Thursday, April 18, 2013

Yoga and the Male Ego

Yoga and the Male Ego

I wanted to start this article with one of my favorite lines from the movie “Top Gun”.  The line is at the beginning of the movie when Maverick is being chewed out by his CO who tells Maverick, “Son your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” 

There are so many ways that the male ego can get us in to trouble.  From spending too much time at work because we are being driven to outperform our coworkers, to spending too much money to buy that bigger car or that bigger house.  In the gym we push ourselves too far too fast which leads to injuries.  The drive to perform to be number one can be a tremendous asset if we can control it and if we can’t it can lead to our destruction. 

The society that men live in tells us that bigger is better, we need to be able to last longer and crush the competition.

Our existence is dictated with an outward focus because the ego demands that we constantly compare ourselves to our competition.   This outward focus can lead us to insecurity, anxiety and worse of all, overcompensation.

A dedicated yoga practice teaches us to look inward instead of purely focusing outward.  One of the most difficult lessons I learned was the concept of not being afraid to be a “C” student.  When the focus is inward we learn to concentrate on how our effort makes us feel in and of itself instead of an outward focus that concentrates on how we look.  Our mind and spirit only feel good if we think our pose is better than our fellow yogi. 

When we try to perform an arm balance or a challenging inversion we have been working on for a couple of weeks it’s easy to become frustrated if we still can’t perform the pose.  Our ego dictates that we should of mastered that arm balance by now, the girl on my left can do it, why can’t I. 

The concept of being a “C” student doesn’t mean that we accept mediocrity and give up on trying to improve our practice and thus improve ourselves.  It means that we acknowledge and appreciate the difficulty of the pose.  In the acknowledgement of this difficulty we understand that our yoga practice, just like life is a journey and not a destination. 

It is the journey that we go on in our yoga practice that gives us meaning, not the culmination of the effort and the perfect, “Grade A”, performance of the pose.  The ego says you should already be there and pushes you into a place you are not ready for.  In our yoga practice when we learn to control the ego, the body communicates this is where I am at in the pose, the spirit accepts this and the mind envisions where we will one day go in the pose. 

When we can practice in this calm accepting frame of mind, our minds become free from the ego.  When we are free from the male ego, we reduce our anxiety, we become more secure and confident and we avoid overcompensation. 

And with this secure, confident frame of mind always remember, “You can be my wingman anytime.”

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