All to often do we find ourselves pushing our bodies to its limits. Whether it’s the runner in front of you on the trail or the limber yogi on the mat beside you, it is our competitive nature to keep up. While this is completely not the point in yoga, you may find yourself in a class of 20 ranging from beginner to “What, put my legs over my head? Sure!” And you may feel inadequate. You may feel like you don’t belong in this environment. You may feel like you will never balance on one leg with both arms in the air and eyes closed.
Now, I want you to wipe that slate clean.
One of my best friends recently completed her yoga teacher training and today, I had the honor of practicing with her as my teacher. It was phenomenal. She’s traveled abroad to India and practiced yoga on the Ganges but she won’t discuss it unless you ask her about it. She wears Mala beads to awaken specific chakras, not because they are a fun accessory (even though they are). And she practices because yoga, to her, is about connecting mind, body, and spirit–not a competition to see who can hold plank the longest. When she offers adjustments to your pose, she does so out of respect for your body, the love of the practice, and most importantly, so you don’t end up injuring yourself in the studio.
You see a lot of that, surprisingly. When you compete with your own body and other bodies around you, you can actually do more harm than good. Marissa and I talked about this today. She says she only cue her students so many times–on proper alignment, on listening to your body, on knowing when it’s OK to skip that last high-to-low plank in your sun salutation. She says sometimes, people tune her out, and I think that’s true of most things in life. We listen with the intention of doing exactly what we had planned to but listen out of politeness. Yoga has no place for ego. We encourage you to leave that outside of the studio, before you come to your mat.
Ego gets in the way of a lot. It often does damage to our most meaningful relationships, our dignity, our physical body. I am constantly served up a helping of a bruised ego when I get cocky on my mat. I have fallen into mirrored walls and flat on my face. Outside of the studio, my ego can also get the best of me, leaving me with hurt feelings, a heavy heart or bruised butt. Ego, quite literally, kicks me in the ass.
When we let go of ego, go against our body’s signs of saying “OK, enough is enough”, keep pushing on when it is in our best interest to rest, we break. We injure ourselves. We fracture our spirit. We are humbled by losing the competition against ourselves and others.
As we move forward into 2015, be gentle with your body and mind but also, remember this beautiful quote: