There are many habitual strategies I utilize to bolster my image in the world. I want to look good! Yoga class is no exception, even as a teacher. For example, whether I was teaching or taking a class, anytime a challenging pose was cued, I’d delay entering the posture for as long as possible to be sure I could hold it for a few extra moments at the end so everyone could see how solid I was in that pose. It’s weird that I can continue these habits and conveniently not acknowledge why I do them, but the fact that it feels gross to tell you about it is one reason–my ego doesn’t want to be busted. Conscious and curious awareness about selfish habits is necessary to grow in to a human that is able to serve beyond ego driven needs. Now as a teacher, it can of course be great to demonstrate your mastery in a pose, but it is the reason behind the demonstration that counts, and for me, that reason was often rooted in selfish ego stroking. Whew!
Yoga teachers often play the role of not only being a master of yoga, but a master of life. Dangerous! Another humbling truth I brought awareness to recently was the creation of an image to my students of a physical body that no longer experiences aches and pains after a dozen years of yoga practice. As a yoga teacher, it seems that it would be useful to project this idealized goal of a pain free and healthy body to your students, but if it’s dishonest, it may have an adverse affect. Yikes again, but who am I kidding, I don’t want to trick people in to believing an ideology. So I opened up at a recent class and told everyone that I had a weird neck kink that has lasted for days and I didn’t have any explanation for it. Upon sharing I saw the class relax and let go. My honesty deepened their trust in me, and with trust, they could relax in to a greater honesty with themselves. They didn’t have to protect an image either. What a powerful way to begin a class.
Awareness breeds awareness, a similar image theme exposed itself to me while mountain biking recently. When climbing challenging hills with others around, I have always tried to hide how hard I was breathing. I am intentionally practicing shallow breathing to paint an inaccurate picture of myself to myself and others, which doesn’t do any of us any good! Lame, especially for a yoga teacher who champions unselfconscious breathing every yoga class! Now sure you could be playing psychological games with other riders by not showing how hard you’re working…but come on, if you’re not in the world cup, is that really a useful strategy for any other reason than ego-upping your buddies? Lets promote breathing!
If you’re having a hard time finding any of your own ego serving habits (which is usually the case, they’re invisible to you), try asking a good friend, or better yet your significant other (though you usually don’t have to ask, they’ve probably told you a thousand times so it’s a matter of owning it!), the longer you’ve been with them the better (I speak from experience 😉 Would love to hear what they say if you’re willing to share, just in case I’ve been doing the same thing and just haven’t realized it yet!!