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Are you your own enemy or ally?

We've probably all heard some iteration of the idea that the relationship with ourself is the longest one we will have in this life. For some people, that may bring comfort and for others it may distressing. Our relationship with ourselves can range anywhere between loving and volatile.


I've had times where I really felt like my own best friend. I've also had times where I knew I was my biggest adversary. What is your relationship with yourself like?


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Are you your own enemy or ally?

Wouldn't it be nice if we were our own allies all the time! If we were always able to be there for ourselves in the unique ways needed in each moment, life could be so easy. But unfortunately, a lot of us have the experience of being our own worst enemy. Of intentionally (or unintentionally) sabotaging our dreams and ambitions because of the negative relationship we have with ourselves.


What do yoga teachings have to say about this?

Yoga teachings will often write about self in two forms - self, without a capital s refers to ourselves in the physical form, the personality, the mind, the ego, the self we identify with on a daily basis. Self, with a capital S, refers to the true Self, our consciousness, who we are when we take away all the labels we've used to define us, the core of our being, the divine within us.


The self we identify with on a daily basis is what my teacher lovingly refers to as the "wanting self."


The Bhagavad-Gita, a classical text on karma yoga, says that, "a man should raise up the self by the Self, he should not drag the self down; for the self is the Self only ally, and the self is the Self only enemy.”


The texts goes on to elaborate the importance of taking action (karma yoga) in order to break free from the cycle of suffering (samskaras) that result when are an enemy to ourselves.


We could also look to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra which says: “Study thy self, discover the divine,” which I would also pair with the yama (ethical practice) of ahimsa (nonviolence / causing the least possible harm). In coming to better know ourselves, we learn to be more kind to ourselves because we are not separate from divinity.


Equipped with this knowledge, now what?

We take knowledge and turn it into wisdom through practice. We practice loving kindness with ourselves. We strive to be our own ally, so that we show up for ourselves and others in a more gentle and loving way.

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