I have been reading a lot about yoga because I don’t have a gym or a studio I go to. I am learning on my own. I research every pose before trying it. In my reading, I’ve come across countless articles about ego and how ego can lead to injury. I am not going to assume that people injure themselves because of ego. I could injure myself because of concentration issues and definitely my horrible balance. I have to admit feeling as if someone would need a small amount of ego to try some of the poses, like a handstand. A handstand could be significantly dangerous if done wrong. I have yet to attempt one because I’ve only worked up to thirty seconds on my planks. I am shaking still at second twenty five. I think I need to be able to do the plank for a lot longer if I am ever to do a handstand. I am working on buffing up my arms because I have trouble with pickle jars. I mean I love pickles, but it’s more about the functionality of having arms that can lift, move, and open things. Being able to do a handstand would be just a fun by product of that. I think it might be years before I try a handstand. I am not putting myself down or pushing my dreams down. I just have to know my limitations.
Why is so much literature out there about how not to get hurt with yoga and how to put your ego aside? Is that because we so often want to share our practice with others? I do find myself bragging when I have mastered a new pose. Sometimes it is a little ridiculous because I can only do the very basic moves. It’s like a sixteen year old bragging about being able to tie their shoes. I’m like, look at me I can do a twenty second plank! My ESL class was counting me down while I was showing off. All of them shouting 1, 2, 3 etc., when they said twenty I got off the floor to shouts of jubilation!
I don’t think it is bad to revel in the accomplishments but I think it’s important for my practice that I sort of marinate in the process of getting there. The vernacular is being mindful but I don’t think that is even appropriate. It’s more like savor. While working into the poses I don’t just want to be mindful of where my body is placed or how my muscles feel. I want to love how they feel. I want to enjoy it so much I feel the need to slow down and honor the way my body feels.
I’ve been desperate to open my hips up because of they are in pain. I do a lot of poses that stretch my pelvis and open my hips. In addition to Bound Angle Pose, Hand to Big Toe Pose, Reclining Bound Angle pose, countless upward dogs and many more hip openers, I heard that downward facing dog with stacked hips is one of the best hip openers. So I watched a video how to do it. After the video I went to my mat and started my practice. About seven poses in I usually do downward dog, but this time I lifted one of my legs held it there for ten seconds and then flexed my foot and bent my leg. I did exactly what the video told me to do. Boy did that feel good… at first. I was really enjoying it so I tried to deepen the stretch and then felt a ping of pain. It wasn’t a major pain. It was just a twinge that I knew could have turned into a major injury if the twinge hadn’t shocked me into stopping. As it was, my right hip was sore for about two hours. I was lucky. After researching the pose more thoroughly, I realized that I didn’t square my hips right. Was it my ego that convinced me to try a pose I hadn’t properly researched or desperation or both?
Is it ego that lets me try yoga at all? I am a plus size person who has no previous exercise experience. What business do I have trying something that seemingly only thin impossibly beautiful people can do? At least that is what I used to believe before all those wonderful plus size women blew up Instagram like Dianne Bondy, Jessamyn Stanley, and Dana Falsetti. So I think there is a little ego involved in doing yoga at all, on many layers.
There is a challenge to starting any exercise and then continuing it after failing at exercise over and over. In yoga I have failed a lot. Not only is my downward facing dog with stacked hips a failure the first time, but I can’t do a bow pose to save my life. I can’t reach both feet behind my back at once. (I can’t do many poses. Bow Pose is just the one I am working on now.) The only way I can continue with my practice after failing so much is not to look at it as failure. I have to look at it as progress. Just getting on the mat and getting closer is a big deal.
I used to quit exercise at the first sign of failure but now I inch towards things I never thought I could do. Savoring where I am now is what makes me able push through the doubt, but also temper my enthusiasm. Research and living in the pose, not just keeping my mind on it, but thoroughly enjoying the pose is the only way I am going to avoid a downward dog debacle again. It’s the difference between stretching, like To The Oldies, and yoga. This “mindfulness” should be inherent in the process, right? Maybe instead of my Ego getting the better of myself, I just lost sight of that. I will remind myself every time I get on my mat, that if I am taking the time to do this, then I better really appreciate it.