Life Lessons from Yoga #10
Abandon your ego.
Part of my August series on life philosophies learned from yoga.
One of the hardest things to get used to in yoga is that, unlike other physical activities, it’s not about coming to win, or to get the best time, or to stand out among the other students. When we are on our mats, we are trying to look within, to focus our gaze, or drishti, on ourselves and improve from the inside out. Sometimes the studio has mirrors to help you with your alignment but we aren’t using these mirrors to see how good we look (or don’t look) or how the other students are doing. In fact, often times we’re instructed to focus only on ourselves and to respect the privacy of others.
In some ways, it reminds of a concept in the historical fiction book, Shogun by James Clavell. In that book (which is one of my favorite fiction books of all time), European sailors are shipwrecked in Japan around 1600. They go through all kinds of transitions adjusting to the culture there and one of the things they have to get used are the thin rice paper walls and how the Japanese do not allow themselves to listen to the conversations they can audibly hear. Learning to turn attention elsewhere like this brings great power of focus (it’s great for ADHD) and teaches us humility.
Part of the reason we focus so hard on not focusing on anything in yoga is that the real work is going on inside of us. As I mentioned in the other posts, you are learning to strengthen your weak parts and you are transforming yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s not a competition because we can’t always see or measure the million little ways in which we might be setting ourselves up for success.
The other important thing about abandoning the ego is that no pose should ever hurt, as I mention in the previous post on listening to your body. Injuries can occur when people become irresponsible by ignoring their body’s messages because they don’t want to appear like a weakling.
Learning to abandon your ego can be a humbling experience in life. Are there times you kept fighting in an argument even once you realized you were in the wrong because you didn’t want to lose face? Are there things you could apologize for that your pride didn’t allow you to? Or how many times have you hurt yourself or hurt others because you were trying to prove something?
Every day, every breath could simply be bringing us to a better place. We don’t need to do something medal-worthy to find this success. We can prove it by way of the fluidity and lightness that honoring ourselves and respecting others brings us.