Ego and Yoga - A Journey of Self-Discovery | The Column
After qualifying in teaching yoga, I began to significantly increase my own yoga practise. As an instructor I felt like a fraud not being able to do the things that my class participants could. It felt like I was a bad instructor if I couldn’t physically show them all of the options to help them progress.
In my own practise, I would constantly be looking around the room at everyone else practising with their eyes closed and being one with their bodies. I would either be happy that I was taking a harder option to them on the poses (and feeling better than them because of this) or wishing I could do what they were doing and feeling beat up that I couldn’t do it; sometimes I would push myself to try and be able to do it, and fail miserably.
I remember going to a class and walking out halfway through nearly in tears as I couldn’t do what the other students were performing and the teacher did not accommodate for that (not very inclusive at all!). Having come from a gym background I had no interest in the mindfulness aspects of yoga at the time and so put a lot of pressure on my physical abilities.
Why was I bothered so much with what others could achieve?
During the classes, I would wonder how these people could be so relaxed in their own body doing
their moves, oblivious to others in the room and how they were perceived. It was as if they were
practising alone in the room. After months of going to yoga classes, feeling like I wasn't progressing and coming away every time feeling negative and deflated, I began to realise that I needed to perhaps change how I perceived myself and alter my mind set. Why was I getting depressed and beating myself up when I couldn’t do a handstand or the splits? There are many people that can’t even get out of bed in the morning or walk to the shops.
Learning to let go
This started the long journey over the next couple of years to try and alter my mindset. I began to stop focusing on the goal of needing to achieve something in each class. I tried to just enjoy the class itself and notice how I felt afterwards. I slowly began to enjoy the actual journey rather than the end goal.
I stopped trying to do the things I had worked so hard on achieving previously, I stopped staring at myself in the mirror and comparing myself to others, and started practising with my eyes closed and listening to my body.
I started to learn that yoga is more than just the asana (physical) practise and being able to bend yourself into a shape. It was then that I started to see things happening. Placing less pressure on myself to perform allowed me to just be grateful for what I had, and my body started to respond; allowing me to go deeper into poses and allowing me to feel more positive about what I was doing on and off the mat in my life. It also made me realise that there were quite a few people that couldn’t do certain positions too, or that I was actually not as bad as I thought I originally was. I had allowed my ego to get in the way of seeing this!
Last year saw me not only gain a neck injury but also being made redundant from a job I'd done for over a decade. Yoga had never been so crucial for me. Trying to do impossible poses was definitely gone (headstands will never happen for me now, but am I bothered?!) and I welcomed the increased mindfulness, the mental and spiritual solace that being present in your practise can offer (ha never thought i’d hear myself talk about spirituality, especially as this has never been on my radar before!).
Learning to love the feeling of hope and calm that yoga can offer is much more welcoming for me these days than seeing how many likes I can get from a video of me standing on my head on social media (which is actually not that many anyway!). I wouldn't say that Ego doesn’t rear its ugly head occasionally still, but it’s definitely easier for me now to move away from those thoughts quickly and tune in with the positive aspects instead.
Onwards and upwards
I tell people all the time that yoga is a journey where you will never reach the destination, it has so
much to offer. Having found yoga many years ago to solely help my flexibility for fitness, I have
moved so far away from that place now and truly understand that ‘what you learn on the mat is
really to be taken off the mat and used in your life’. From just wanting achievements in stretching, I am now enjoying seeing how the practise is helping me in my everyday life. It is enabling me to deal with the anxiety I feel from this uncertain time in my life, which is a wonderful tool to have when things feel overwhelming.
What have I learnt from this experience?
Everybody is on their own journey and doing things for their own reasons. Comparing is not going to be helpful.
To be more compassionate towards others. Everybody is different and deserves the best chance to do what they enjoy.
To care about myself more and to know that whatever I do, it IS enough and I AM good enough (this is probably the most important point learnt!).
To learn more about Jeni and to find out about her 1-2-1 yoga sessions, click here!
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