I find the whole concept of letting go of ego a really interesting one. Part of the yoga practice is to remove ego. Whilst there are many reasons for doing so, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the role ego has to play in our personal practice and how it could be considered responsible for the western trendy approach to yoga.
For example, I’ve had a number of students seek out yoga for the purpose of weight loss. They want to sweat. To feel like they’ve done a work out. In my opinion, it’s such attitudes that have resulted in the likes of power yoga and hot yoga styles evolving. They address common problems like weight concerns and help people to physically improve their body shape (notice, I’m talking external appearances only). This is ego working right here.
Then there are those practitioners who want to do strong vinyasas or advanced asanas, like Mayurasana (peacock). Whilst there is nothing wrong with wanting to advance in your practice by performing more challenging asanas, I feel it’s important we stop and think about why we want to do these asanas. Why do we want to be inverted in a handstand (Ardho mukha vrksasana) or fold our body in half via a back bend (Ardha chakrasana).
I can’t answer these questions for others, but I can for myself. In my case, I would be lying if I said my ego had no influence on my practice. For one, I’m human. And for two, I know my ego is in part responsible for spurring me on to go a little deeper, or higher, or harder. As I was one of those people that was medically advised by experts that I would never physically be strong, or have much mobility in my body (due to Scoliosis), I became even more determined to challenge my body. To hell with the idea of allowing someone elses opinion (because that’s all it is at the end of the day, an opinion) dictate how I’m going to feel in my body! So I continue to learn, experiment, fall, try again….
But whilst there is very much ego involved (which is a constant challenge to try and minimize), I feel it is so important to stop and ask ourselves why we are doing a particular asana, outside of the ego? What are the physical and non-physical parts of the body that are being activated? What does the asana lead to? How does compromising the asana to hold a big toe rather than pull back a little and work from a less advanced position help us to progress?
Today, for example, I was practicing Pincha Mayurasana, which is quite an advanced asana – but my shoulders keep collapsing, limiting the mobility of my spine to bring me to the next level. Because of this, my teacher has now told me to return to working with a wall support to build up the strength in my shoulders before taking myself back to the full asana. The egoist part of me thinks this makes me look weak or incapable. But the reality is, it is only by being humble in the practice that I can actually excel and achieve those new, powerful asanas. I need to come back to basics.
This is why I’m so passionate about Hatha yoga. It brings the beautiful balance between strength and flexibility, which carefully and strategically prepares people to take their practice to the next level very quickly. Within just a few weeks of consistent work, people notice their bodies totally transform – from stiff, rigid and painful to light, flexible and strong.
So with that said, have a think about these few questions; “Why am I practicing particular asanas? Why do I want to do only the more challenging asanas? What role is my ego playing in my practice?
“Am I in the asana or just doing the asana?” This will make a huge difference to your approach. Recognise the role of the ego, be aware of it and do not allow it to control your regular practice. It will never take you where you want to go.
Be sure to share your thoughts and experiences. I would love to hear from you.
Much love + gratitude,