Several years ago, after I finished teaching a yoga class, an older gentleman who brought in his son to take the beginner yoga class after mine started to talk about why yoga is excellent for people. In particular why it is good for managing the ego. It ended up being a fairly long in-depth conversation that I have not forgotten to this day.
I have sat on this lesson he gave me and have thought about it in each yoga class I have taught. I did not have a tape recorder or a scribe, but I wanted to share in my words what resonated with me and how I think it applies to yoga.
The ego is a fantastic tool, mechanism, or organism inside your body that helps you survive. It is great for self preservation as it wants to keep you comfortable and hates change. If you are comfortable at all times, you are not stressed or in pain. To the ego this means you are doing a great job at surviving. Sounds great, right?
However, the ego would rather have you lay on the couch or do the bare minimum to get through life. It will also hold you back from taking risks or trying something new. You may see someone do anything you want to do. But you don’t want to try whatever that thing is for the fear that you may try and fail. The result may be embarrassment which the ego does not like.
I have taught the same multi-level class for the last eight years, occasionally I can see the ego take hold of students. This is why I always talk about YOUR practice and not paying attention to what others are doing. Students who don’t feel that they can do what other students are doing may get discouraged and stop taking class or they try harder without paying attention to their bodies and get hurt because of ego.
Sometimes the ego will make you back out of a posture because they feel discomfort and mistake it for pain. Your ego wants you to think you’re in pain so you get back to your comfort zone.
My yoga teacher has always told me to find comfort in the discomfort in your yoga postures. The ego doesn’t want change it wants to stay stagnate and comfortable. Yoga attacks the ego by helping you learn the tools to find the comfort in the discomfort.
I never saw the man again after that conversation, but I am very thankful for his wisdom.