Someone wise once told me – your ego is not your amigo. This is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to yoga. Yoga is about building compassion towards oneself first! Our egos prevent that from happening. How? I’ll give you an example of when the ego is triggered in me during a yoga practice…
I typically like to attend advanced vinyasa classes where the teachers get us to move a lot, and we attempt more challenging poses at the end of class. The teacher usually reminds us “Students– we will be doing a lot of chatturanga dandasanas (low push up position) today in class so if at any point you feel tired, you can always skip out on that. Be kind to yourself”
“Oh no – I’ll never NOT do a chatturanga! I’m going to do every single one she says to do damnit! Even if my arms, shoulders are screaming and even if my form isn’t correct” – this is what goes through my brain typically. Why? Because I think I need more strength. I want to push myself. Challenging oneself is a grand idea! But where is it coming from? Is it coming from a place of kindness? Or is it more like “man – you need these planks because you’re weak and you don’t work out enough” ß This is definitely my usual thinking.
See that is my bruised ego talking. And what happens the rest of class? I end up having the same mentality towards any pose I’m not ready for. I get angry at myself. I am disappointed because I’m like :
“IF ONLY I came to yoga more and was able to do a handstand!” or
“Oh man – look at her – she looks so good. I wish I could do that too” or the best one which is
“It’s ok. you can do this – just twist a little bit more and OH WOW OW THAT HURTS GOD HELP ME”
Yea all those thoughts are ego driven and are quite hurtful both mentally AND physically.
One thing I have learned these past few years is how to prevent your ego from taking over completely in yoga.
It’s quite simple really – in the beginning of any yoga class – I tell myself that I’m here on my mat, this is my practice tailor made for my own body, and it’s great. I try to focus on gratitude. I think about how I’m actually an able-bodied person who CAN do Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog) or Virabhadrasana (Warrior), etc. I also think about how I feel when I’m mad at myself in a class – which just takes away from the whole experience of trying to feel GOOD. So these thoughts really help me avoid having those inner battles with my negative thoughts.
Also – listening to the teacher really helps! A lot of my teachers fill the class with positive thought and encouragement and stress the importance of listening to one’s body. It IS true when they say “make the asana work for you, not YOU work for the asana” Your teachers are there to help you bring awareness and compassion towards yourself and they really do want the best for you. So maybe if they suggest you back off a little and try a little less hard on a certain pose – don’t think of it is “man – my teacher is just going easy on me” No – your teacher is just trying to prevent your ego from taking over and hurting you.
I try and do the same in my classes because I really want my students to feel GRRRREATT.
Letting go of that voice in my head that tells me to go harder, faster, stronger is not easy and it’s a learning process. But I am just so much happier when I practice yoga with more understanding and patience and kindness. Aren’t you?