Yoga is a balancing act: the balance of sukha (ease) and sthira (work), the balance of practice and application, and the balance of ego and humility.
Considering ego and humility as energies, can help put this challenge into perspective. Neither is good or bad, they are simply necessary expressions of Prana or life.
When the energies of ego flair in our work or personal relationships, it is humility that brings us back to center. Whenever I feel like I’ve got parenting mastered, the game changes and I feel like I’m back at square one. When my daughter was about 18 months, I was feeling quite capable and adept, then I found her scaling the outside of our staircase, well out of reach. That certainly jostled my ego.
On the other hand, when we are low and feel unworthy, it is ego that provides much needed elevation. It lifts us back to center. In both personal and professional life, I have found myself in relationships that were less than desirable. It was the feeling that I was worth more or entitled to better relationships that inspired change.
If you think of ego in terms of education, too much ego is embodied by someone who believes they know everything and have nothing to learn. Someone with too much humility is embodied by someone who believes they have nothing to teach or share. We see or experience balance when someone is confident in their knowledge and is willing to learn or deepen their understanding.
If you think of ego in terms of asana, too much ego is what entices a practitioner to go beyond their physical limits, at the expense of their breath, focus, and possibly the health of their physical body. Too much humility is a practitioner with a self-deprecating loop playing, “I could never do that”. We see or achieve balance when a yogi explores that unique krama or stage of asana for their physical form.
Looking to strike or explore the balance of ego and humility? Consider these activities:
- Word Association. Take a few moments sitting quietly or in meditation to ground, center, and drop-in. Then, repeat to your self, silently or aloud, “ego”. Listen for the association to emerge. The words or thoughts that surface may give you some insight to where ego is in or out of balance. Reset and repeat the activity, using “humility”. It may be helpful to journal during or after your experience.
- Balancing Savasana. The final resting pose of practice is a great time to practice finding balance of ego and humility. As you prepare for savasana, welcome the humility to completely surrender and the ego to be entitled to the accompanying bliss. You might even, adopt a mantra as you settle in, something like, “I completely surrender for the reward of bliss.”
- Mindfulness Mantra. Pinpoint an area where ego or humility are out of balance and adopt a tempering mantra if ego has flared or and uplifting mantra if humility is dominant.
As you search for and explore balance, remember that sometimes it is fleeting and other times more sustainable. Be vigilant in your pursuit and self-discovery.