Though I can’t remember where or exactly when, I once read about the propensity of Hatha Yogis to be a bit too invested in their egos when it came to asana practice. It must’ve been early in my practice because I didn’t know what it meant—but I sure do now.
Since I began practicing almost 20 years ago, I’ve injured myself several times just plain showing off what I could do. In 1996 while attempting the splits I tore some hamstrings in my left thigh. Currently I’m working with two nagging injuries born of my own egoistic attachment to demonstrating the prowess of a 60 year old yogi.
You may be familiar with William Broad’s 2012 book, The Science of Yoga. Much of what he chronicled about yoga injuries rang true to me. He clearly showed in so many cases that yoga injuries happened because of the egos of the practitioners—some of whom were seasoned and even famous teachers who should’ve known better.
My point is that too often in the West yoga is disconnected from the very spiritual tradition that it is designed to cultivate. Rod Stryker puts it succinctly when he says, “What most of us in the West commonly associate with yoga represents only the tip of the iceberg that is yoga, a tiny fraction of what is a vast and profound science in fact.”
The purpose of this practice is not to give us sexy, enviable bodies but to help us develop our full human potential. Yoga calls us to transcend the ego so that we can transform our lives and the world. This practice provides the tools we need to build a culture based on respect, love, kindness and the unleashing of our miraculous aptitudes to make peace and plenty a reality for all.
Last week I picked up a copy of Mantra Yoga + Health magazine. One quote that just pierced my heart comes from Catherine Ghosh. “For in yoga, it is the pure interconnectedness between us, or sat sanga (company of the wise), that best ignites our practice, and moves us into new postures of consciousness that would have otherwise seemed impossible to achieve.” Postures of consciousness. Just let that sink in for a minute. If yoga practice is not helping us to embody the righteous behavior that revolutionizes our lives then we might as well just be doing jumping jacks.
New postures of consciousness through the practice of being connected to each other heart-to-heart will allow the human race to let go of hate, greed, and the ruinous competition that is leading us to extinction. New postures of consciousness will prompt us to adopt ahimsa or non-harming as a basic behavior. New postures of consciousness will help bring about an era that sees human nature evolve in fundamental, positive ways. New postures of consciousness will help us dissolve the hardened human ego and help us claim a new day—a day we once thought impossible.