There is nothing like the energy that comes with teaching yoga. Seeing the joy of students as they move, feeling their sense of freedom on the mat, and experiencing their relaxation in savasana is deeply moving.
But, can I share with you something that’s rather hard for me to experience as a teacher and certainly as a yoga student myself? It’s ego. Eeeeeek...the ‘E’ word! Before you go thinking - Oh my gosh, is she talking about me? - don’t worry. I’m talking about all of us, because thankfully we all have one. Let me explain.
How do we look at ego in the yoga practice? The “ego” is our self-image, the identifiers and labels either we have given ourselves or others have given to us. HOWEVER, -- and this is big -- the ego is not our true Self (that’s a bit more abstract). The ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, it’s the attachment to ego and our self-image that can present problems.
Think about it. What labels have you given yourself or have others given to you? Wife, mother, athlete, funny, strong, perfect, silly, middle child, serious, caring, nurturing, free spirit, sweet. Sometimes, we try and live up to those labels, those identifiers, whether or not those they serve us in the moment.
That’s what I’m talking about here. Sometimes, our egos act as a block for what’s best for us, because they are trying to keep us safe from emotional harm. We don’t like feeling pain or judgement and so our egos protect us. And, what’s interesting is that this shows up on the mat. How?
- Have you ever “rejected” the use of props in yoga?
- Have you insisted on pushing yourself into a posture that was incredibly uncomfortable or even painful?
- Have you resisted a modification to make a pose simpler?
- Have you thrown in 27 extra chaturangas (those push-up like motions) because you want to get “stronger?”
- Have you pish-poshed a class because it’s too “easy” or “beginner?”
- Have you pushed your body just wayyyy too far and resulted in an injury?
- Have you thought to yourself, I could never do that…, and so you don’t even try?
Well, you guys, I’ve done ALL of these things. Early in my yoga practice, I wouldn’t use props because I thought they were a “crutch.” I wanted to do everything all by myself because I'm "independent." Well, that didn’t work on the mat nor does it work in my life. I’ve pushed myself or had other teachers put me in postures that were painful, but looked perfect, and resulted in throwing out my back. I’ve resisted modifications because of the story “no pain, no gain.” I would only attend classes that had “power” or “heated” or “vigorous” in the title because if I didn’t then that might mean I’m weak or didn’t burn enough calories that day.
Here’s my PSA to listen to your body (not your ego) the next time you’re at yoga or Crossfit or on a run or wherever it is that you go. Is your body loving this movement? Is it tired? Does it need a rest in childs pose or downward dog? And, on the flip side, could you push yourself a little further? Are you attached to the story of “I can’t” or “I’ll never?”
Our self-image shows up on our mats more often than you might think. You can learn a lot about the image you’re attached to as you practice...and you can also learn how to let it go. Because, we have nothing to prove, no label or self-image to live up to. You know exactly what is right for you, your Self, as you move and live and breathe. As always, I'd love to hear from you. If this message resonated, please write to me and forward this letter to a friend.