Why Do Yoga Teachers Change Their Names?


Why Do Yoga Teachers Change Their Names?

Have you ever stepped into a yoga studio, only to be greeted by someone who clearly changed their name as part of their career? It’s a common phenomenon that leaves many yoga practitioners confused and curious. 

Why do yoga teachers change their names? When yoga teachers change their names, they do so as a part of their spiritual journey. Among certain yogic groups, getting a spiritual name is a sign that you have undergone a deep amount of training to reach the level of mastery you’ve gotten. 

Though it’s normally used as a way to denote initiation and mastery, there are some other reasons why you might meet a yoga teacher with a spiritual name. Here’s the scoop behind this practice…

Why Do Yoga Teachers Change Their Names?

The concept behind a name change in the world of yoga is derived from Sikh and Buddhist traditions. In these religions, people who earned a certain level of mastery and initiation were given a name by their teachers, or gurus

While yoga is not a religion, it does borrow heavily from Eastern religious traditions. Among yogic circles, practitioners who master certain types of yoga can be given spiritual names by their instructors. 

Basically, it’s kind of a badge of honor and a sign that they are choosing to be reborn into a more spiritual being. Changing one’s name signifies they’ve attained a certain level of knowledge and accomplishment in their spiritual yoga journey. 

How Do People Get Their Yoga Names?

Traditionally, a yogi gets their spiritual name from the guru they studied under. Nowadays, this isn’t always the case. In many situations, yogis will choose their own name as a way to signify their commitment and evolution as a spiritual yoga practitioner.

The topic of name changing in yoga is generally considered to be a personal one. Since there are multiple paths to getting your own name, the best way to learn how people get their yogic names is to ask them on an individual basis. 

How Are Yoga Names Chosen?

Your spiritual name can come through a wide range of different ways. The most common ways yoga names are chosen include:

  • Personal Decision. Sometimes, your spiritual journey can lead you to find a name that resonates more with you. If a yoga teacher gets drawn to a particular name, they may choose that as their own. 
  • Guru Choice. Gurus often will give top students a name based on their own set of beliefs and characteristics they see in their students.
  • Spiritual Leanings. Sikhs who practice yoga might choose a name based around the teachings of Guru Nanak. Meanwhile, other individuals may choose a spiritual name that reflects their own religious leanings.

How Do Spiritual Names Benefit Yoga Teachers?

Getting a spiritual name or a “yoga name” can be beneficial to the yogi in multiple ways. Along with it being a daily reminder to constantly work on spiritual awareness, having a spiritual name can act as a way to show you’ve changed for the better.

In certain yoga groups, spiritual names also can signal that someone who has studied under a famous teacher or as someone who has undergone a lot of training. This benefits the yogi by showing that they’ve been “initiated” into a certain rank of teaching.

Do All Yoga Instructors Get Spiritual Names?

Yoga is not a singular practice, nor do people always approach its teachings the same way. Knowing that it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that many highly experienced yoga teachers never change their names. 

The concept of a spiritual name change is only done within yogic groups that involve a heavy emphasis on the spiritual side of yoga. If your yoga teacher is more interested in the fitness aspect of yoga, chances are high they won’t have a name change.

Is Changing Your Name A Mandatory Part Of Yoga Mastery?

Absolutely not. It’s never necessary to change your name to reflect your own yoga practice. The choice to get a name change is a personal one. You can never judge a yoga teacher’s skill level by their name. Some of the most famous yogis in the world kept their birth names.

What Does A Spiritual Name Denote?

While you can’t judge a yoga teacher by their choice to remain with their birth name, there are some things you can glean from a person’s choice to change their name. Some of the things you can usually infer from a name change include:

  • How They View Yoga. Though it’s not a universal rule, most yoga teachers who choose to change their names tend to view yoga as a more spiritual path rather than an exercise choice.
  • Their Dedication. While you can still be a highly dedicated and experienced yoga teacher without changing your name, it’s safe to say that making that big a change is still a major mark of dedication to the practice.
  • Their Experience. You won’t see people who are brand new to teaching yoga or practicing yoga change their names. This is an act that’s usually only done after years of practice and is an act that solidifies their dedication to the art.

Can I Get A Spiritual Name?

There’s nothing preventing you, as a yoga student, from finding a new name to work into your yoga journey. That being said, if you want to get a spiritual name, it’s a good idea to seek out a yoga instructor who understands your interest in this practice. 

Yoga teachers who have clearly changed their names as a part of their practice are going to be a better match for people who want to undergo the name change aspect. This is simply due to the fact that they understand why you want to get a name change and may be able to advise you on it.

Are There Some Yoga Genres That Are More Likely To Suggest Name Changes Than Others?

It can be surprising to realize how many different yoga practices there are. There are some genres which are far more pro-renaming than others. These include:

  • Kundalini Yoga
  • Sivananda Yoga
  • Kriya Yoga
  • Jivamukti Yoga

All four of these genres are known for taking heavy cues from Hindu spirituality, and that includes the practice of getting a spiritual name. That being said, you can choose to take a new name for just about any type of yogic path you choose to undergo.

Do Some Yogis Use Spiritual Names As A Marketing Ploy?

While there are some yoga teachers who might use a spiritual name as a marketing ploy, this is highly unusual. The truth is that a name change won’t get much notice from mainstream yoga students, so it wouldn’t make sense to do so in hopes of getting a quick buck.

What You Need To Know About Name Changes In Yoga

It’s important to note that everyone’s path in yoga is different and that only a small percentage of yogis make the choice to change their names. Name changes are an act that tends to be done as a personal choice that reflects their rebirth as a more spiritual being. 

If you were wondering whether or not you should select a yoga teacher based on their name change, think twice before you judge. Yoga teachers are never required to change their names, nor does a “regular name” denote inexperience.

Dakota Carroll

Yoga have been a part of Dakota's life for 10+ years. Her practice has helped her grow stronger, more flexible and fearless. Dakota encourages her students to be creative and challenge the body. She seeks to inspire every student to feel refreshed, nourished and balanced both on and off the mat.

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