Posts Tagged With: ego

Paying for patience.

If patience were for sale, would you stand in line to buy some? How much would you want? How do you think they would be selling it, by the hour? Personally I have found my patience level is directly related to how much something is inconveniencing ME. Damn ASMITA – ego! My ego you can make me such a terrible person sometimes. I am usually forced into becoming patient after I have done something stupid while trying to out smart my impatience. Like the proverbial speeding ticket, as you’re speeding to get where you need to be you end up getting pulled over. Naturally, you end up getting where you needed to be, but later. Or how about how your impatience makes you push aggressively against every warning sign your body is giving you, and you injure yourself trying to get one more yoga asana in the “I can do that pose” pile. Which then sets you back weeks from actually being able to do that pose. Do you recognize any of these scenarios? If so, then fall in line behind me for your fare share of patience. It’s marked down to $9.99 a hour! Would you pay that? Either way, you’re going to pay. If you don’t find a little more patience in your life.

I have stuck with Ashtanga yoga for 13 years. The number of poses that haven’t come easy for me out weigh the ones that have. My husband says I’m a diesel. What he means is, I am good at long and slow distances when it comes to running. What I think he really means to say is I am willing to suffer as long as necessary to get something that I really want. What I have come to realize is that I like rubbing myself up against discomfort to find out just how much of it I can really handle. This personality trait works really well with Ashtanga yoga, because there are poses that seem strategically placed to weed out people who can’t handle the discomfort. For all the poses that could scare me off I usually just dig in even harder. I find I am incredibly patient when things are difficult, but terribly impatient in the most mundane moments of my life, like walking my dog.

I think I have the Ganesha spirit inside of me. Ganesha is all about overcoming obstacles. When yoga throws a pose at me that seems illogical to my body, I just trumpet out “Oh yeah, watch me!” then I take another deep breath and carry on. In my practice I have come up against Marichyasana D, Baddha Konasana, pashasana, kapotasana, dwi pada sirsasana and a few others. Here’s what I can tell you about these asanas. Don’t give up, and don’t think they will come quickly. Marichyasana D took me 3 years to bind. Baddha Konasana took me 10 years to get my forehead to the floor and knees down. Pashasana has taken me 13 years on my left and is still a tad elusive on my right. Kapotasana took me 7 years just to touch my toes, and dwi pada sirsasana only happens for me as Yoginidrasana, because of a herniated L5/S1. Even with a consistent 6-day-a-week practice these poses have taken a long time to come around. So why should we do yoga for ten years just to get our forehead down to the ground? What’s the point?

Baddha Konasa. Years of running made this pose a practice of patience.

Baddha Konasa. Years of running made this pose a practice of patience.

The point is, if I don’t walk away from challenges in yoga then it’s likely I won’t walk away from other challenges life throws my way. The point is, I now have a sense of pride every time I execute those postures. No one but me made them happen. But put these things aside and ask a different question. Why would I walk away when I have no ability to predict when I will be able to do these postures? If I would have put a time limit on my yoga practice; that, if these things don’t happen for me in a year then I’m walking away. Who’s to say that the day after I walk away it wouldn’t be the day my hands clasp, or my head touches the floor. I feel there is a greater risk in walking away than there is in seeing it through. Walking away will always leave me with regrets, but seeing it through is like turning the door knob of opportunity. Walking away is like never even ringing the doorbell of opportunity. Sure I have regrets from things I didn’t walk away from sooner, but they are always overshadowed by all that I am proud of myself for NOT walking away from.

Why not walk away from Ashtanga yoga when the going gets tough? When I did bind in marichyasan D no-one dropped party streamers and brought me a cake. No-one read about it in People Magazine. The interest rate on my visa card didn’t drop, the bills in my mail box didn’t go away, the dog I wish would live forever didn’t suddenly defy nature and survive her cancer, and my boss didn’t call me into her office and say “I hear you bound Marichyasana D last night. Congratulations, here’s your new office and a $5,000 raise.” So what is all the hard work for if it didn’t get me any of those things? But keep in mind what I did get…pride. How much is pride worth and would you stand in line to buy some? Do you think buying pride would feel the same as earning it? If two lines were forming one selling pride, and another selling patience which line would you stand in?

Pride is like food for our spine. It pulls your shoulders back, and you seem to stand a little taller. Especially if it came from sweat and hard work. The pride I gain from overcoming one difficult asana gives me fuel to over come the next, and the next after that. I think pride is what gives our eyes that little twinkle. Look into an ashtangi’s eyes after their practice, you’ll see that twinkle. I think pride settles our heart, and it strengthens our convictions. It is limitless in all that it gives. The beauty of pride is it best earned with patience. Patience is the real hero. Its sort of like how your body makes a shadow; patience shines a light on areas that are weak. As you work through those areas you get stronger and then can do more. Pride is just the after effect of your patience.

I love those moments where the Universe laughs at me for thinking I have control over all that’s around me. When the ego boast the “ME! ME! ME!” cry and all you’ll end up hearing is the Universe laughing. The ego may drive you to want more asanas, but sooner or later the ego becomes weak. What takes over when the ego walks away…the heart. Its inside the heart that patience lives. Don’t be afraid to let hard work pay off and to see things through. There will be no party, and probably no checks will be written, but there will be a sense of great pride. Pride like that can make you feel as strong as an elephant. Hopefully that elephant like feeling you experience is Ganesha pointing out to you that you are overcoming obstacles. So, put away your wallet because patience can not be bought. But I promise you, if you don’t find some you will end up paying for it.

Patiently moving into Kapotasana.

Patiently moving into Kapotasana.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do I do yoga?

I have had a lull in my writing. I now know that this venture is going to be tricky one. I write best when I’m feeling inspired and creative. I guess right now those juices are just not flowing. That’s ok, I can honor and respect that. But I also figure that I can out-smart it, or work around it. I have five writings that I have started but just can’t seem to finish. So, I thought I’d keep it simple and try to write about something that would come easy. So: “Why do I do yoga.

Well, to answer that I wonder if you need to know how yoga came into my life? 12 years ago I was living in Columbus, Ohio. I was 28 and married and working as a manager at a retail pet store chain. My husband was in advertising and he was shooting a commercial for our local hospital. They were using a firm out of California to film it. So one night we went out to dinner with all of the crew to this great Indian restaurant. The restaurant had the best gulab jaman that I have ever eaten. It’s this yummy round pancake like dessert that floats in a bowl of honey and other spices like cardamon and nutmeg. I recommend you try it, if you’ve never had it. Anyway, I sat next to a gentleman that had an interest in Buddhism, as did I. So we got to talking, and the conversation led us to the topic of yoga. He began to imply that from some of my patterns of thought and behavior that I would love yoga. See, at this point I had already been a vegetarian for 4 years and I had a great appreciation for the human body. I had been working out for years as a way to stay healthy and active, and at one point I even worked hard at trying to become a bodybuilder.

That man was very persistent, so I signed up for my first yoga class at our local gym. This was back when yoga studios were not available in every neighborhood, as they are now. It took place one day a week, for 8 weeks, back in a tiny conference room, off the gym.  The first class was me, 7 other people and the teacher. He turned off the lights, offered us yoga mats and walked us through approximately 12 poses in one hour. I had been lifting weights and running for the past 12 years, so I considered myself pretty darn fit. I walked out of that class, and for the first time, thought of fitness in a whole new light. I couldn’t do half of the 12 poses he led us through, and none of them were advanced poses. I remember this one pose in particular  that I could not execute and  it left my mind spinning. How could I be fit enough to run a triathlon, fit enough to bench press 165 pounds and fit enough to ride my bike 30 miles, but couldn’t handle an hour yoga class without feeling pretty darn inadequate. I figured that if something that looked simple in it’s outward appearance, but could humble me that much was something worth sticking with. And sticking with it I did indeed.

Upavishta Konasana

Upavishta Konasana

Jump ahead 12 years later and I still do yoga. Now it is 6 days a week for at least an hour and half up to, two and half hours a day. That pose that I couldn’t even tip forward in one inch is now easily executed and cherished as the pose that got me to where I am today. It’s called Upavishta Konasana or more simply put wide leg straddle forward fold. I worked hard on that pose to get it to where it is now.

So why do I do yoga? I do yoga because after that first class I felt great. But better then great, I felt curious. I felt a strong need to know. Right after that class, literally 10 mins after it finished, I was buying my first two yoga books from the store that was walking distance from the gym. Weeks later I still didn’t really know what yoga was, even after reading a few books and going to all 8 classes offered. But what I did know is that I didn’t know it all. At the age of 18 we think we know it all and that doesn’t change much in your young 20’s. But I do think there is a moment for everybody when you realize you have to admit you don’t know it all. But what got me, was that I thought I knew a lot at least about my limits. And that sentence right there is why I do yoga. Because there really seems to be no limit to this practice of yoga. 12 years in and I still almost daily walk away tickled pink by yet another physical/mental challenge I have over-come. I got hooked on yoga because of the number of things that I couldn’t accomplish. I hated this idea that other people could do those things that I couldn’t. So yes, the competitive side in me was being confronted. A lot of people say yoga is not a competition, getting all holier than thou about how yoga is spiritual and not about the ego. Your confrontation with your ego will make you grow spiritually, that you will not escape. But I’ll tell you this, for me, it was and still is about competition. And I’ll tell you why.

The ego is not bad. It’s your confidence, it’s your courage, it’s your hootspa. It’s what makes me carry my voice, it’s what makes me stand up straight, and it’s what makes me determined. If I didn’t want to be better then I was yesterday then why get out of bed? We need to learn to embrace the ego. It is what drives us to experience life usually to the fullest. Without it, we would be meek, shy and reclusive, and miss out on so much stuff in this one life we are lucky to experience.

What is so great about yoga and the way that it is practiced is for an hour to an hour and a half there is no talking! This forces you to listen to all the chatter in your head. This forces you to hear how your ego speaks to you – whether or not it speaks kindly or aggressively, logically or illogically, honestly (satyam) or dishonest.  What the ego brings up in us is not always good, nor is competitiveness. But at least if you are given the time and space to listen, you might figure a way to get out of your own way. The best time to listen is in a home practice, where there is no teacher, music or other students to compare yourself against. It’s just you and what’s in your head and body that day.

So yes, yoga keeps me flexible and keeps me strong. Those are the two best physical reasons to do yoga. But what it boils down to outside those two things, is it keeps me adaptable, humble and balanced (sattvam). The ego can’t get too big and or too small when you practice at home, holding your own feet to the fire (agni). Not everyday is the same on the yoga mat. Just the other day I had a practice that felt like I was beginner. There was no willingness in my body anywhere. But it’s a discipline and I am a disciple of it, because it has endlessly surprised me with showing me all that I am capable of. It turns out that my original goal of wanting to be a bodybuilder came true. Through yoga, I am building the best body I have ever had. Yoga encompasses everything in my body: my heart, lungs, muscles, injuries (himsa), weaknesses (klesha, obstruction), strength’s, attitude’s (bhavanam), opinion’s, laziness (alasya), ego (asmita) and more. It keeps it all changing, adapting and improving.

The best word to describe yoga and the impact it has on me is  “EVOL-UTION”. If you look closely, by no coincidence do I believe; in the spelling of evolution, LOVE  is spelled backwards. I believe in evolution because I have experienced it. It’s being able to see where I have been that better directs me to where I need to go. To evolve is to develop gradually, there’s no better gradual way then one day at a time, one yoga practice at a time. I am capable of anything that I want bad enough. To want something, I must have desire. I desire it because the ego see’s something that it wants to do better.

Yoga gives me the platform to expand. There are over 1,300 variation of  yoga postures. If I had to guess, as popular as yoga is today, there are probably more being added. I have a long way to go in being able to execute all of the asana’s out there. But because I want to be better than others, not to bring them down, but to elevate myself higher then I currently am. I will get it done. I have never gotten bored in the past 12 years. But I have gotten frustrated, injured, and knocked down a peg or two, but the competitive side in me says, get up, brush it off and roll out your mat.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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