There is a sign hanging on the door of a yoga studio where I practice that reads, “Leave your shoes and your ego at the door.”
I’ve always loved this little sign, and I find myself pausing to look at it each time I enter. It seems simple enough. Lately, however, I have found dropping my ego at the door harder than ever.
My yoga practice has taught me so much about myself. It’s an amazing work-in. Every few months or every few breaths, I learn where I am stuck, how difficult it is for me to let go, and where I need to open. It is as if piece by piece, my body is revealing something new about my heart.
When I first began practicing yoga, my inner work was clear from my first attempt at back bending. Releasing fears and letting go of the need to protect my lower back was extremely difficult. I have a metal rod in my spine. I held such tension as I guarded the long held belief that I need protection.
The moment that I gripped my heels and found the back wall in Camel Pose was one that I will never forget. Pushing up into Full Wheel is still a release of limiting beliefs no matter how many times I find the strength to do it.
Hips Don’t Lie
As my practice progressed, my hips revealed just where more inner work needed to come. Not being able to open my hips in Malasana or Pigeon Pose exposed the areas of my past that I was not ready to acknowledge and release.
One morning, as I finally put my forehead to the floor in Pigeon, "Thank You" by Natalie Merchant was next on the playlist. I began to cry so hard. So many trapped emotions were set free from my body and heart. I let go. I created space.
My yoga practice has served as a road map of my heart using my body as a vehicle toward higher ground. ~Nicole Markardt
This is why I became a yoga teacher. I wanted to help people heal, as I have found healing from this beautifully transformative practice.
As I go deeper in my practice as a yoga teacher, I need to remind myself of this. I find myself needing reminding of why I began this journey of guiding yoga practice in the first place. There are some poses that, for the life of me, I still cannot do.
The Bind of My Ego
The Bind. I call it my white whale. No matter how I practice shoulder openers, I simply cannot bind. My ego manages to creep into the back door during practice and say things like, You’re an instructor! You should be able to bind!
I’ve actually found myself refraining from telling people that I am a yoga instructor because I feel a deep sense of insecurity about the poses I can’t do. Truth be told, Scorpion Pose, may as well be levitation and I still do my Headstand near a wall just in case.
It’s interesting because I know exactly what I would say to other yoga teachers who revealed these self judgmental thoughts to me. I would say that all bodies are different, that practice makes progress, and I would remind them that the beauty of yoga lies in our union of the body, mind, and spirit. We are opening and digging deeper. Yes, that is what I would say.
So, why is it that I cannot manage to allow these words into my own heart when speaking to myself? Yet, I believe in those words with my whole heart. I realize that my work now lies in chipping away at my ego. I had to work-in my emotional healing and now my work lies in healing of the mind.
I sat and wrote a list of ways that I can integrate the self-judgment of my limitations into my practice. These ideas affirm that I should respect my own feelings rather than shame myself for feeling them.
I am not this body. This body is nothing without me.
Having compassion for my own self-judgment helps me to have compassion for others when they judge themselves.
Breath is life. Yoga practice is one that respects the breath and keeps us in the present moment.
My physical limitations remind me of how far I’ve come. This serves to help me respect others limitations as I guide yoga class.
My physical limitations keep me motivated; when I’m sweating bullets and feeling momentary discomfort, I am motivated to keep going. This serves me in life off of my mat.
Comparison can serve to help us see what we want to achieve. Instead of judging ourselves for comparing, allow comparison to be a positive force for knowing what is wanted.
There is nothing wrong with setting personal goals.
Feel into the limitations of the body. They have a lot to teach. Do not rush or run away from them. They will be revelatory. Welcome them.
"Yoga is the martial art of the soul, and the opponent is the strongest you've ever faced: your ego."