Affirmation: I have a childlike ego.
The yoga teacher took us from Warrior II into Side Angle. The pose requires you to bend your front leg and lean over it and rest your forearm on your thigh. Normally, your palm is faced downward. “Turn your palm up” she said, “pretend you are holding something fragile, perhaps your ego.” I laughed out loud. This is why I practice yoga. I look everywhere for those messages that will enrich my life. I search every day for those insights that will enable me to know myself better so that I may live a fuller, more meaningful existence. This day, it came to me from my teacher, Karin Johnson, at Rex Wellness here in Cary, NC. How fragile is my ego?
One day while attending a class we were encouraged to go into an asana known as Crow. In this pose you squat down with your feet and knees wide and your palms between your legs, flat on the ground. You are then suppose to raise up onto your palms while balancing your thighs against your upper arms. I’ve done this pose. It’s not easy and requires upper body strength as well as balance. Another reason I practice yoga is to take me out of my comfort zone. When I attempt a pose that I know does not come easily, it makes me feel brave. It’s brave with a small “b” but it empowers me when I’m out in the world to be brave, sometimes even “Brave.” I took the position and slowly raised up onto my palms and then fell straight over onto my nose. I fell with a very loud “whack!” This particular yoga class had about thirty people in it and I know everyone of them heard the sound of my flop. I hoped they were so involved in trying their own pose that they didn’t look up but I was sure everyone was looking at me, if just to make sure I was still alive.
“Yoga is not a competitive sport.” I start most of my classes with that statement. “Bring you attention to your mat, into your body.” The purpose of yoga is to unite the mind and the body. I usually add, “and the spirit.” I believe when we only focus on the physical aspect of the practice, we deny ourselves the real essence of yoga. When we practice we are called to be present, to stay in the moment. That’s the reason the ancient yogis initially came up with all these contortions. It’s almost impossible to stand on one leg with your hands high in the air, Tree pose, and to be thinking about anything other than what you are doing in that moment. You are fully present. It’s a gift. It’s the main lesson of the practice, stay in the here and the now. Once you learn to do that on your mat, it too is something you can take out into the world and practice in your everyday life.
I was lucky and my fall didn’t result in a broken or bloody nose but it did result in a dented ego. Most of the class knows I am a Registered Yoga Teacher and I pride myself on my ability to do some of the more advanced positions and there was my lesson. I was prideful. I am always telling people, “Anyone can do yoga.” But, the response I usually get is that they are not flexible enough. What they are really saying is unless I’m already good at something, I am not willing to try it. Our egos have become the wall that keeps us imprisoned in our small comfortable space. Whenever I think of that fall while attempting the Crow pose, I laugh. It was a wonderful lesson. It was humbling and it was exactly what I needed to learn from that day’s practice.
Recently I attended the NC Senior Follies. One of my fiddle buddies, Constance Belton, is the teacher and choreographer of the line dancing team, The Cary Cure Alls. She and six other women did a mock strip tease to the song Fever. They came out in scrubs and white coats with caps on their heads, surgical gloves and wearing stethoscopes and began to remove one item at a time while they tap danced. (Look them up on YouTube.) They won one of the Gold Medals and were the overall champions. There were about a dozen different acts. Some of the seniors sang, some played musical instruments and one group call themselves The Shakers. They are the Senior Game cheerleaders. The event was pure fun.
After being told to “hold my fragile ego gently in my palm.” I began to think of all those other times when my ego prevented me from fully experiencing life. I wondered when did that begin? Certainly, as a child I wasn’t afraid to try new things. If that were true, one would never learn to walk or to talk. One would never learn anything! Those amazing seniors had put away their egos in order to go onto the stage and share their skills. That’s another secret to a full, rich, fun filled life; hold your ego gently and don’t let it prevent you from trying something new, something at which you might not be good, something at which you might be terrible but who cares! Life is too short not to experience it all. Gently place your ego down and live life like a child whose is first exploring their world.
I heard a story about an older successful executive who was with a group of people when the topic turned to, “What have you always wanted to do that you haven’t yet done.” He told the group he always wanted to try tap dancing. That evening he looked up dance studios in his area and the next day he began his lessons. He loved it! For all I know, he’s out there somewhere competing in his local Senior Follies. For me, well maybe I’ll try standing on my head in my next yoga class, maybe!