When the ego interferes

ego
Photo by Celine Nadeua (via Flickr)

Ah, the ego.

As much as we try to let go, it’s hard to erase it completely. Some examples of how this may manifest on the mat include comparing yourself to others while in an asana, or pushing yourself beyond what you know is your limit.

It can also show up in teaching style.

Have you ever had a teacher (in a regular classroom or a yoga class) whose goal it seemed was to show you how much she knows, rather than conveying information to you to help you? Where the class was more about her than you or the other students?

The vast, wide, huge majority of Ashtanga teachers I’ve worked with, whether for a one-day workshop or with whom I work regularly, leave their egos behind. I get the sense that they truly want to help me as a student. But there’s always an exception.

I went to a led primary series class once where the teacher held strictly to counting in Sanskrit and counting each asana veeeeery slowly for the five breaths. I get this, even though I don’t agree. I believe that as a teacher, you need to read the room. If you have Ashtangis in the class who are quite experienced and you’ve worked with them for a while, then by all means, don’t deviate from tradition. But in this class, there was one person entirely new to Ashtanga and a couple of others who were fairly new. The rest of us had been practicing for years.

Holding each asana for such slow counts was a challenge for me; I can’t imagine what the newbies were thinking. In the moment I was a little annoyed but I tried to let it go and be fully accepting of the style. I thought, “Well, that’s this particular teaching style and who am I to judge?”

I was totally fine with this mindset until the end of class.

We were finished. We had said namaste and were starting to pack up. The teacher thanked us. He should have stopped there.

But then he said with a smirk, “I like playing with people.”

Um, excuse me?

That comment signaled to me that he was counting slowly on purpose to achieve some kind of effect. Of course I cannot know his intention for this, or who or what he was exactly “playing.” But I do know two things that still aren’t sitting well with me in light of the comment:

  • He was a male teacher in a class of only women.
  • When I arrived and he asked my experience with Ashtanga, I said I teach it. I stated it matter-of-factly, figuring that was the quickest way to let him know that I had experience. But looking back on it, I wonder if he took that as a challenge.

Have you had similar experiences? If so, what did you do? I hope I was the only one who felt this way after class. I wonder if the new woman will ever go back. If I had lived there and wasn’t visiting from out of town, I know I wouldn’t, at least not with that teacher.

In the future I will refrain from letting other teachers know I teach when I visit studios. Simply saying that I’ve practiced for years and have a home practice would be sufficient.

I do want to add that the other women in class were so warm and welcoming…as one would expect in an Ashtanga community!

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