Even though the means of yoga practice is supposed to be eliminating egoism, but sometimes it is not really eliminating the ego, but instead it is empowering the ego while performing the yoga asana practice.
There’s no good or bad, right or wrong in whether we are eliminating the ego, or are empowering the ego through the yoga asana practice. It is fine whether people perform yoga asana practice is for transcending the identification with the body and mind, to realize unconditional peace and be free from egoism, ignorance and suffering, or it is for getting some benefits for the body and mind, to attain good condition of the physical body, to relax and release tension physically, mentally and emotionally, or it is for both, or it is for any other reasons.
The duty or the role of yoga teachers in guiding the yoga students to be eliminating egoism and ignorance, to transcend suffering effectively, is different from the duty or the role of fitness instructors in guiding the fitness students to be performing some exercises to attain physical, mental and emotional fitness goals or to achieve positive results effectively.
In fitness training, there’s attachment towards the fruit of the actions, or the practice, or the exercises to attain some benefits, or to achieve certain results or improvement. And we are very much influenced or determined by the result or achievement to be motivating or demotivating us to perform the exercises, to feel good or not, to be happy and confident or not.
In yoga practice, there’s no attachment towards the fruit of the actions, or the practice, or the exercises. It is not about performing the yoga asana practice to attain some benefits or to achieve certain results in return. But to allow the fruit of the actions, or the practice, or the exercises to be what it is. There is no doership. There is no identification with the body and mind, the physical condition and appearance, the physical abilities, or the state of the mind. All the yoga exercises are preparing the body and mind for meditation to contemplate upon the truth. And the truth is nothing to do with the the physical condition and appearance, the physical abilities, or the state of the mind that are impermanent. We are not influenced nor determined by the result or achievement to be motivating or demotivating us to perform the yoga (asana) practice, to feel good or not, to be happy and confident or not.
In fitness training, there are judgment, comparison, expectation, desires of craving and aversion (coming from both the teachers and the students) to be encouraging or motivating one to be performing their fitness training. The students want to be “good” students who achieve “good” results. The teachers want to be “good” teachers who give “good” results to the students. The students have expectation towards the teacher’s performance, while the teachers also have expectation towards the student’s performance. It is empowering the egoism and strengthening attachment towards worldly self-image or identification with qualities of names and forms. It is looking for some pleasant sensations in the body and mind. It is about “I want to look good.” or “I want to feel good.” It is looking forward to achieve certain qualities that our mind likes and agrees with, and want to get rid of certain qualities that our mind doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with. It is living in the state of dualism.
While in yoga practice, we are letting go the usual habits of the egoistic mind that involve lots of judgment, comparison, expectation, desires of craving and aversion in order to eliminate egoism and ignorance. It is shattering the egoism and weakening the attachment towards worldly self-image or identification with qualities of names and forms. It also involves some unpleasant purification process. It is not about “I want to look good.” or “I want to feel good.” It’s not about looking forward to achieve certain qualities that our mind likes and agrees with, nor to get rid of certain qualities that our mind doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with, to be motivating us to perform yoga (asana) practice. But we allow the result of the yoga (asana) practice to be there as it is. It is living in the state of non-dualism.
In yoga practice, the teacher should be guiding the students on how to identify the egoism in them, and how to eliminate the ego and remove ignorance, by stop giving the ego what it likes and wants. The teacher allows the students to find the highest teacher within themselves and it’s not about following or listening to what the teacher tells them about what they should do or believe, and what they should not do nor believe. The teacher is free from egoism and attachment towards qualities of names and forms, and allows the students to be free from egoism and attachment towards qualities of names and forms. It is not about “be positive” at all. It is seeing the truth of names and forms as they are, that all these names and forms are neither positive nor negative.
In fitness classes, we will hear the teacher constantly motivates the students by using a lot of “positive”, “encouraging”, “uplifting” and “acknowledging” words. “Keep it up!”, “That’s very good!”, “Well done!”, “You are very good!”, “You can do it!”, and etc. It’s the ego that needs to rely on these positive, encouraging, uplifting and acknowledging words to be motivating them to do better or to work harder. Or else the ego feels demotivated or discouraged to strive to do better or to improve. This is empowering the egoism, by giving what the ego likes and wants.
How the yoga teacher teaches the students in performing the yoga (asana) practice cannot be judged with how the fitness instructor teaches the fitness students. Out of compassion towards the students, the teacher starves the ego of the students by not giving what their ego likes and wants. This type of teaching method might be criticized by worldly minded thinking as “unmotivating”, “cold” and “hard”.
There’s nothing wrong with different types of “motivational” and “empowerment” workshops or classes in this world to bring “positive changes” and “motivations” to many people to bring out the best in us, to find the meanings of life, to live a more meaningful life, to have better relationship with anyone, and be successful and happy in life. It will help to boost up the self-confidence and strengthen one’s ability to think and act, so that people can enjoy a better quality of life. But this doesn’t really help to remove the root cause of affliction or suffering. As it is the ego that needs all these “motivational” training to improve “self-confidence”, to be “better”, “to be “good” and “to be successful”, so that the ego will feel good and happy about itself and about life, when its desires are fulfilled, when condition is good, when things are the way that it likes it to be.
In motivational and empowerment workshops, many of them are about strengthening the self-image and empowering the identification with certain qualities of names and forms, and what we think we know and have, to be who we are. It’s about empowering our intention and desires to bring out the best in us to achieve what we like and want. There’s totally nothing wrong about this. Since not many people are interested in ultimate freedom that is free from being conditioned by qualities of names and forms due to egoism, ignorance and attachment, but rather interested in chasing after qualities of names and forms that they like and want, that will give them the sense of achievement, satisfaction and happiness that they want.
If we are interested to attain ultimate freedom or unconditional peace and happiness, we need to be free from egoism, ignorance and attachment. Be free from being disturbed, affected, influenced and determined by all the qualities of names and forms that our mind perceives through the senses from moment to moment, and thus be free from restlessness or unhappiness that derived from impurities that arise due to reactions of the ego towards what it likes and dislikes, agrees and disagrees with. We do our best to perform actions but not attach to the actions and the fruit of actions, and allow the reality to be what it is, as it is.