We often come and try yoga because we are feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, run down, depleted, spread too thin, too tense, too uptight, too cranky and, well the list goes on…
We want to find balance.
What we discover is a new way of feeling that comes with “taking a breath”. We discover a lightness of mind that comes with “letting go”. We discover a new way of living, that comes with “going with the flow”. Ultimately, these practices get us out of our minds and into our bodies, feeling and sensing, which quietens the noisy, bossy mind.
But what creates the noise of the busy, bossy mind is our conditioning which can be so strong that we often can’t help ourselves. The constructs of thinking, believing and behaving, that we develop over a lifetime, make up our ego – who we take ourselves to be – and they are ever-present. So what we may experience is that this practice which allows us to get out of our heads and out of those egoic structures becomes a practice of doing the same thing, but in a new way, on our yoga mat or meditation chair, unless we know what to look out for.
So there are several ways that this might show up. See if you recognise yourself here?
You are detail oriented with a strong sense of right and wrong. You are self-controlled and good at applying effort to get things done and done well. You do yoga because its good and “right” for you and because you feel that you’re sometimes too efficacious and structured. Your practice will be focused and disciplined but you can easily slip into punishing yourself with self-criticism for not getting it right. To create balance, you will need to let go black and white thinking, embracing wholeness and the mantra “it’s all good”.
You are generous, caring, warm and empathetic, anticipating the needs of others. You are drawn to yoga because you fall easily into giving too much of yourself and this is your time to recover. You may be good at playing the martyr. Your practice may be compromised when you prioritise helping others. Equally you become resentful to your studio/teacher when you feel your efforts of giving have gone unrecognised. The quality to connect with here is humility and unconditional love for yourself and others.
You are an industrious doer, driven to achieve. You are a self starter, seeking success in your practice. You are motivated to be the best and may compare yourself to others in the class. You thrive on the sense of achieving progress. When your practice isn’t working or progressing, you may feel like a failure, over-identifying your sense of self with the results you are getting. Ironically, this is what you will need to let go of to balance your yoga practice, connecting with hope and integrity.
You are a tragic romantic who falls in love with the poetic beauty of the yoga philosophy. It feels like the thing that has been missing in your life. Your practice is motivated by a deep need to express your authenticity, to create beauty in your asana practice. Your practice may be sabotaged by an over-sensitive reaction to pain in your body, a comment by the teacher or something that activates the voice of self doubt, giving you reason to stop. Your practice will come into balance when you practice equanimity and contentment with all aspects of your life.
You love information, gathering and analyzing it to become an expert. You are most likely drawn to yoga to solve a problem you have within your physical body or mind set. Private and knowledgeable, your need to understand may take you into your head and out of your body when you practice. Practicing non-attachment comes easily, however practicing integration of what you know into what you practice doing, will bring you into balance.
You are sceptical and cautious. Reactivity, anxiety and worry are most likely what brought you to yoga or meditation. You are skilled at anticipating the worst case scenario. It may take you a while to find a studio/practice/teacher that you trust, but when you do, you will be loyal. If your trust is broken, you may experience feeling fear for your safely. Balance will come from practicing courage and having faith in yourself and your teachers.
You are enthusiast and optimistic. You are drawn to yoga because you have a strong resonance with the joyful, positive emotional message of the teachings and how you feel after you practice. You are most likely drawn to yoga to get away from the mundane, boring aspects of your life. Your desire for uplifting, positive experiences can express itself as FOMO, which fuels the “monkey mind”. You may become easily bored with a routine yoga practice, choosing to explore different techniques, discover inspiring teachers and new, stimulating studios environments. Being positive will come easily to you, however it may be driven by the ego’s need to avoid negative emotions at all costs. Your balance will come in practicing moderation and pratyahara (withdrawal from sensory stimulation), when your compulsive behaviour has you avoiding your duties.
You are a born leader, taking charge, trusting your instincts, making decisions with skill and acting on them quickly. Your assertive, controlling style is driven by the belief that the world is a tough place in which only the strong survive. If you come to yoga, it may be to soften these masculine qualitites, however you may feel the need to protect yourself for fear of being vulnerable. You may struggle with your practice if you have no sense of direction and yet this may be the very thing you need to let go of to experience mind beyond ego. Connecting with your innocence and vulnerability will bring you into balance.
You are skilled at avoiding conflict, actively creating peace and harmony. You are accommodating and easy going. Your intuitive awareness of the needs of others can leave you depleted when tuning into the emotions of others around you (which you do very well, often without realising it). You may be drawn to yoga because of your strong need to “go with the flow”, however be mindful of when this practice is driven by ego as a form of avoidance of conflict with others. Ironically, you may need to connect with tapas (determination and fire) to express your needs, in service of sustaining your own needs being met.
Seeing the constructs of the ego both on and off the mat is not something to be ashamed of. Denying, suppressing or dismissing these aspects of ourselves perpetuates more suffering as it strengthens our shadow, which we then often project onto others around us, making them wrong.
Minfully practicing wholeness, dignity, unconditional love, humility, hope, integrity, truthfullness, equanimity, contentment, non-attachment, integration, faith, courage, enthusiasm, connection all have their place to bring about balance when these qualities are not in play. It is through practicing these virtues we can transcend the ego’s need to be/do and connect with our true essence which is beyond ego, beyond the busy bossy mind.
Please share your observations in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
This article was prepared using the archetypes of the Enneagram.