How Yoga Gave My Ego A Smackdown
In 1992, I watched Kristi Yamaguchi win the Olympic gold medal in figure skating. I was 11 years old. That night I told my mother I wanted to start figure skating competitively. I had never done it before. All I'd ever really done athletically was play soccer (terribly …when I fell out of a tree and broke my arm, I was glad to be able to quit).
My mom told me if I wanted to skate, I’d have to call the rink myself and schedule a lesson.
I did right away.
I skated competitively for the next seven years, and it became everything to me. It saved me in many ways. I learned about myself, and the power of mental strength versus physical strength.
And, frankly, it gave me a big ego.
I wasn’t the best skater, but I was very talented. One thing about my practice was I became very good, very fast. I put my all into it, and in just a few years, after which most of the other skaters had been learning the basics, I was competing against girls who'd been skating since they could walk.
One of the reasons I was able to learn quickly is because I have extremely tight hips. They're small, and have a natural inward rotation, which makes it easy to get really tight and small during jumps and spins.
Cut to 15 years later: Here I am, a yogi. A yogi with tight hips.
This morning during my Ashtanga practice, my teacher was helping me into half lotus and she said, “don’t let your ego take over.”
Say it with me: Don’t let your ego take over!
I was jamming my foot into my hip, turning it into a sickle shape (VERY bad for your knees and ankles!) and basically setting myself up for major injury.
See, I’ve been practicing yoga for several years now, but have only just begun an Ashtanga practice. In Ashtanga, there’s a whole helluva lot of lotus poses. I can barely do half lotus. My hips don’t like it, it’s totally uncomfortable, and I basically feel like I will never, ever be able to get there.
My teacher said, “you’ve only been doing this for a few months, right?”
“Actually about five weeks,” I said.
And yet there I was. All ego. All “why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me? Why do I suck so badly? Will I ever be able to do full lotus or will I just half ass this practice forever?”
The bottom line is, who cares? My ego? What is that, anyway? It’s just a voice in my head, that one day told me it mattered if I do certain things in yoga. And not just in yoga, but in life. We all thrive off our egos. Our, “how good am I at this?” We do it in friendships, our love lives, the workplace, and in the yoga studio.
I learned in yoga teacher training it’s impossible to get rid of your ego completely. The fact is, it’s just always going to be there. But we can quiet it. It takes a lot of work. It’s almost a daily mantra we must put ourselves through.
So tell your ego to shut up today. All that matters is what’s in your heart, and your love for yourself and others. Let’s pretend ego doesn’t even exist.
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