Happy Friday Yogis!
After taking it easy the last two days, I was ready for a vigorous flow this morning. I decided to take Emily’s Level 2 class at Laughing Lotus in Manhattan. I’ve practiced at Laughing Lotus a handful of times, but this was my first time taking Emily’s class. It was everything I was looking for: great flow and challenging sequencing. Of course, whenever I find myself in the midst of a challenging sequence, my ego likes to come out to play–not so yogic, I admit.
I find my ego is even louder when I haven’t been in a class setting with other yogis for a bit. When I’m by myself in my apartment, it is a lot easier to focus on advancing my own practice and not worrying if my pose doesn’t look “perfect.” However, get me into a yoga studio and all bets are off. Side Angle Pose with my forearm on my elbow is no longer good enough–I have to stretch my hand to the floor. Step back to plank? No thanks, I’ll jump into chaturanga today. And the thing is, nothing is wrong with changing your practice from day to day. But what we need to pay attention to is WHY we are changing it. For me, in a group setting, it is often to try to impress others, or at the very least, boost my “yogi cred.”
Today, the beginning of class was not much different for my ego and me. I was definitely not practicing non-judgment as I fell out of Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), blaming my empty stomach (and subsequently my poor time management that prevented me from eating this morning). I felt slightly better when I improved on my second side. But why? Because everyone else around me will approve of me more? After a while, the chatter in the mind becomes exhausting.
And then, before we knew it, she was leading us straight for headstand. I didn’t recognize it at first; she had us lowering into dolphin with clasped hands, and I was anticipating a forearm plank or forearm stand. But then she directed us to lower our heads down and walk our feet in and I realized what we were doing–and what I should not be doing. As I mentioned earlier this week, I am on a headstand hiatus until my wonky neck starts to feel better. But this was Laughing Lotus and, without looking up, I estimated that at least 3/4 of the class would be going upside down (I later learned I was correct). It was really tempting to want to get up there to basically say to everyone, “Hey guys, I can do it to!” (accompanied by a side-to-side head shake and maybe even a “Pshhh!”). But I decided (to the relief of my neck) to remain in the prep for the pose, and when that started to feel uncomfortable, I surrendered into child’s pose. Of course, a tiny part of me was still looking for a way to alert the entire class that, in fact, I am able to do a headstand, I am just CHOOSING not to. But alas, that did not happen and the beautiful thing is both my ego and my neck are still in tact.
So…not a perfectly executed “extinguishing” of my ego…but it was a small step. And really, that’s all we can ask for from our yoga practice: small but meaningful steps towards our goal. They will keep adding up to something great.
What small step have you made recently towards a goal?