April 12, 2013

Check Your Yoga Ego. ~ Ashley Holly McEachern

I’m feeling itchy. Bitchy. A little bit misguided, surprise surprise.

As I sit here picking at my nails sipping my tea and trying to make sense of this whole “yoga” thing. Oh man, what have I gotten myself into?

When I became a teacher, my intention was simple. Make people feel good and feel confident and feel free! Smile. Laugh. Be curious about their bodies. Explore a little. Love a little. And ooze some of that savasana goodness out into the world when it is icky and sticky and not so happy at all.

My original intention in pursuing yoga teacher training was ignited by a seemingly never-ending battle with my own ego—I knew it was eating me alive and I was tired of it.

Tired of trying so hard to please the world, of pretending, of wearing a mask to appease expectations placed upon me (by others, and yours truly) to get great grades, go to university, do my masters, get published, make money, fall in love, have babies, manage career and family, be rich and famous and blah blah blah. Coming to yoga, for me, was about ditching that shit—which is exactly what it was, it was my “shit” as my friends call it—I was stuck living in a constant state of trying pathetically to be the best and appease the worst.

Yoga teacher training, and teaching yoga as I wandered homelessly throughout the Americas thereafter was the best tool I had ever encountered to truly transform my life. To take me out of my story about who I was and how I should be and into that raw curly haired wild woman that I truly am. My eventual decision to quit my job and truly commit to my work as a yoga teacher was with the belief that it could help others as it helped me.

Alas, here I am, living the dream.

Teaching yoga full time, hosting dream like retreats with goddess like women, eating and living healthy, passionately and wildly. But as I sat down today to evaluate my finances, my career, my plan, I caught myself researching yoga festivals and reading the inspiring bios yoga teachers across the globe. And all of a sudden I was struck with this expectation to and guilt of not doing a list of things that to be truthful, have little to do with what I came to yoga for. Perusing the biographies of wonder lust yoga teachers, I felt inspired, excited and then, totally and completely deflated.

Whoa, I thought, whatever happened to just sharing the love? Instead, I now feel the need to do the following:

>>Start my own non-profit
>>Attend and/or teach at wanderlust, Omega, the Esalen Institute, Kripalu
>>Give a Ted Talk
>>Write for or be on the cover of Yoga Journal, Yoga International, Sweat Equity and elephant journal (irony intended)
>>Host an online web series
>>Become a Lululemon ambassador
>>Record and host classes on yogaglo and myyogaonline
>>Make my own brand of DVDs
>>Become a naturopath, chiropractor, massage therapist, structural integration therapist, acupuncturist, Reiki master, shaman, nutritionist and…
>>Rebrand myself, post more frequently on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Foursquare and whatever the hell else is out there.
>>Teach really expensive private classes, pack group studios to the brim and ignore things like technique, OM, savasana, meditation and that real stuff I came to yoga for in the first place to appease the 40+ alternating desires that enter the room each day.

Wait! I stop myself midway through scribbling out my “future plan” as a yoga teacher. No no no! These are not the reasons I came to this path, to this place. I came to heal, to help others heal, not to meet up with that damned ego (mine and yours) once more and seek yogi fame! Yuck! I reflect on my writings from my teacher training and am reminded quite clearly why I am here, doing what I am doing today. Thank goodness for diaries.

“It is the final week of teacher training and I have learned the entire series, some Sanskirt names and meditation, body mind soul connectedness, the meaning of surrendering, the philosophy of yoga, the different bodies we wear and the reasons why I have learned to abandon the mundane, materialistic search for meaning and embrace the higher questions. I have learned to cry, to let go of fear and to give love and be loved. I quit biting my nails and I read by candlelight. I dreamt of filling homes with fruits and dancing naked in living rooms. This is so much more than yoga. Today I woke up happy.”

I feel home here, in the middle of nowhere.
Her body
Cold and frigid
Half asleep on a strangers floor
In her guru’s home
Adorned with faces and places
Aligned with the divine
Admidst the sacred valley
She flew
A space
Wide awake
Beyond ego

And so, I scratch that list above, determined to stop being lost in others expectations and get back to me. I remember all of my favorite yoga teachers, who I lose temporarily as they slip into the yoga teacher burn out. Our job as teachers is not to do everything, for most of us it is simply to help people help themselves through creating a space where they can go inward, practice self love and learn to laugh at themselves.

So I write my new list—this one is real, authentic. No mask, no pretending, no busy—busy—busy, no ego, just me and the passion and love I have for helping and healing myself and those around me.

>>Meditate one hour every day
>>Maintain my personal practice with my favorite teachers
>>Complete Vipassana training
>>Study with anatomy greats because I am truly curious to learn more about the body, not because it’s “the thing to do,”  but because it is what to do to help more.
>>Be patient and compassionate with my body
>>Host women’s retreats to genuinely help other women
>>Accept myself for who I am, love myself for who I am and be kind and peaceful to the people in my life.
>>Bring laughter to stress, smiles to frowns and openness to hearts
>>Ditch the ego. That cursed thing. I’m bidding you adieu.

So a word to my fellow yoga teachers—we rave about expectations, and some days, we too are going to plop right into a stinky pile of them—feeling a need to get a professional photo shoot in boogie shorts and ab-exposing sports bras and do everything in our power to be yogi-famed. Be careful. That will eat you up and ship you straight out of your original yoga path and into a place that I can sure bet the original yogis would shake their heads at. Or maybe this is all just my ego’s way of making myself better than you—of espousing envy and blame? Who knows. Maybe 10 days of silent meditation will help me figure it out. But no, I will not tweet the experience.

Ashley Holly McEachern is a yoga teacher, a writer, a globetrotter and a life lover. She has traveled over 10 countries as a graduate student in International Development, a charity worker, a political and not-so-political journalist, a yoga teacher, a spirit seeker and a lover of all things Mother Nature has to offer.  She lives with her heart on her sleeve and teaches with a deep passion. She is blessed to co-host Bare All Retreats to help women overhaul their bodies, their minds, their chequebooks and have a wildly fun time while they are at it. Visit her website to learn more!

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Ed:Kate Bartolotta
Asst. Editor: Wendy Keslick




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