By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
What is the biggest obstacle to Yoga practice? Training one’s ego to take a back seat is part of a Yoga practice. Our egos often undermine attempts to better ourselves, which seems surprising at first, until one realizes that the ego is not the Self. When we use the word “ego” in this context, we are referring to the mind. This definition of ego may differ from the definitions used in psychology.
The ego is a false self, which is created when individuals mistake their thinking mind as their Self. Thought cannot exist without consciousness. However, consciousness can run on autopilot (without much thought). When the mind believes itself to be the Self, much fear arises. The ego is a fragile entity, viewing itself as an isolated fragment. This fragmentation is the cause of much unease and suffering.
Viewpoint as an Obstacle to Yoga Training
The ego views the world from a viewpoint where it is under constant attack from other egos. Everything, including compromise, seems to spell death to the ego because it deeply fears losing control; and it is not a real being. This is where the compulsive need to be right in an argument stems from. To be wrong about anything – means “death,” to the ego.
The ego likes to either dwell on the past, or imagine a future, because it can put itself in those two places. There is no place for the ego where there is stillness. Yoga is a significant threat to the ego because it calms the mind, rendering it silent, and exposes the ego as an unhappy impostor of the true Self.
The ego also attaches itself to, and gets its identity from, problems and labels. Anything that will fix a problem will be resisted by the ego. If one thinks he or she has a weight problem, and takes up the practice of Yoga to counter it, the ego will eventually begin to undermine the practice because the ego thinks it has a weight problem. Taking the weight problem away is threatening, and the ego would rather be unhappy and overweight than not exist at all.
The Mind as an Obstacle to Yoga Training
Strangely, the ego is not our enemy. In the true light, the ego is the mind when it is out of control. The mind is a beautiful tool to be used when needed, but there are times when the mind should stop its senseless chatter and be silent.
When the mind begins listing all the reasons why you should not do your Yoga practice for the day, just sit back and listen. Listen, but do not judge. Note that you are the one who is listening. The ego is doing the talking. Observing the ego is all that is needed to render it powerless.
This is the beginning of freedom from the ego and mind chatter. Continued Yoga practice will help you continue your life’s journey with a quiet and focused mind – free of fear and distraction.
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