January 14, 2013

Just Showing Off? ~ Hui Goh

Source: fatcuda.com via Aaron on Pinterest

How ego and envy lead to unwarranted judgements in yoga class.

I was doing my regular catch-up of all things yoga, when I stumbled across the following paragraph by Alonzo Lyons in the Australian Yoga Life*:

“… most yoga halls are brimming with ego… I tried not to let the bark of ego be worse than the illusion of its bite on my self esteem and ignored the students who breathlessly wrapped ankles behind ears (and are pleased at the attention).”

Reading this, I’ll admit that my feathers got a little ruffled. I was so bothered, in fact, that I got distracted from the rest of the article (which wasn’t even focused on ego, fancy that!) and began to plan my response.

Why the reaction? Fair question. For starters, I happen to be one of those students who looks like a pretzel in yoga class—even though I certainly don’t do it for attention. Lately I’ve just heard so many gripes from yogis (as well as from some people who have never even stepped into a yoga class) about how they stay away from group classes because the advanced yogis just put them off.

I remember my first yoga class, that feeling of being lost and trying awkwardly to follow what everyone else was doing.

I had never felt so uncertain; everyone looked like they just knew what they were doing. Then, I saw it—this blonde, svelte yogini directly in front of me lifted herself from bound side angle pose into a beautiful bird of paradise. Something in me just clicked, and I felt so inspired—a feeling which lasted throughout my practice that day, and for months and years to come.

After a few months of working on that asana (yoga pose), I could finally unfold into the full bird of paradise. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, but it’s similar to when you finally sink that little bit deeper in your forward bend, or let go that little bit more in savasana (corpse pose). To achieve the full expression of the pose, and to do it well, requires discipline and oneness, all of which can ultimately only impact us positively.

How then does the concept of ego come in? Do we just assume that someone doing a handstand is doing so purely out of narcissism and for the attention?

Such thoughts say more about the person making those assumptions than the yogi on the receiving end. Yoga is not a competition, and there shouldn’t be any envy while on the mat—yet such is human nature.

I’m all too familiar with it; I’ve worn those shoes before. Back in my days as a music student at university, it was not unusual to label anyone who was a great performer as arrogant. They obviously have no life, how else could they be so good? Did I know any of them personally? No. I still judged.

Projecting shortcomings onto another, no matter how false, somehow justified their achievements in my mind.

My yoga practice has played a huge role in taking me from those days of blind judgement to my present goal of always keeping an open mind. I have never once thought of my yoga class as a pot brimming with ego, even when it’s filled with yogis much more advanced than I.

I would like to think that no matter how advanced the student, they are at one with their practice, just as I strive to be with mine. Just remember that every advanced yogi was once a beginner too.

If you feel yourself being judged, that judgement is probably coming from within.

* “Instant Karma,” Australian Yoga Life, Issue 37, 2012

 Hui Goh is a Melbourne-based yogini and music teacher. When she is not on the mat or succumbing to her internet addiction, she is out for a jog or curled up with a good book. For some things yoga, and some things not, visit her blog at Putting the World Back On Its Axis.




Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

Asst Ed: Olivia Gray

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