Yoga, A Practice for the Ego: Start Where You’re At and Progress From ThereJanuary 28, 2020
You may have heard it said before that yoga is a practice. Each of us has our own practice. Our own, unique experience.
As a yoga teacher, I let my students know that I am a guide; I offer suggestions, but each student has to decide what is for their practice, and what isn’t.
This is where the ego comes in.
When we’re on or off the mat, the ego tends to trip us up. It acts on fear and self-preservation.
When we’re focused on the ego—what has happened before and what could happen in the future—it keeps us from being in the now.
Our egos swing on a pendulum—it creates a black and white mentality of either you’re better or worse than another student. On one end of the pendulum, you’re “better” than others, and on the other end, you’re “worse.”
Balancing Ego and Fear
Practicing the balance—the in-between of the two extremes—is found in quieting the ego, and simply focusing on your own mat, your own breath, and your own practice.
Easier said than done? This is where teachers come in.
Creating accessible, inclusive spaces for practicing yoga has to provide permission for students to go their own way. While it is on the student to ultimately make the choice, a teacher has to let the student know there is a choice in the first place.
As the student, how can you know what is for you and what isn’t?
Coming from a place of curiosity, with a willingness to try, opens up the way we view challenges. Challenges cease to exist. Challenges all become opportunities. Opportunities to learn and grow and try.
What is something you want, whether related to the yoga limbs or not, that you assume you can’t do, so you never even try?
- Building a business
- Pushing to a handstand
- Running a marathon
- Getting up earlier
- Traveling abroad
- Writing a book
- Paying off debt
- Becoming a yoga teacher . . .
It could be anything.
Assumptions are what happens when you believe something will work out one way because it has before. What would happen in your life if you stopped assuming? What opportunities could present themselves instead, if you chose to try instead of assume?
This brings us back to the ego. Again, the ego is trying to protect us. This could be something related to actual danger, such as taking necessary and smart steps to ensure you don’t injure yourself during a practice. But the ego is also trying to protect us from social danger.
We humans innately crave community, connection, and feeling included. So, the ego works to keep us from trying anything that might hinder that from happening.
This could relate to trying a new inversion that scares you. Or, and this is even more important, this could be choosing not to do the inversion, knowing that it’s not what your body is needing at that time.
Start Where You’re At and Progress From There
As a teacher and practitioner of yoga, I try to show that each of us is always learning and teaching those around us. There are no experts. When we begin to accept that we are all learners on different parts of the same path, it opens us up to be more accepting of others, and ourselves.
I understand this because I experienced it firsthand.
When I first started practicing yoga a few years ago, I was in my head about everything.
“Am I doing this wrong??”
“Is everyone watching me??”
“This is so embarrassing! I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“I look SO STUPID.”
This was my ego talking. I didn’t yet understand the idea of starting where I was at and progressing from there.
Fortunately, I kept showing up. “Practice makes progress” became my daily mantra.
But what “progressed” had nothing to do with my physical practice. It had everything to do with nurturing the healthier and more satisfying headspace I found myself in. Rather than continually looking over my shoulder and worrying about what others thought of me (or what I thought of myself), I simply showed up. I learned to be in the moment.
I was present, in the here and now, on my own mat.
Taking this mentality “off the mat” and into the world is the truest expression of yoga.
In whatever venture, goal, dream, or experience you find yourself in, start where you’re at.
It’s the only place you can be.
Jordan Page is a traveling nomad who takes her love of yoga with her everywhere she goes. She also believes you can learn a lot about someone from their Hogwarts House. After completing yoga teacher training in 2017, she and her husband converted a school bus into their tiny home in which they now live and travel in full-time. She has taught in multiple states around the U.S. and in 2019 she completed her professional coach training through iPEC and earned her CPC. Through yoga and coaching, she works to empower and inspire women to own the life of their choosing through conscious, purposeful intention. She is purposefully living, while not taking things too seriously. Follow her travels and learn more about how to work with her on Instagram.