chapter  2
16 Pages

Yoga as a way of life

Authenticity through identity management
WithErin F. Johnston

Can anyone who practices yoga claim the identity of a “yogi,” or does this title imply specific criteria such as physical proficiency, philosophical understanding, or spiritual enlightenment? Drawing on 15 months of participant observation and interviews with both teachers and students at an Integral Yoga studio in the New York metropolitan area, this chapter describes the attributes and characteristics that mark identity authenticity for members of this community. It argues that Integral Yoga practitioners associate authenticity with a particular style of identity management, one that is high in duration (i.e., always “turned on,” across time and context) and personal importance (i.e., central to the person’s overall sense of self), but low in both density (i.e., enacted at low volume or intensity) and dominance (i.e., not eclipsing other identities or social roles). This chapter also reveals how Integral Yoga practitioners use this style of identity management to draw symbolic boundaries between themselves and other, culturally salient types of yoga practitioners.