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Yoga isn't about the shape of the pose. We've all heard our teachers tell us this. Actually, yoga isn't about the pose at all. But recently, my Facebook and Instagram feeds have been bombarded with crazy circus yogi photos followed by hashtags like #madaboutyoga #yogaposeaday and #yogaeverydamnday.
I would be a hypocrite to judge. I'm a repeat offender of uploading my own #yogilife photos. I'm happy that yogis around the world are uniting and sharing their passion for the practice, but they make it look so damn easy. Iron cross headstand? Scorpion handstand? Yeah, let me just jump into that.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter if your hands are touching the floor, if you get to full splits in hanumanasana, or your toes touch your head in King Pigeon. When we focus on what we look like, we start fanning our already firing egos, risking injury and losing connection with our breath. And while it's great to be "inspired" by what your neighbor is doing on their mat, we have to remember that we all come to our mats for different reasons and at various levels.
No matter how good you look doing the physical pose, yoga is about unification of the mind, body, and breath. Asana is a tool we can use to bring about that unification, but it is not the one and only way. Respect and begin where you are; the pose will take care of itself.
Tips for Taming Your Ego
1. Remember Sthira Sukham.
Do you feel steady? Do you feel at ease? In yoga sutra 2.46, Patanjali defines asana as a steady comfortable posture. If you don't have both, you're not in asana.
2. Check your breath.
Is it full, deep, steady? Or shallow, irregular, and racing? If you're feeling the latter, back out of the pose a little bit.
3. Close your eyes.
One of the easiest ways to turn inward is to close your sense that relates to the external world. It will be easier to connect to what your body is feeling and you won't be tempted to check out what Gumby is doing next to you.
4. Shake up your routine.
Are you a passionate core power or power yoga practitioner? Try a slow flow, or even a yin or nidra practice. Slowing it down and taking a gentle more thoughtful approach can expose your bad habits. And since these classes are all about NOT pushing yourself, you'll have no one to compete with!
5. Develop Svadhyaya.
Practice honest self-observation and self-study. Develop a constant inner reflection and find contentment with where you are, because that's exactly where you need to be.