Those that begin yoga as a way to improve health and fitness usually find, after a period of time, that the mind plays a larger role in yoga than they originally thought. Not only does yoga help to calm and focus the mind, it can give us a better understanding of our self and how we interact with the world around us. While yoga can be beneficial to the mind, we also have to be careful that the mind doesn’t get in the way of our yoga progress.
A Self Centered Practice
Yoga practice should be centered on the self, but not self-centered. Yoga starts at the outer layers of the body and works its way inside, slowly, until it finds the self within us. It’s a process of unfolding and revealing. If the self tries to assert itself in the form of pride or ego, then progress in yoga will be hindered or derailed.
This is not an unusual occurrence. We all have to contend with the tendency of the ego, in one form or another, to present itself. It can happen in yoga class or during home practice. It’s important to know the difference between being confident and aware of yourself and when you are letting pride take over.
In Yoga Class
It is a fairly common saying that yoga students should leave their pride and ego at the door when they enter a yoga studio. Comparing yourself to other students in class, either favorably or unfavorably, is a common mistake. Yoga is not a spectator sport; we should only be watching ourselves.
We should also be receptive to the knowledge and instruction that a teacher has to offer. Thinking that we know more than the teacher or that correction or adjustment will not help our pose means we are being prideful and resistant to learning. This assumes, of course, that the teacher is experienced and qualified.
During Home Practice
It is also easy to fall into pride and ego traps in home yoga practice. Thinking that we don’t need to work on or practice a particular pose can be one of the first warning signs. We can all improve all of our poses. Yoga is a lifelong practice, and even yoga masters continue to study, explore and learn.
Studying the yamas and niyamas, the first two limbs of yoga, can help with developing a mindset for yoga asana practice. We learn to stay dedicated and motivated without greed or desire while remaining humble, as if our yoga was an offering. Approached this way, yoga serves us well. The true self is nourished; pride and ego fall to the side.