In Kundalini Yoga, there is this exercise called “ego eradicator.” It basically consists of sitting upright with the arms extended in a wide V overhead, finger tucked into the palms, thumbs stretched out as if they could draw an arc over the head, eyes closed and rolled up at the brow point while you do 3 minutes of vigorous Breath of Fire. It’s a great way to open the lungs for pranayama and to clear the sinuses. It takes a little bit of effort to maintain the arm position properly for 3 minutes, but like most things, it’s really mind over matter!
I’ve never quite understood the name though. I’ve been doing this little practice for a few years and my ego is fully in tact. But, thank heavens, I’ve found something else that seems to be doing the trick in terms of ego annihilation and it is that pesky Intermediate Series pose, dwi pada sirsasana.
If I’m ever starting to feel too high and mighty, the best way to knock me down to size is to make me try to put both legs behind my head by myself at 7am on a Monday morning. I’m all hunched over, belly in rolls despite my best efforts at uddiyana bandha, my right leg is flailing in the air as I finagle it back behind my left foot, my poor neck is all cranked sideways trying to hold my legs in place – it’s a mess!
I pretty much fail at dwi pada, and it ain’t for lack of trying. I’ve been working on this pose for a good long while now, having had to take a wee break to deal with my SI pain. Somedays it’s better than others, but somedays my right leg never even makes it back there. That’s the thing about this practice, progress happens but it’s rarely linear.
I love the challenge of my Ashtanga practice. After a powerful practice in the morning, the rest of life doesn’t seem quite so difficult. Yes, certain poses and aspects of Ashtanga can be frustrating, but it’s also so empowering when you do finally get the pose right, when something actually makes sense. I remember that when I first managed to rise up fully from laghu vajrasana by myself, I exclaimed “I did it!” and then proceeded to do a little dance on my knees. Such victory – I had been wrestling with that pose for over a year until I finally mustered up the strength to get it done!
Often times my practice of dwi pada sirsasana just makes me laugh. I feel so silly and uncoordinated. It’s not that the pose is painful even, I just haven’t “figured” it out yet, and my tight hips don’t help! But, I would rather be laughing at my messy and hard pose than crying, and I think that’s a good sign in terms of progress. Part of me feels like I “should” be better at this pose, as if it’s not fair that it’s hard, but here too I see how the challenge of this pose has been beneficial in terms of humbling me. It takes time to master something and this is exactly how it should be. Having a practice that helps you develop patience is a real gift.
I believe that one sign that the practice is working is the humility and strength demonstrated by the practitioner and it’s these hard poses, like dwi pada, that can help up grow and become kinder, more patient and loving people.
What’s your “ego eradicator”?
Love and Blessings,
PS – This is a reindeer in dwi pada sirsasana because that’s way more fun to look at than me.