I know that many of the readers here are part of the fitness community, so I thought I’d blog today on a topic that’s come into the forefront for me lately: What role does your EGO play in your workout?
As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I’ve been taking a lot of yoga classes lately. Specifically Vinyasa flow, but I’ve also had experience with Bikram and other types of yoga. Lately, I’ve heard many instructors say to let go of your ego in your yoga practice. In other words, focus less on being perfect and more on what is perfect for you. Focus less on pleasing the teacher. Focus less on what everyone around you is doing and how you compare to them.
The classes I’ve been taking are considered all-level, and that’s a fair statement. Folks are definitely working at their own level. But I can’t help but notice the 4 people right next to me doing some crazy arm balance or inversion while I’m hanging out in downward facing dog. And guess what? It arouses my ego and I immediately want to be doing it with them (or at least going home to practice so that I don’t fall on my face in front of everyone). Helloooooo ego!
By nature I’m type A (some call me A+), and I don’t like to settle for average in anything I do. So how do I reconcile this with practicing yoga? I’ve been in the dance and fitness communities most of my life, and we strive for perfection, or at least continuous improvement. Last night I taught a BODYPUMP class (group-based barbell training, for those of you not in the know) and I came home thinking how it’s our ego that pushes us to lift more weight, finish each rep and generally not phone-in the workout.
But can ego also harm our workouts? Too much ego can result in injury, sure. But I’m looking at this from another viewpoint. In some of the classes I’ve observed, the ego is what is hindering us from achieving our goals. The gym (and yes, even the yoga studio) is a very image conscious environment. Just take a look at the ocean of Lululemon clothing (guilty as charged!!!) and the hair and makeup and spray tans. I think the ego is causing us to NOT work as hard. No one wants to fail in front of others. God forbid we sweat too much. Women don’t want to lift more weights than those around them (OMG… I might bulk up!!! WRONG). Dudes pile on the weights for chest and biceps, but fail to push themselves in squats and lunges because guess what… chicks only notice how big my chest and arms are (again… WRONG… I’m talking to you Mr. Chicken Legs).
Instead of listening to my ego, I’m definitely going to try to focus more on listening in all my classes. Listening to the instructor’s directions and teachings. Listening to my body. How am I feeling today? Everyday is different in the studio, and no workout is the same. Confession… I do yoga for the workout. Not for the spiritual experience. Not to relax or de-stress, though I appreciate those benefits that come along. But for my hour in class, I want to start giving myself a break. It’s hard to be “on” all the time. Sure, I’ll continue to work hard, but as yogi gurus will remind you, it’s often the INTENTION that gets you to your goal. Not the end result.
So here’s my challenge: EGO OUT! Get rid of it. Bow your head in humility, ignore the other people, they don’t count, you do.
What role does your ego play in your workout? Is it aiding or slowing your progress? Or are you just there for the experience?