One Thought Makes you Larger, and One Thought Makes you Small

As teachers, we might struggle with owning our role as leader and guide on the path of yoga. We might question what gives us the authority to teach this practice – so vast, so deep and so mystical. We might even think it is yogic to diminish what we know and play to our smallness. Here is a helpful perspective in understanding this challenge:

In yoga, the term ‘ego’ or Ahamkara (lit. “I-maker”) refers to the cognitive function that identifies us as individuals. In our Western culture, ego is commonly seen as that which gives us an inflated, or self-important sense of ourselves. In yoga, however, the ego is what defines us as human beings with personalities, preferences, proclivities, gifts and shortcomings. This includes the full spectrum of self-talk from thoughts that limit and belittle to those that empower and expand.

Like the devil and the angel battling on either side of the cartoon character’s head, the ego can persuade us that we are good, capable and effective teachers or it can disempower us with the “who do you think you are?” voice of self-criticism.

In times of self-doubt, it is worth remembering that the voice that thinks we have nothing to offer, that wants to shrink from stepping up and sharing our gifts is a function of the ego.

Just as ego can make us large, it can also hold us small.

To take the seat of the teacher with confidence requires us to go beyond the voices of the ego, whichever side is winning. It asks us to be committed to sitting in the truth with equal parts humility and honesty. In that space, there can be authentic communication, genuine connection to our students, and ownership of our knowledge as well as our questions. To take the seat of the teacher means to be seated in the reality of who we are not only as leaders, but as students and seekers.