I am a yoga teacher. I left the corporate world to teach yoga full time in January 2016.
I have always been an athlete and have always pushed myself whether it be in my work in the corporate world, in my own workouts and even my yoga practice. The need to drive and push beyond my limits are so deeply ingrained in me. This served me very well in the corporate world and I was successful. It enabled me to react to situations and take action. There are positives in the ego, for it helps us to survive in the world.
I love to be physically active and have always been naturally flexible. I have very loose ligaments. People without loose ligaments rely on the ligaments to hold their joints in place. Those with looser ligaments need to rely on the more muscular strength to hold the joints in place. Yoga attracts people with loose ligaments because of the innate need to stretch. It provides a kind of relief for us. People with looser ligaments can also be susceptible to injuries and soreness because of it. If we don’t have sufficient muscle strength to hold the joints in place, then our bones can move out of alignment easily. Sometimes it is painful and sometimes it is not.
If I fall or miss a step, for example, something usually pops out of alignment. Over time it usually moves back in, but if it doesn’t then it causes other issues and other joints will pop out of alignment.
So, where am I going with this? Ah yes. Ego. Yoga.
In my personal practice, I feel the need to have all my postures be text book perfect and balanced on both sides. During my home practice last week, I was practicing the transition moving from chaturanga (yoga push up) pose to upward dog. In this transition, I am not strong enough yet to push my feet back at the same time – which if you google, you will see on most yoga videos. I turn my feet over one at a time. Left foot first, then right. My left side of my body is far stronger than my right. On this day, I decided to stay on the ball of the left foot and flip the right one first. And then it happened. My right ankle protested as it was supporting all my body weight and the ankle bones jammed. After that I could not point my right foot. It took an hour at the osteopath for him to not only fix my ankle, but to re-align my pelvis.
Why did I feel the need to change this? Ego. I have this voice in my head that tells me that because I am a yoga teacher, I should be strong enough to flip both feet interchangeably. I should be at a certain level in my own practice. That I need to look like the yoga practitioners that you see on Instagram. I look at my students, some of whom are more flexible or stronger than I and I think to myself that I cannot teach them because I’m not good/strong/flexible enough. Just pick any word. Kind of misses the point about Yoga doesn’t it? But there is the beauty of it.
For the first time in my life, I saw it. I saw what my ego was doing. I could hear the voice in my head. I could watch my eyes make the comparison to someone else. It is the ego that tells me that I need/should/must be perfect in my poses. I must be strong and balanced on both sides. For years I let it move me. I looked back on all the injuries I had in my life. Every single one was because I pushed myself beyond what my body was able to do at that time. No pain, no gain became my motto because of my ego. Ego was part of my physical world and my professional world.
A few days later, I was doing my personal yoga practice and did it by feeling my way through the practice. Feeling where my body was in each posture. Not by looking at how far I am supposed to bend but by how my body felt as I was bending. It did not matter if my backbend was text book perfect. I was feeling the muscles and pulling back from the edge. Working, but not suffering. I still had my ego in my head telling me that my back bend should be deeper/stronger/better, but I recognized it for what it was and went back to focusing on my breath and my roots. Strong grounded legs and core that supported my body as I bent backwards. And then I knew, that it did not matter what it looked like, only what it felt like. That is the true gift of yoga, slowing you down to give you the ability to feel and hear yourself. I heard a wise person once say “Learn to hear your body when it whispers to you so that it doesn’t have to scream at you.”
Brightest Blessings to you all.