Bruised Ego, Torn Hamstring: Lessons from an Ashtanga Practice.


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My ego really loved yoga.

My ego loved going to class, getting my body in all those super-pretzel poses and watching myself  advance in my ashtanga yoga practice. It really seemed like a match made in heaven—until that day my ego and my hamstring had a little situation.

The conversation would have gone something like this (if hamstrings and egos talked):

Ego: Oh, what’s a little triangle pose without warming up on a cold day. I’ve been doing this for years now. This is beginner stuff.

Hamstring: Ouch, you may want to ease into it a little bit. How about a little warm up first?

Ego: Oh come on, this is only triangle pose. I can do far more challenging poses than this. This is just a little side bend.

Hamstring: Again, ouch. Snap. What was that? That feels weird and not in a good way.

Ego: Get over it. Ouch. Push through it. Ouch—maybe not. Sorry hamstring.

Hamstring: Thanks ego.  Namaste.

In short, my ego and hamstring were indeed talking to me—I just wasn’t listening.

How often do our bodies (and intuition) send us clear signals about when to ease up, slow down and to stop pushing—yet we ignore the signs altogether? We succumb to the ego—pushing, coercing, rationalizing and justifying its way into taking us further from awareness rather than closer to it.

And this isn’t just about how we do things on our mats. It’s how we do life. Are you resting when you need rest? Taking time to regenerate? Saying no when you need to? Are you able to access that space where there is growth and advancement—but not at the expense of your health and awareness? In other words, are you getting there (which can be a yoga pose, a career goal, health goal or love goal) because you are choosing a conscious path—not a forceful, ego driven path?

It become crystal clear to me that day I pulled my hamstring—I realized I was letting my ego run the show. I was a type A personality doing yoga.

And it’s generally not the calm, candle lit, lavender-scented eye pillow classes that you find us type A’s flocking to. It’s more likely the hot yoga, the ashtanga, vinyasa and power hour classes. Why? Because our egos love a good challenge and where’s the challenge in sitting still and breathing? (Even though we all know this can be the most challenging thing for those of us with over active minds).

And so while many of us go into our yoga classes with the intention of finding peace and health—some of us may find ourselves slip-sliding into unhealthy patterns. Patterns that are more about pushing and less about conscious progressing.

But pushing too hard in yoga (or life) is not what it’s all about. Being in the now and cultivating a relationship with your mind, body and spirit—this is the sweet spot.

Yoga literally means “to unite” and so it’s up to us to decide if that’s what happening for us during our practice—or if we are simply feeding a hungry ego.

Here are some potential red flags that may indicate your ego is running the show in your yoga practice:

1. You’re getting injured. (Hint: yoga isn’t supposed to hurt)
2. You’re upset when a studio doesn’t have mirrors.
3. You only like the peak hour, super busy classes.
4. You beat yourself up a little if you fall out of a pose.
5. You say namaste a lot, yet don’t really now what the word means, or practice it in your life.
6. You do a lot of yoga, but you’re kind of a jerk (ouch, I know).
7. You have more Lululemon pants than any other type of pants.
8. You’re upset when studios don’t have mirrors (yes, I said this twice).

By the way, did I mention that I happen to love Lululemon pants, prefer mirrors in my yoga classes and do occasionally get a bit frustrated when I fall out of a pose? Deep breath. I guess it’s called a practice for a reason.

The massive takeaway from my torn hamstring was that I learned the importance of cultivating a yoga practice off the mat. It wasn’t just about mastering the poses and being aware of my breath—it was about how I was living my life.

So here’s the gist: consider slowing down a bit. Don’t push so hard. Listen to your body. Ease into it.  Discover what yoga really is—a more clear understanding of self and our connectedness to the source of all life.

Yes—there’s a bit more to this yoga thing than stretching and saying Namaste at the end of our power-hour yoga class. And this isn’t just for us type A’s. We could all use a little reminder now and again to take it easy, love on ourselves a bit more and consider less pushing and more mindfulness.

Our practice off the mat matters just as much (if not more) than whichever pose we can master—just ask my hamstring.


Author: Carrie Jolie Dale

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Bexx Brown-Spinelli/Flickr


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Carrie Jolie Dale

Carrie Jolie Dale is a bestselling author, choice strategist and manifesting maven. Carrie used the principles and simple mantra in her book, The 2 Choices, to take her life from a red-hot mess to true spiritual and personal success. From seedy bars in LA to sipping hallucinogenic tea with shamans in the jungles of Brazil, Carrie discovered firsthand how to use energy and vibration to create miracles and more.  Carrie lives in the high desert of central Oregon with her two daughters, loving husband and goofy dogs. You can find out more at her website, on Facebook or on Instagram.


7 Responses to “Bruised Ego, Torn Hamstring: Lessons from an Ashtanga Practice.”

  1. John says:

    What a great article both in content and writing style (funny and poignant). I'm looking forward to your next article.

  2. Carrie, thank you for this article! I love the way you use a bit of a self-repricating approach along with your experiences and wisdom. I wish I had a little more confidence to bear looking in those big, scary mirrors! Haha. I tend to like my yoga alone. I agree with your assessments, and it's brave to be honest. I get the best meditation experiences in solitude. That said, staying at home and with my toddler does not usually grant me ample time!

  3. Carrie says:

    Hi Monica!

    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate it!

    When my girls were toddlers, my meditation would consist of taking walks in nature with them. They would fall asleep, usually in the kelty kids or the baby jogger and for me, that was my small window of time to grab a slice of relaxation via momma earth. And as I am sure you know, those early morning moments before they wake up, is also one of the best times to meditate and get grounded for the day.

    As for mirrors? I like them in classes in order to check form, not so much to see how my face looks in Prasarita Padottanasana C (wide legged forward fold) . . . yikes. I would always strategically place myself between two other people in class so I wasn’t the one with the butt reflection and the upside down scrunchy face in the mirror (haha).

    Thanks again for the kind words!

  4. papa d says:

    A torn hamstring is one thing – but a life of chronic back pain that prevents running , dancing or lifting more then 15 lbs is what I got from 10 years of Ashtanga Vinyasa. I wish I'd listened to my body more. After the 2 months of Ashtanga I was already in pain. Still I pursued it and I had 3 knee operations in the 1st 5 years from Ashtanga . I recovered OK from them but still I didn't listen and went right on through 3rd series (extremely gymnastic and contortionistic). Powerful, useless and usually painful "adjustments" continued until I finally had to give it up 4 years ago with what appears to be an irrevocably degenerated lower lumbar spine recalcitrant to DOZENS of therapies and non-opreable. I have not been pain free in the back for 6 years running now. Big Ego, Big Pain. Thanks.

  5. @carriedale says:

    Wow papa d….that sucks! While I didn't experience the degree of pain you did—I experienced enough to know that Ashtanga and my body weren't a good match. My knees were starting to be a problem, my neck and my rotator cuffs. I don't think this is uncommon in Ashtanga. Yet theres this vibe in many classes of just pushing through it and advancing to the next level. My entire life was changed when I liberated myself from that belief that I had to push and push and push to get ahead. I think I was also close to needing knee surgery…..I still have neck issues and if I ever go to a vinyasa class, I skip headstand.
    What do you do for pain management? I discovered a different type of chiropractic that has worked when NOTHING else would on my neck issues. Its called Network Spinal analysis….totally different approach, no cracking and popping. it's really amazing stuff. It has pretty much eliminated my neck pain. Take care!

  6. papa d says:

    carriedale, yes it does SUCK and yet I am doing my best to learn, recover and move on. I write this with a TENS unit on my back just before going into some neuroplastic change meditation (-
    Relieve the Pain; Change the Brain; Transform the Person -) the program Norman Doidge wrote about in his latest book "The Brain's Way of Healing". I've been working with this approach for the last few months and I am getting glimmers of relief and some optimism that someday this will be resolved ( in whatever way that looks or feels!). I did some chiropractic a several months ago and it did nothing for my back, and actually flared up my upper back for a month. I researched NSA and I think the NSA technique is right up the same neuroplastic change alley – its purports to work on the nervous system ie, BRAIN, rather then the idea of a mechanical "fixing" of the perceived tissue damage/"misalignment"/degeneration.
    I am glad you were willing to put your voice out there that there is a potential darkside to all those instragram puffed-up EGO yoga pose selfies, that in fact, some people may be doing real harm to themselves even as they promote their "peacefulness and bliss". After all the 1st step of the 1st limb in Patanjali's ashtanga yoga is AHIMSA aka nonharming. 🙂

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