Yoga asks us to dig deep… into our bodies, muscles, joints, organs. Into our minds, our psychology, our emotions. Into our desires and beliefs. Yoga calls us to a higher self, a witness, and asks us to shine acceptance into everything we find.
At first, we’re not accustomed to looking at ourselves so deeply. We may find things we don’t like: things that seem ugly, imbalanced, disempowered. We may also find parts of ourselves that are dormant – pieces we haven’t woken up in a while like a tight psoas muscle, or the capacity to be child-like.
As a regular practice, Yoga can be a wavy journey into our being. There are ups and downs, aches and pains and stretches, epic ego battles and moments of sincere beautiful serenity. And in these fluctuations between mind and spirit an intensity is ignited that gives us the strength to continue on the yogic path.
In my morning class today I asked for any requests from the students. One woman spoke up and said
“I’m really not into ego Yoga. I’m here for shifts of energy in my body and mind rather than to strain and focus on getting into an advanced pose.”
Her desire resonated with me very deeply. It spoke to a pervasive secret of the westernized Yoga world, which is that it is swimming in ego.
As a result, the practice of digging deeper and shining acceptance on all of our tender spots, has fallen by the wayside to make space for impressive poses and standardized instruction.
I am also in recovery from this epidemic of ego yoga. Strong abs and lean thighs are undeniable incentives. It’s where our collective focus tends to go. It’s why we grunt our way into an advanced arm balance but resist regular meditation. It’s why we buy brand names with cute styles in which we sweat profusely.
It’s okay. It’s all okay…
It’s just that favoring ego will fog up the lens of practice and hinder clear awareness. Looking at that… getting honest about it, is where I believe yoga has taken us. It is a modality that reaches layers of being the ego cannot compete for. In its purest form, it is simply connection, union with source.
It is honoring the quieter places; finding that profound transformation can take place only with bountiful trust, patience and presence.
There will be moments within Yoga practice where your ego will shine. You might post some selfies of your beautiful handstand or your new mala beads. You might get hundreds of “likes” and be inspired to keep practicing everyday. And there will also be moments where you are deeply humbled… where it’s treacherous to even step onto your mat; where a pranayama technique brings up some childhood trauma; or you fart in the middle of downward dog…
Through all of it, what I hope for us as practitioners and teachers is that we take time to remember why we come to our mats.
For YOU – why do you practice? What are its most treasured gifts for you? Do you value opening your heart? And how deeply can you dig for the parts of yourself that hunger for light the most? Are you ready to get over yourself?
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Author: Hannah Lynne