How many times have you heard yoga teachers talk about letting go of our egos? It sounds good, but what does that even mean? I remember thinking, “I don’t have an ego.” I used to associate egoism with people who litter, butt in line, and talk excessively about themselves.
It wasn’t until I discovered yoga that I started to understand my own ego, the barriers that it creates in my life, and how to let it go. Our egos are manifestations of all our attachments, desires, judgments, expectations, self-imposed limits, and imagined pain and sorrow. It’s not who we really are, but rather a warped reflection.
Imagine your face. Have you actually seen your face? Unless you have had a clear out of body experience, then you probably haven’t. Chances are you have only seen a reflection of your face via a mirror. If the mirror had even the slightest bulge, concavity, discoloration, or other imperfection, then you saw a distorted reflection of your face. Our egos are like the mirror, and the chatter of the mind (chitta vritti) creates the ripples or modifications in the reflection. This is the same analogy that Sri Swami Satchidananda provides in his translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The whole point of yoga is to overcome the mental chatter that prevents us from connecting with our true selves.
When it comes down to it, we create our own reality. How awesome is that!? Seriously, we do. The next time you’re in a difficult yoga pose (or other seemingly-binding life situation), try to notice the thoughts that emerge. If you think you are suffering, then you’re suffering. This is the ego talking. Pain can be eliminated by simply changing how you think, swapping negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Simple as that. We tend to self-identify with the stuff in our life, looking to mitigate our pain and find contentment through things like alcohol, a new wardrobe, a bigger house, or the ability to touch our toes. Once we attain these things, the excitement eventually fades, leaving our minds to scramble to fill the void—a continuous, unfulfilling ego-driven cycle.
In reality, it’s much simpler. We already have it all, but our ego is the only thing standing in the way. Practicing yoga, we begin to find liberation from our ego; we discover where we are holding tension and let go of all those things we don’t need. We learn to cultivate a balance between effort and ease in our minds, bodies, and breath, realizing our true and complete selves. If you have ever experienced that blissed-out feeling at the end of yoga class, resting in Savasana (ahhhh…), the feeling of ultimate freedom, peace and connection with everything, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Allow your yoga practice to transform your life, get in touch with who you really are, and carry that truly beautiful, radiant self off the mat. Shine on my fellow yogis, shine on.