|Photo by Matthew Kane on Unsplash|
I have been doing yoga for almost two years now and I have a confession to make...I still cannot do a headstand. While I’m in class, I feel a pang of embarrassment when everyone else in the class gets their feet over their head with no issue, yet I am left teetering on my mat.
Over the course of trying to force myself into this pose, I managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder and could hardly practice for two full weeks. I was mad at myself for not being able to achieve the pose and also disappointed in myself for pushing too hard.
While I was recovering, I did some research. I stumbled upon klesha, a sanskrit word meaning “poison” or “veil.” According to Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, klesha is a mental block that shadows the mind, which leads to suffering--or the conditions for suffering.
There are five kleshas, but I’m going to focus on the second one...asmita (or egoism).
In other words, when we believe that our body, appearance, job, or possessions define who we are, we cause ourselves suffering. The “Seer,” is how we see the world through the lens of the mind; meaning this is our perception of ourselves. Asmita is the ego causing us illusions of grandeur, a false identity, that is not our reality.
My sluggish pace to achieve a headstand caused me to falsely identify that I was not good at yoga. Which isn’t true, that is the ego talking. Yoga challenges us to experience without judgment or expectation. My willingness to practice a difficult pose was all that was required to satisfy my True Self, but asmita didn’t let that be enough.
The True Self is that quiet place inside of us that doesn’t change, the essence of our very existence. Being able to identify that core value is ultimately the enlightenment yoga seeks. Much more than world achievements and appearances, the True Self is less bothered by change and things out of our control because it is the steady foundation that makes us who we are.
All of our external quantities inevitably affect how we see ourselves. Enjoying our body, appearance, job and possessions enrich our lives with beauty and purpose. However, these things are also fleeting and in constant flux. Asmita, letting these qualities completely define you, can lead to disappointment and suffering as you witness them naturally change over time. Your body and appearance will naturally change over time; your jobs and possessions will come and go, but your True Self will still be there in that quiet place inside you beaming with beautiful life.
Yoga tends to teach me humility often, but it also helps me focus. By learning about asmita and how to see beyond my current limitations, I am offered a ray of hope. There is no destination in yoga; instead, it is a journey--the constant balancing of observation and adjustment.
Many of the same poses that offer healing and rest can also lead to pain and discomfort if you are aggressive or inattentive in your practice. Listen to your body and move with intention, both on and off your mat.
Your True Self is a bright shining star that makes up the core of your existence. All the extras can bring joy, but they do not define you. Overcome asmita by celebrating your True Self--love yourself, just for being alive.
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Have an inspired day!