Yogic Self-Absorption

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Nico Sarani on Yoga and Veganism - Derek Simpson for Vegan Good Life

The second installment or our “yoga meets veganism”-column by Bali-based yogi Nico Sarani, our go-to expert when it comes to mindfulness of all sorts. This time, we busy ourselves with some of the ego-inflicted behaviors that even the most centered yogis might sometimes fall back into. Spoiler: There are parallels to the vegan scene (surprise!).

Words_ Nico Sarani
Photos_ Derek Simpson

As I slide into another Bali yoga training with a bunch of super experienced yoga people with awesome levitation skills, I am totally aware of the fact that, during the next few weeks, I will probably be confronted with the annoying, very human sensation of not feeling wise/knowledgeable/flexible/strong enough when comparing myself to my peers (“comparison is the thief of joy” – yes thanks, I know).

This is, of course, total bullshit. I know it’s just my ego blahing, and I try to shush it, but when the gorilla in my head decides to have her period, mental hell breaks loose.

Even if you can flip your legs behind your head, you can still be an asshole.

In case you only know yoga from Instagram, listen tight: Yoga is not meant to be a physical performance, nor does it really have to do anything with spraying incents everywhere or wearing super tight Lululemon pants wherever you go (#guilty). Even if you can flip your legs behind your head, you can still be an asshole. With time and a bit of discipline you’ll realize that touching your toes doesn’t say anything about your ability to direct your mind wisely (the stuff we’re actually going for).

Even if you’ve managed to domesticate your mental monkey and finally tipped your toe into flabbergasting “higher” states of consciousness (called “samadhi” by some – like awesome sober LSD trips) – it’s nothing you’re supposed to brag about, and nobody’s handing out gold medals neither, sorry.

In yoga philosophy the human “ego” is a central topic. Some traditions perceive it as a necessary part of the human experience, relating it to the natural sense of “I” that we all have, and regard it as tool that lets us operate in this world and experience it from a unique point of view while, hopefully, making us take a shower in the morning (advantageous in many ways).

Other traditions see it as the final worldly enemy and source of suffering in this world that better be chucked into the trash asap to then join the high ranks of the enlightened ones.

Practitioners coming out of a yoga or meditation class showed higher levels of self-enhancement.

But “overcoming” the ego (whatever that actually means) turns out to be quite tricky. Studies have shown that yoga and meditation can, in fact, enhance the ego instead of getting rid of it forever. Bummer! Apparently, practitioners coming out of a yoga or meditation class showed higher levels of self-enhancement than before the session. If that’s really the case, then it comes to no surprise that spiritual egos seem to inflate a bit when a whole bunch of yogis is being put into a group situation, no matter how enlightened and self-less we all thought ourselves to be.

You may, for example, find yourself thrown into some sort of silent competition: Who can endure the longest hours on their meditation cushion? Who has had the most Kundalini-Awakenings? Whose chakras are all cleared up and aligned? Who does the best handstands? Who has the most Instagram followers? Who writes the “deepest” and most reflected captions? And, of course, who is the most self-less person in the room? Oh, the irony…

Or talk about yoga “styles”. All of a sudden, yogis aren’t the most tolerant and liberal people in the world at all. The underlying arrogance of “my style is better than yours” becomes visible in many yogic discussions; Hatha Yogis looking down onto Vinyasa Flow Yoga Teachers and dualists pitying non-dualists when addressing the philosophical side of the practice – and all this usually while holding up a smooth pretentious all-accepting attitude to their vis-à-vis – “you do what feels right to you, man” (we don’t wanna create any bad karma for ourselves, don’t we).

By turning into a plant-eating yogi myself, I had to discover a similar attitude amongst fellow vegans, as well. As one of our readers mentioned in a comment a few weeks ago, “there seems to be so much elitism and ‘holier-than-thou-ism’ among vegans.” We might want to revisit that from time to time and check in with our vegan egos. I know I should.

Thankfully, at least I won’t have to deal with any culinary discussions of everyday life during the upcoming training weeks. Most yogis agree that eating animal products doesn’t serve their or anyone else’s current human experience on this planet – neither their ability to throw their legs behind their head and their ego into the compost.

… by the way, my Instagram is @nicosarani.

xoxo Nico

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