There are two ways of doing physical (hatha) yoga. They both are concerned with the relationship between our ego and our bodily feedback. Fellow yoga teacher Joel Kramer calls the two ways that of the “pusher” and that of the “sensualist.”
When a pusher reaches his or her edge in a yoga pose, the response is to disconnect from the feedback the body offers in order to achieve ego-driven goals. If you are a pusher, your mindset is one of competition and perfectionism. The mind becomes a dictator, not listening to the body, but forcing it to comply with some image it is projecting to be at the top of the “yoga bell curve.” A pusher attitude will almost invariably end up causing injuries.
A sensualist, by contrast, is someone who listens to bodily feedback like breath, intensity, and maintaining an inner state of peace. A sensualist tries not to push past any of it and, instead, listens to the body for guidance. In this case, the mind is working more democratically with the entire body. There is an honest, accepting relationship between the mind and the body. I like to say for a sensualist, “The grin on their chin is more important than their chin on their shin.” No bodily signals are ignored in the attainment of a pose.
When we learn to listen to the body and balance our ego drive and inner fire with kindness in yoga, then real healing will happen. Attentive listening is the foundation for love. I realized once that there is a code for this in English. Have you ever noticed the word “heart” starts with “hear”?
Even though this may seem simple, it is not how most of us live in the world, where there is so much drive to compete and to be better than someone else. That’s why we need to re-learn this lesson every time we practice yoga, to cultivate an honest relationship between our body and mind and balance the needs of our body (and heart) with the drive of our ego (mind). The wisdom of the heart combined with knowledge of how to do the poses equals sustainability.
Once we learn this balance in the physical yoga practice, we can apply the same pattern to all our relationships: to how we relate to our friends and family, our communities, and nature. It is the same dynamic at play: the ego is a force that blinds us to the needs of others, and love is a force that binds us to them.
By Eoin Finn