No, my name is not Shakti
By Kimberly Johnson
Recently I asked a group of teacher trainees to guess my daughter’s middle name.
5 of the 20 responses were Shakti.
Oh. No. People. You do not know me.
Much respect to those of you who have changed your names, had them changed for you, or just like Sanskrit names; I would NEVER give my daughter the middle name Shakti. If you are thinking about changing your name, stay tuned for some advice below.
For the record, my daughter’s name is Cecilia Johnson Vieira. In Brazil, a child gets the mother’s last name for a middle name and the father’s name as the last name. (That’s the minimum—sometimes there are 4, 5, or even 6 names) My last name is Johnson, so her middle name is Johnson.
My name is Kimberly Ann Johnson.
Pretty plain. It works to my advantage to live abroad to up the exotic factor. And I chose well. Washington, Jefferson, and Wellington are popular names here. My father-in-law thinks my daughter’s name sounds like the name of a movie star.
I love yoga—actually doing yoga, that is. But I am not about to paste a name on my daughter that no one will pronounce correctly to demonstrate and call attention to the fact that I am a yoga teacher, although she is one of the few people I know who could actually pull it off.
Which leads me to the recent resurgence of name changes in my vicinity.
If you’re thinking of changing your name, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
- There is a limited Sanskrit vocabulary in circulation. This is why you see a lot of Shaktis, Shantis, and Anandas out there. Don’t be so obvious! After all, you are trying to demonstrate your yoga chops, so be unique. You don’t come across that many, say, Sraddhas, for example.
- There is a marketing component to having a yoga name. Just be real about that. It’s a little more exotic, Indian, intriguing, “yogic” to have a Sanskrit name. It shows you are in-the-know and really serious about this whole project. I mean, no lightweight is going to go to all the trouble of changing their name, right?
- Admit that you want attention. You are up for people outside of Boulder and San Francisco asking you what your name means on a regular basis. Maybe you even enjoy correcting their pronunciation?
- Changing your name might trick you into thinking you made a big change inside. But you might still need therapy, and some of your old nagging ways might still be hanging around. Although I am sure it is a big decision, changing your name is a lot easier than changing your habits. But no one’s saying you can’t do both.
- Go easy on your friends. It can be confusing. And awkward. They might stutter. And think, “Now, is she someone different?” “Do I have a new friend?” “Is that you or a contrived version of yourself??” (Thanks to Ellen Boeder for this one.)
I have been in a lot of potential name-changing situations.
Here in Brazil I have been called Kimberland, Kimbee, Kimber-lie, King. There have been many more blank stares where mispronunciations might have been. My own daughter pronounces my name Kim-barrrrrr-lee. I have traveled with some spiritual folk in the ashram scene. Hell, I even had a guru.
But there must be something in my aura, because in all the potentially name-changing situations, no one has gone there. And I haven’t either.
Kimberly Johnson is a yogini nomad who recently put the earth boots on for motherhood. After a lengthy love affair with India, she was relieved to fall in love with Brazil—and a Brazilian—and now lives in Rio de Janeiro with her 3-year-old Brazilian daughter. She leads retreats on the most beautiful place on earth: Ilha Grande, an island with 100 beaches and no cars; leads teacher trainings; and tries not to pronounce Sanskrit with a Portuguese accent. Rearranged by childbirth in every way, she travels, teaches, and learns about what yoga has to do with womanhood.