When I first began practicing yoga, my thoughts and my eyes would travel to a million different places during my practice. But most often, I would find myself checking my own poses and positions in the mirror and then immediately sizing up those around me. It didn’t take long for me to learn that this was the exact opposite of what I should have been doing. It wasn’t helping me and was often hurting me because I would find myself getting down about my level of experience compared to those around me. Since then, I have come to understand that yoga is not a competition and that to fully reap the benefits of my practice, it’s important embrace and be inspired by those around me, but never to compare myself to them.
1) No Two Yogis Are Alike
What’s your favorite yoga pose? I’m willing to bet that if you surveyed the group of yogis that practice alongside you at your favorite studio, each person would have a different response. For example, while some people’s favorite time during their yoga practice is savasana, I find this to be one of the most challenging poses in my practice because I tend to have a difficult time clearing my head. You are different from everyone else in your class: your body is different, your level of experience is different, and your strengths and weaknesses are different. The things that make you unique make you as a yogi completely incomparable to any other yogi.
2) Your Practice Is Entirely Your Own
Why do you do yoga? For some people it is for fitness, for some it’s for relaxation, and for others it may be spiritual. We all have our own reasons for doing yoga and our journeys have all been uniquely different. Allowing yourself to compare where you are on your journey with those around you requires you to assume things about your fellow yogis that you just don’t know. Such comparison is unfair to yourself and unfair to those around you. Allow yourself to embrace where you are on your yoga journey, with the knowledge that your mat is there just for you.
3) Your Fellow Yogis Can Add To Your Practice
I would by lying if I told you that I never let my eyes drift to those around me during yoga class. Especially during challenging poses, I sometimes like to see how others are making the poses their own. But an important lesson that I’ve learned during my yoga journey is that those around you can inspire, rather than detract from your practice. When I see my fellow yogis courageously take on poses that I’m not quite up for yet, I feel encouragement to continue in my practice and to challenge myself to meet new personal goals.
4) Comparison Can Steal Your Focus
Theodore Roosevelt spoke one of my favorite quotes, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Nowhere have I found this more applicable than in my yoga practice. Being able to take time for myself to practice yoga brings a great deal of happiness and balance to my life and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity and physical ability to practice. Comparing yourself to those around you and competing with your fellow yogis can take away from the reasons you enjoy yoga and can shift your focus in a way that detracts from your practice. Keep your focus inward – where are your own thoughts today? What do your muscles feel like? Have you been listening to your body? If you’re focused on comparing yourself to those around you, you’re stealing from yourself some of the benefits that yoga can bring you. For that short amount of time – bask in the joy that yoga brings you as an individual.
5) You’re Part Of A Community
Competition involves rivalry. It involves trying to push past others and of course, to win. Throughout my yoga journey, I have never once felt that I was practicing alongside a rival. In fact, even when I’m in a room full of strangers practicing yoga, I always feel as if I’m amongst friends. One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling is to drop-in on a yoga class at a local studio. It’s always a wonderful experience and I’ve never once felt like the “new kid” or an “outsider.” Yogis make up an incredibly diverse and welcoming community, one where competition would simply be out of place, and I feel honored to be a part of it.
6) There Is No Finish Line
There is no “perfect” in yoga. There’s no getting to the “end” of your practice. There are always ways to continue to grow and continue to learn. Therefore, I’ve come to understand that there is no need to compare where I am in my practice to where others are. There’s no rush – yoga is not a race. This ever-changing journey always has something more to give us, and I look forward to practicing alongside each of you as we continue.