Have you ever looked over at the person next to you during teacher trainings, who’s in a crazy-advanced variation, and rolled your eyes in frustration?
Perhaps not long before, you’d tried to get into the said pose and fell onto the floor.
Why do we do this? Yoga is not a competition. Yoga is supposed to be about turning your vision inwards; it’s about sitting with yourself and letting go. Yoga is about being in the moment, with your breath and nothing else.
But so often we completely abandon ourselves and focus on how much better everybody else is than we are. It’s the complete opposite of yoga.
These comparisons and competition are based in our own insecurities. And it’s much easier to sit and judge other people than it is to actually do a little bit of work on ourselves.
But the good news is, being honest about these insecurities is sometimes the hardest part. Once we can admit that we have something we need to work on, we’re halfway there.
So let’s take a look at a few of the reasons we might feel insecure in yoga.
Everybody is Different
We all have an idea of how we’re ‘supposed’ to look while we’re practicing yoga. When we see other people looking at how we’d like to look, we start to think that we need to change this or that about our bodies.
But we all have completely different, equally beautiful bodies.
And the truth is, there are some traditional asanas (poses) in yoga that might not work for every single body out there.
That’s okay. That’s what modifications are for.
We get stuck in our heads with this idea of right and wrong in yoga. But it’s a false notion.
If you feel good, you’re not injuring yourself and you’re breathing, then you’re doing yoga exactly how you’re supposed to be doing it.
That’s all that matters.
So next time you look at someone else’s variation of a pose and realize it looks completely different than your own, instead of asking yourself, ‘But, am I doing it right?’ Ask yourself, ‘How does it feel?’ And adjust from there.
You’re Exactly Where You’re Supposed to Be
This might be a cliché, but it’s true.
Both in life and in yoga, wherever you are, be there.
When you give yourself permission to feel exactly how you feel, you can more easily move forward and grow. This applies to yoga in the same way. Let yourself start from the beginning and work your way towards the more advanced stuff.
Build a foundation for your practice. Start where you are.
Forcing anything to work never works. So know you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be and be there with yourself.
Have Fun With It
When I first started practicing yoga, my biggest competitor was always myself. I would get so frustrated if I couldn’t hold a pose as long as I’d held it the last time.
So I decided to come up with a different approach. I wanted to make yoga more about pleasure than pain. I chose to have fun with it. Life is already full of other hard stuff. Why add one more thing?
I began setting an intention at the beginning of each practice to play and to let go of any expectations and just enjoy myself.
I found that this made me less concerned with getting into certain poses and more concerned with the way I felt in each pose. There was a softening in my practice that ultimately led to its strengthening.
Let go of all the expectations and pressure you put on yourself. Let yourself play. It might be the best way for your practice to grow.
Comparison is Poison
When we compare ourselves to others, we’re telling ourselves that we’re not good enough.
And if there’s one voice we believe over all others, it’s our own.
Comparison is a dangerous road. Not only do we put ourselves down; we create a negative relationship with another person without even saying anything to them.
We should treat our fellow yogis as a community, a tribe. We’re all in this together.
Other people might look more put-together than you feel. But we’re all just figuring things out.
So stop creating poison with comparison and competition.
Realize that competing with somebody else only stems from your own insecurity. Figure out what it is and be with it. Be gentle with yourself.
Why does it Matter?
Why do we feel like we need to be better than other people? Does it really matter that someone else can do a yoga pose better than you can?
The answer is no.
Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself getting overly competitive in yoga. Again, it just means you’re a human being. But that doesn’t make it okay.
When it comes down to it, you know that another person’s practice has nothing to do with your own.
It’s up to you, whether or not you’re willing to take a look inside yourself. But I know that if you do decide to, it will be totally worth it. Hard at first, yes, but so worth it.
When we hold a mirror in front of ourselves, we see things we try to avoid in everyday life. But these things tend to come up in our projections and judgments of others.
Find the courage to see yourself clearly. Then do the work. Sit with yourself. Allow yourself to be exactly who you are.
When you do this, you won’t have any reason to compete with your fellow yogis. You’ll only want to embrace them.