Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon, especially with people like me who grew up in families suffering from addiction. In my experience, it’s also rampant in the Ashtanga community.
I suffer from it, and I suspect you do too to some degree. We have this nagging feeling that we’re fooling everyone. If anyone found out just how inexperienced and undeserving we were of the postures we’ve been given, we’d surely be run out of the shala by an angry mob of authorized teachers.
This goes through my head often. And by often, I mean daily. “I’m not good enough to be practicing second series. If anyone saw how much I really struggle in (insert pose here), I’d be the laughing stock of the mysore room.”
I just want to scream WHO CARES?! These postures mean nothing if we don’t look beyond them. So freaking what if I can’t bind in supta kurmasana without help. So what if bhujapidasana is sloppy as hell. Are the Ashtanga police going to bang down my door? Of course not, because nobody whose opinion matters to me cares about what I do on the mat as long as I do it with devotion to the deeper purpose.
The reason they don’t care is because my work is not physical. My work is to make peace with that damn nagging voice. That is clearer than ever to me now. Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah. Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, and my mind fluctuates like crazy. Have you seen the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, about Economics genius John Nash? He suffers from schizophrenia and sees people who don’t exist. Even after years of treatment he stills sees them, but by the end of the movie he’s no longer bothered by them. He goes on about his day with his hallucinations in plain sight. That is what I’m working towards with this yoga practice.
I don’t know if I'll ever fully overcome the imposter syndrome, but perhaps I can one day be less consumed by it. Maybe one day those thoughts can pass through my mind and I won't feel triggered. Perhaps one day I’ll see them and smile like I do for an old friend, instead of stopping and screaming at them or letting them bully me like I do now.
I think only when I learn to let go of the illusion of control will I finally be free. Just like when I stopped trying to control the addicts in my family, I freed myself from the burden of an addiction that wasn’t mine. A therapist once told me to treat them like I would if they were someone else’s family. It was the biggest lightbulb moment of my life. She was telling me to not engage with them - to not let them make waves in my mind. She was teaching me yoga, although neither of us knew to call it that.
Sometimes I feel like I owe that therapist my life because of how she liberated me with those words. Same with my yoga practice. It is my path to freedom from my own mind. Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah