[Image taken from here]
I just read David Garrigues' latest post about the asana practice and moving from the center. As always, David's post is very beautiful; he brings up many things with a depth of insight that I can only marvel at. I highly recommend reading it. He writes:
"In our fantasy of what we will look like and how good it will feel we overextend ourselves in our efforts to achieve what we consider to be the end goal or final pose. Our excursions take us too far away from the center where the skeletal support is, where our breath really does lead the way– where we make optimal use of our muscles and organs and where our brains are situated properly to minimize reality obscuring ego striving.... you have to be sure you are not sacrificing your body to your ego. That you are not going too far in order to compensate for unconscious feelings of unworthiness— you don’t need to use your asana practice to ‘prove’ you are good and worthy."
These last two sentences really strike a chord in me. I am one of the most egoistic people I know, and ego has often led me to many places in my practice that I would rather not be (for an example of this, see my previous post). I will definitely ponder David's words carefully here, and make a more conscious intention to move more from my center.
As many of us know, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga has often been accused of being a practice that offers the practitioner too many opportunities to over-identify with asanas and in the process, feed the practitioner's ego. I suppose there is some truth to that. I'll even go further, and venture to speculate (although I really have no statistical evidence to back this up) that Ashtanga tends to attract people with a certain self-loathing streak; people who somehow feel less than complete or adequate, and therefore feel the need to use the asana practice to "compensate for unconscious feelings of unworthiness" and in this way, "prove" that one is good and worthy. And if you think about it, these feelings of unworthiness may be what are really driving many "Type A" individuals; individuals who always have something to prove, either to themselves or to others.
But as I said, I don't have any statistical evidence to back these claims up (what do you want me to do, conduct a poll on this? :-)), and I'm not saying that every single person who practices Ashtanga fits this psychological profile. All I'm doing, really, is speaking for myself. And I figure that if this psychological profile is true of me, then maybe, just maybe, it might also be true of at least a few other Ashtangis out there.
So, the truth is out: I am a person who uses the asana practice to compensate for unconscious feelings of unworthiness, who (over)achieves asanas because he feels the need to prove that he is good and worthy (of what? you may ask. Well, I'm not going there; this is not a psychoanalytical blog post :-)). Well... what about it? I mean, are you this super-self-evolved being who never feels the need to compensate for any feelings of unworthiness, conscious or otherwise? So you have effectively extinguished your ego, and never feel the need to prove anything to anybody anymore? If so, good for you. I'm obviously not there (yet). So what I'm going to do, I think, is to continue to strive in my asana practice. Try to land that Karandavasana and then come back up. Maybe do third series at some point. Maybe do fourth series before I leave this world. Maybe complete all six series (and then I'll finally be a perfectly evolved ego-extinguished being who has nothing to prove to anybody). But till then, I'll continue to sweat and toil in the trenches of asana practice. Of course, I'll try to be smart about it as well. You know, rest when I can (take moon days and rest days), try to breathe and move from the center. Etc., etc. But it looks like sweating and toiling in the asana trenches will be my lot for a while. And if it's going to be my lot for a while, wouldn't it be better to toil happily, rather than berate myself day in and day out for being egoistic? So here it is: I've resolved to be a happy egoist, as far as this is possible. Maybe you will join me too? Or are you too evolved? :-)