Breath of Fresh Air

A Breath oh Fresh Air

We Are the Champions

on April 7, 2017

I am not a competitive person.

Meaning, I am not motivated by the chance to win – truly, I just enjoy playing the game. Sure, it is fun to win – but for me, it isn’t reason enough for me to act. Now, this doesn’t mean I am not motivated; or not ambitious; or not driven to succeed. It just means I don’t play to win, I play just to play. Winning isn’t my anything.

But recently a situation surfaced that left me wondering if my win warrior really does sit quietly on the sidelines.

There is a yoga pose that’s really got my goat right now -gomukhasana – aka cow faced pose

Jen cow

Me with my best intention

(the arms part). In a teacher training class a couple weeks ago, I mentioned my disdain for this pose, and someone suggested that I don’t like it because I can’t do it.


There are plenty of poses I can’t do, and many more I might never be able to do. I can admire a Bendy Wendy (mostly!) without wistfulness. So certainly it couldn’t be that. And more so, I decided I didn’t want it to be that; this inspired me to make it my mission to practice this pose. And I have been. And I still can’t do it, but I am committed to trying, always on my path of progress, not perfection.

Then came last week; I observed a yoga class as part of my teacher training, and the teacher talked the class through and to Dancer pose (Natarajasana). She told and showed the class plain and simple that her own dancer “sucks”. But it was where it was, and she was okay with that. I loved this moment of the class; her authenticity and non-attachment really resonated with me. So after the class, I talked to the teacher about my own sucky-ness with cow face pose. Two peas in a pod, or so I thought. But, turns out, she isn’t making it a point to practice her Dancer. She is at peace with where she is with it in her present, and is okay with getting better in natural time instead of imposing on-purpose practice. For her, it was not about being able to do the pose. It was about the process of getting there, and paying attention to her body’s progress. She practices with her heart, she told me; there is no ego driving her faster to a destination.

Hmmm(phff!) again. (but simultaneously in awe.)

Immediately I jumped on her boat and denied my own ego’s seat in my sidecar. I heard myself tell her that I was pursuing this pose because I have extremely tight shoulders, and this heart opener will help my shoulders find a healthier home. Now, this is all true. But… was it really why I was playing, or was I playing for the win (to do the pose)? And what part was my ego playing in my game?

ICK! I hated this thought. So I sold me on my story, and stuck to it. Until the next morning when I went to practice my handstand, which has become a daily activity. And I realized I don’t want to do a handstand because it’s good for me (even though it is). I want to do it because it’s a badass thing to be able to do. There is no denying that I want to win at handstand. (and consequently, at cow face too).

But is this ego? And if so, is wanting to be good at something – ?to win? – bad?

I let this thought tumble around, and in some time it occurred to me that there wasn’t one answer to this question – there were two:  I realized that Ego, like me, is a Gemini.

One twin is our Evil Ego; he creates false perceptions by casting slinky shadows on truths. Evil Ego causes us to act out of want instead of need; to react instead of respond; to be an ass and assume; and to act out of fear instead of from a foundation. Evil Ego is our ignorance (in Buddhism this is called Avidya).  The other twin is our Empowering Ego. This twin shows off our shine; she is the good kind of pride, the one that pushes us past perceived limits; the one that revels in results when hard work and dedication pay off. Empowering Ego is all of our actions that drive us to be better, to be good, and even to win, in the spirit of self-improvement or self-examination (Svadhyaya). After all, being our best selves is the best contribution we can make to ourselves, and to society.

So all said and some done, it is not negative to want to be better – or even to be a badass. Winning can be your something and not your everything at the same time. We all can, and should, be champions!

Matt Cow

My hubby, showing me how it’s done!

Just be sure the right twin is your champion, and the one that stars your story. (click story to see me somewhat stick a handstand for [my count of] 7 or so seconds!)

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