Posted by: runawaynotes | June 24, 2012

I think I’m getting better at this yoga thing

Something wonderful happened in my yoga class this morning – today was the first time I went through the entire class without comparing myself to other students. Moreover, I barely remember what any of them looked like. When I first started doing yoga that was the first thing on my mind – how do I look in comparison to how everyone else looks? Am I wearing the “right” yoga clothes? Am I using the right props? Am I holding the pose as long as everyone else? Does everyone else find my lack of flexibility and balance laughable? And yes, I could hear the instructor saying that yoga is not about competition, that we are supposed to let go of our desires and not let our ego push us forward beyond our comfort zone. But apparently that is easier said than done.

I’ve always been a very competitive person. I guess I would call it “selectively competitive”. I don’t try to be better than everyone at everything. But if I decide that I want to be good at something, it’s not enough to be just good. I have to be great at it. I’ve accepted that there are some things that I just cannot do, but those things that I can do I have to excel at. That is why it was really difficult for me to accept that I’m not as strong/balanced/flexible as I would like to be and not to compare myself to other people in the room. You know the people I’m talking about: the 60-something lady in the front row who can stay in the eagle pose for what seems like hours, the guy to your left who can touch his knees with his forehead when he stretches his hamstrings, the girl in the back who makes the most ridiculous inversions look effortless, etc. Even though the instructors would tell us that we should concentrate on how we feel and listen to our own bodies, I would still have the temptation to look around the room and find those people who were so much “better” than I was and try to emulate them.

But today was different. I walked into the room, I rolled out my mat, I picked up the props that I knew I needed (a blanked to provide some padding for my knees, blocks to help my balance, a strap to help with my stretches), and for the first time I didn’t wonder what anyone else thought about me needing all those things. I didn’t look around to see what anyone else was doing, what they were wearing, what props they were using. When the class started, I resisted the temptation to let my eyes wonder around the room or to stare at myself in the mirror to check if I was “looking right”. Instead, I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on whether I was “feeling right”. Yes, I stumbled and swayed in my tree pose and I couldn’t grab my toes when stretching my hamstrings. But I was able to loosen up those tight muscles in my lower back and get a nice deep stretch in my shoulder blades in a triangle pose. And when it was time for the shavasana, I could feel my body sink into the mat and it felt so good to just be there and breathe, and feel the ache in my muscles.

Now, I know that next time my competitive nature will probably win over again, and I will be stealing glances at the 60-something lady in the front of the room as she’s sinking into a full split. I will get frustrated as I keep losing my footing in the eagle pose. I will try to reach for my toes as I’m stretching my hamstrings instead of just feeling the stretch and relaxing into it. But I will remind myself how good I felt this morning, and I will try to hold on to this feeling. Isn’t this what yoga is all about?

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Responses

  1. I started doing yoga 2 month ago. First – just once a week, on Saturday mornings, to get myself out of bed and let go of the work week. For the past month or so I switched to 3 times a week because I like it so much and also because I saw what my friend, who had been doing it for half a year, was already capable of. I think it’s ok to look around – it inspires me to see what is possible if I work hard. I’m already able to touch the floor with my palms – something I have never been able to do, even as a kid. It excites me and makes me believe everything is possible (even chaturanga ;))

    • I still cannot touch the floor with my palms, I’m just grazing it with my fingertips 🙂 But that’s huge for me. I agree that other people can serve as inspiration. It’s just hard sometimes not to bash yourself for being as good as you want to be. But even small changes do add up. I am discovering this both in running, when I’ve made progress from being barely able to finish 5K to running three half marathons, and in yoga. I will just need to put more time into yoga 🙂 I do wish sometimes my old high school gym instructors could see me now 🙂


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