This comment was posted on my "Response to Dove- 10 things you need to tell yourself" post last week.
I think this is an important question and I thank you Daniel for voicing it (in a very nice way :) ). The interesting thing about yoga is that although most yogis firmly state that yoga isn't a "religion" nor "spiritual" (which would allow for guiding mores, written "archaic" and authentic guidelines to live by and an ultimate end goal- ie enlightenment), many yogis bemoan the superficial (ie physical only) aspect of practitioners and Western Yoga.
I find many aspects of yogic teachings useful tools for my daily life. However, it is not my spirituality- I am pagan and some of my spiritual beliefs don't quite mesh with yoga. I'm ok with that.
So, to Daniel's comment.
As I haven't studied yogic teachings in depth, I'm certainly not qualified to give an overly educated answer. What I can do is give my own perspective, educational background in psychology on the question of "ego", attachment, mental health and yoga.
I find the use of the term "ego" to be troublesome for many reasons, one being the direct historical connotations of the Freudian origins of the term. In psychology, although Freud was a revolutionary, his therapy techniques and theories are no longer viewed as accurate nor are they recommended for use (outside of Europe and some practitioners in Quebec). Vilifying the "ego" (or the "id") isn't helpful, instead it's an extremely simplistic way of viewing the human sense of self.
The reality is that as social persons we function within relationships with others. These relationships with other people are forged and strengthened through emotional attachment and interactions. Our own sense of the Self and self-worth is created through thousands of interactions, emotional bonds with firstly our families and then others as well as situations throughout our lives. This sense of self, in it's healthy form, is an important prerequisite in order to form healthy and appropriate emotional attachments and relationships with others.
Although our society has definitely moved to a more narcissistic part of the Self spectrum (all about ME), I do feel that the other extreme is equally unhealthy from a mental health, relationship perspective. I plan on living life at 100%, and I am a firm believer that the people, friends and loved ones in my family are an essential component in this path.
With regards to the "ego" of telling yourself 10 things you love about your intrinsic (non physical self), I feel that in the context this exercise is necessary for the majority of women in western society. Our society sends extremely strong messages about a woman's worth based on her physical appearance. As a result, often women (and young girls) base, at least a portion, of their self worth on their physical appearance.
Disordered sense of self, body-image and eating (more prevalent in women in western society) can lead to dieting (which leads to health problems), depression, and eating disorders. Here is where I feel using a simplistic rhetoric of "ego=bad" for a reality where simply "letting go" isn't working for the thousands of women who struggle daily under a barrage of unhealthy messages and sense of self-worth tied directly to a forever aging body. Especially in a physical discipline like yoga, where the billion dollar ad industry is specifically marketed to lithe, young, (white) women and many traditions focus on the physical body in order to achieve mental clarity.
(a perfect example of yoga ad industry...)
If you are a person who has a fantastic sense of self-worth and feel confident where you are intrinsically (and, as unjust as it is, this is more likely true if you are male) then I see the "non-attachment" of yogic teachings being useful. If you find these yogic teachings as being helpful to you, and have fully adopted to follow a yogic lifestyle, I respect and support that 100%.
I do believe that the majority of women (and some men) could certainly benefit from actively finding a sense of self-worth from internal characteristics starting with explicitly stating what they like best about themselves that isn't tied to their physical body. If this isn't "yoga"- I'm 100% ok with that :)