The other day I wrote briefly about how a serious yoga practice forces you to confront and work through your specific issues or samskaras shall we say.
From the outside viewer’s perspective this might sound a little far-fetched, you might wonder, how does jumping around on the mat require mental and emotional work?
But the more I practice Ashtanga the more I see just how much internal work is involved.
I’ve written before about my relationship with my teacher David, you might remember “My Yoga Teacher Makes Me Cry, Is That A Problem?. One of my recurring themes in this practice, as in life, is learning to be OK with myself no matter what other people think of me.
I’ve often struggled with this combination of feelings in that I suffer from low self-esteem, and yet I want/feel I need and deserve the approval and applause of other people. One of my fellow students calls this “the doormat in the center of the universe syndrome.”
But, to give myself a little credit, over the course of my different experiences with working with DG, I’m beginning to arrive at a more peaceful place. I don’t try to impress him or anyone else with my practice any more. I just continually work to do my best – for me. Recognizing and accepting the fact that I’m a newbie, imperfect and unskilled in many departments has been rather liberating. I don’t have to worry so much about looking good; I can instead focus on what really matters – my practice!
But today in Mysore I had one of those moments when my awareness was brought directly to one of my (other) latent issues or patterns:
I’m kind of a brat!
Blame it on being the youngest child – spoiled but also a bit ignored especially in my adolescent years, or being a precocious kid, constantly told how “special” they were, or blame it on first-world private school education system with it’s prescribed conditioning of self-importantance. Blame it on whatever, or better yet, forget the blame and just see it for what it is – a part of myself to learn from and hopefully transform and tame.
I’ve never particularly liked following the rules. One might even say I’ve had “authority” issues my whole life, even as a temper tantrum throwing three-year old Montessori kid – I do what I want! Because I was “special” (whatever that means – smart, pretty, talented, emotional, unique, gifted, challenged – one and the same), I got away with this kind of behavior.
Perhaps that’s the irony of my young adult life is that now I self-impose discipline and structure with my lifestyle choices, diet, relationships and yoga practice. I crave it and yet when the going gets tough, I rebel against it. I want to push it away like an angry child batting away her mother’s calming embrace.
Today DG came over to me during parvritta parsvokanasana to adjust my stance and solidify my foundation. He gave me a certain direction that I didn’t want to follow. I reacted and whined “But David…..”
I immediately recognized what I was doing, which led me to remember other instances in past practices when, annoyed with the directions he offered me, I would purposefully do the exact opposite, in defiance like a little child pouting, “So there!”.
Today, fortunately, I had the awareness to stop my inner brat and sit her down for a heart-to-heart. I had to ask her why exactly she was so upset, why did she feel belittled and aggravated by this minor instruction. Then I had to look at my patterned reaction of defiance and ask myself “How is this serving me?”
The answer was plain as day – not at all!
By blatantly refusing to adjust my practice per my teacher’s guidelines, I wasn’t hurting him in the least, only myself.
A good teacher doesn’t tell his student to do something to boost his own ego or injure the student. A good teacher gives instructions from a place of conscious and deep care for the student and his/her well-being.
All good and proper discipline can be viewed this way – it is not put in place to limit or imprison a person, but rather to help one be the best that they can be, to keep them safe, in line and healthy. Thad wrote a piece on elephant journal that I absolutely love on this topic of the freedom that can emerge from structure.
This is the kind of mental and emotional work that occurs in practice that is so powerfully transformative for me. It is one of the reasons I love yoga so much. By examining this simple incident of my reaction in a yoga asana I’m able to transpose that work and the resolution I discovered to real-life situations, off the mat.
This is one of the most precious gifts of yoga. If approached with a willingness to honestly look at yourself, self-reflect and work with the challenges presented to you, the therapeutic nature of the practice pervades all the levels of being.
How does your yoga practice help you learn and grow? How do you work with the parts of yourself that are resistant to change?
Thanks for reading Lila.