Take today, for instance. My teacher sneak attack sequenced us. I didn't anticipate the approach of the pose and was surprised to find myself actually pulling it off. I was so self-satisfied that I smiled all the way through to downward facing dog. Then it hit me. I knew the left side was coming.
My mind jumped in the driver's seat. Every pose leading up to Arda Chandrasana became just that; a pose leading up to Arda Chandrasana. I lost track of the present moment by becoming too attached to a future possibility. Will I be able to do it again? Is my left side strong enough? Is my stance wide enough? Is my knee bent enough? Am I good enough? Blah, blah, blah. By the time it was time, my nerves were in a bind. My body was quaking and, not surprisingly, my entire foundation collapsed.
A year into damn near daily asana practice and I still can't master it. Maybe that's because yoga isn't supposed to be about mastering any particular pose; it's about shifting the mind from Master position to obedient servant.
Disappointment. Frustration. Deep breaths.... finally giving way to acceptance.
So, today was not the day to do it to it. However, it was a day of dawning awareness. I now know that my ego (asmita; the little gremlin that grabs on to every thought, opinion, feeling, and action that swims into consciousness and identifies it as “me” and “mine”) is the only thing that's holding my yoga practice back. But how do I overcome this epic obstacle? Allow us to consult Swami Krishnananda:
"There is nobody else obstructing us; it is our own mind that is preventing union.
"Thus, we have now come to a very strange conclusion: of all the obstacles that yoga has spoken of, the ego is the most prominent, and it is the principal obstacle. Finally, there is no obstacle at all except the ego..."
"The ego is trying to practice yoga. Oh, what a pity! The ego cannot practice yoga, because the ego is to be destroyed in yoga. So how can it practice yoga? Here we have a strange difficulty, and it has to be overcome with a strange technique; that is yoga itself.
Yogena yogo jñātavya yogo yogātpravartate (Y.B. III.6), says the Yoga Bhashya. Yoga is achieved by yoga itself; there is no other means. This is what yoga tells us."
Well, then. Back to my mat, I suppose.