has not already achieved your goal.
Imitation Beyond Yoga
The best decision I made for my career as a novelist was to imitate Haruki Marukami. I imiate his early morning 4 a.m. writing habit. His favorite jazz musicians have found their way onto my playlist. Every book he recommends I read. I emulate a new author now, but many of Marukami’s lifestyle choices still stick. Don’t limit yourself to just yoga, pick another aspect of your life you want to grow in too. Imitate others in diet, spirituality, business, and family life to grow faster in those areas.
Finding your Authentic Self
As a beginner, you have so many choices. Find a yogi who resonates with your goals on health and longevity. If you pick the most flexible yogi it may spark your fire, however down the road your body may regret it. Yoga is about the ability to stay relaxed in stressful situations, not contortionism. If you want to be a contortionist, model your reality after an Olympic gymnast, ballerina, or Cirque de Soleil performer.
As you imitate a yogi, find out their views on how to improve at yoga, regularity of practice, diet, and what a good instructor should be. Interviews, books, articles, and workshop transcripts available online will help you find this information.
The great thing about yoga is that you can get into contact with 99% of the community. If the person won’t respond on social media why not schedule a phone call? I am 6’3 and had a height related question, and there are a limited number of tall yogis. I called the studio of a popular tall yoga teacher and asked his wife if I could schedule a short appointment. One day later that appointment turned into a thirty-minute discussion, and we now regularly correspond through email. If you are kind, persistent, have your questions ready, and provide a flexible time frame, any yogi will speak with you for five minutes. Tim Ferris’s book The Four Hour Work Week discusses this process. As a university student, I have contacted some of the top professors in the world. I have a 100% success rate of getting a phone call or email response.
Choose and Apply
Imitation is fundamental in business and high-level athletics. In yoga, it surprises me how little it is applied. There has to be one part of your yoga that needs improvement. My yin yoga has improved by consciously modeling the most peaceful yogis I know. You do not need to think, just choose and apply their journey to your life situation. Your chances of succeeding will increase dramatically.
Mimic yogis, and soon others will mimic you.