Results of a recent study sparked an interesting discussion in our household. My wife and I are both CrossFitters but she is also a Yoga instructor and follows a very consistent Yoga practice. Many people use Yoga and meditation as ways to reduce ego attachment but the study in question found that rather than diminishing ego, these sorts of mind-body practices in fact boost self-enhancement.
Of course this comes as no surprise to those of us living in Vancouver where the local raw, vegan coffee shop includes parking stalls for patrons’ rolled up Yoga mats and the barista serves the fair trade, organic latte with the symbol for Om swirled into the foam. This is hyperbole of course probably born out of my feelings of insecurity as a spiritually under-developed human being.
It was my contention that the self-centred nature of these inward-focused spiritual practices explains the study results. In contrast, team sports or community-oriented activities such as CrossFit, are much less ego-driven offering the opportunity to grow beyond ourselves and share in the triumphs and failures of others.
My wife who straddles both worlds had another explanation. CrossFit, she explains is challenging. Very challenging. Possibility of failure is real and frequent. CrossFit regularly confronts you with your weaknesses. It is, in short, ego-destroying. Performances are measured and results are shared so there is no hiding your weaknesses from your peers. Or, more importantly, yourself. It breeds humility. On the days you excel you dare not brag because you know tomorrow will bring a new and different challenge which may see you struggle. Similarly we can relate to classmates who struggle because on other days we have been the one defeated by a workout. As the challenges frighten us, they bring us outside ourselves and connect us to others. We learn to celebrate effort over outcome.
Egos do not love failure, they hide from it, seeking solace in domains of mastery thus trapping us within the known. Ego-less we are free to fail, free to explore the world, free to challenge ourselves to new experiences. CrossFit has meant all these things to me and many others.
Yoga instead provides a safe and comfortable space. This does not diminish the usefulness of Yoga or meditation, both great compliments to your CrossFit training. Self-enhancement may be contrary to a Yoga practitioner’s intent but that does not make it a negative outcome. Developing a stronger self-awareness ego may contribute the grounding you need to go out and take on ego-shattering challenges. And there are far more benefits to be derived from a good Yoga or meditative practice than ego-destruction. Mental focus, clarity, relaxation, mobility, suppleness, breathing are among the many benefits of such practices.
Yoga and meditation may not destroy the ego but only a spiritually under-developed human being would deny their utility.