It’s Saturday morning.
I wake up early so that I can make it to Angie’s Continuing Yoga class. As much as I teach these days, it is a pleasure to be a student at least once a week.
Angie knows my weaknesses, or what we lovingly refer to as bathroom poses. For years, when Angie said Pinca Mayurasana I took a bathroom break. My shoulders were non-compliant with the pose. Thus the nickname, bathroom pose.
I was a little jealous of the other students who so easily seemed to float up into Pinca. To be honest, I was jealous of anyone who floated into any pose. I love yoga, but it isn’t easy for me. I’ve had to work persistently for many years to gain a functional variation of Pinca Mayurasana, let alone a beautiful one.
Jealousy was interfering with my practice. It was driving me into the bathroom in the middle of yoga class, and ego was preventing me from working on the pose in class. I didn’t want to be seen failing again or, worse yet, falling out of the pose. So I worked on my own. While I was eventually able to achieve the pose, I wasn’t achieving my greater purpose by fearfully clinging to jealousy and ego.
Staying in class, struggling, and even failing has great benefits. I offer my vulnerable self to others. And I get to witness many beautiful versions of Pinca Mayurasana. Through witnessing I’m learning a more important yoga practice: mudita, empathetic joy. Mudita is the counterpose to jealousy and envy, and practicing it is much more empowering than practicing Pinca Mayurasana. Pinca is momentary rush, mudita is sustainance for the long haul.
Mudita, empathic joy: taking pleasure in the accomplishments of others, is a novel concept. I can experience the joy of the pose by witnessing others practicing the pose. Overcoming my jealousy and getting my ego out of the way, I am on my way to experiencing Samadhi, non-separateness.
Psychologists tell us we are born without a sense of separateness. At the beginning of our lives we do not experience a separation between ourselves, our mothers or the world. Ego and a sense of self develop with maturity. Ego helps us establish our place in the world and gives us a way to work with both our strengths and our limitations. However, if the ego becomes entrenched our sense of ‘I-ness’ can become a straight jacket of limitations. ‘I’ cannot become enlightened while ‘I’ am clinging to my concept of self through ‘my’ achievements.
Practicing the other 7 limbs of yoga along with Asana in yoga class, we can begin to experience moksha, freedom, from the straightjacket of the self. As mudita awakens in us we discover we don’t have to be good at everything. We are responsible for holding our place, for practicing all the limbs of yoga to the best of our ability, and then resting in joy of others as they do the same. It is the relaxing into this bigger awareness that is the pathway to Samadhi.
Editor: Andrea B.
Lisa Wells, PhD, ERYT500, loves yoga, dance, wilderness, teenagers, a good soy latte, tantric meditation, crows, humans, bodies, old growth forests, and life. She has been practicing yoga for over 20 years and teaching for 12 years. She co-owns Live Well Studio in Corvallis, Oregon. Her yoga style is poetic, somatic, grounded in Western anatomy and enriched by Ayurveda and Tantric subtle anatomy. She has a PhD in Geology from Stanford University, studied for two years in the Masters in Divinity Program through Meadville Lombard Theological School. In her free time she enjoys dancing in the forest and taking very very long walks.