There will always be someone stronger, faster, more flexible, more graceful, and better looking than you. Let this truth set you free. There is no need to be the best, only to do YOUR best. Competition in yoga exists only if you look for it.
It is an extremely human trait to compare oneself to someone else, especially in yoga class and ESPECIALLY when you’re starting out. Nobody wants to be Sweaty Ronald off to the side, all tight-hipped and struggling through every vinyasa. We’ve all got our sights set on practicing like yoga fairy Jessica up in the front row, with her effortless half-moon pose and full binds in twisted side angle, who walks out of class even more relaxed than she entered.
Do you practice like everyone in the whole room is watching? How would being the center of attention feel? What if someone notices— gasp— one side is less flexible than the other? If you couldn’t stick side crow on your left or keep your elbows from jutting out during forearm stand? That’s a lot of stress! Yoga is supposed to be relaxing. It’s very possible that while on the outside Jessica looks cool as a cucumber facial mask, she’s constantly on the edge of breakdown with every breath.
Ronald, on the other hand, may be the most relaxed man in the room. He’s in the back, doing his thing. Every cue, variation, or adjustment he receives from the teacher is deeply appreciated and taken to heart. He practices like nobody watches because it doesn’t matter if anyone actually does. Each drop of sweat, an earned badge of honor. Each grunt in chaturanga takes him closer to better form.
Competition is not just limited to studentship. Teachers are just as liable to get caught up in a competitive fire, particularly when their numbers are low. Money is said to be the root of all evil, and I’ve heard some teachers get downright nasty when talking about others who are “stealing their students.”
I just don’t understand what the fuss is about. His elbows aren’t fully straight in that press to handstand and— Oh my god— did you see her terrible foot placement?
It’s easy to be jealous or judgmental about someone’s practice— especially when they are “better” than you, have more likes on Facebook, followers on Instagram, or higher class attendance rate. We try to make ourselves feel better by picking apart what everyone else does wrong instead of looking directly at what prevents us from creating that desired success. Yoga is not just a practice of paying close attention to our detailed existences, but learning to process the things we learn in a constructive, healthy manner.
You’ll never be the best yogi. There is only room for one BEST YOGI EVER, and chances are he or she doesn’t really care how good they are. The secret lies in working towards being the best version of yourself possible, and let everyone else trip and fall over their own crap. Does that sound competitive? It totally is. Just like you, I’m a work in progress.
Show up instead of show off. Nobody can take that away from you.
Originally posted on June 28th, 2014 on YogaDigest.com