It’s scary when you start out in yoga. Everyone seems so good and flexible that insecurities can run away with the minds of new students. I know the feeling all too well and I’ve been doing yoga for years now, however, I still fall into those familiar thought patterns.
As we were just starting off the class loosening up our bodies, I was caught myself observing my neighbor who was older than I was. In response to seeing her flexibility, my body began to move with more conviction. I realized I was competing with my neighbor to see who could do better cat-cows, only it was a race she didn’t know she was in.
It was all in my head, these thoughts of me not being as good as she is. I caught myself and brought my mind back onto my own mat. Everything was going well until we transitioned into our vipassana because as we went into downward dog I noticed my mind beginning to run that pattern again.
In a successful downward dog, the heels of your feet should be able to touch the mat but mine were a couple inches off the ground. I was nowhere close. I then realized I didn’t worry about my heels touching the mat until I was observing the teacher’s form. I was comparing myself to the teacher and when I recognized the absurdity of what thoughts I was having I could be kind to myself and let the thought go.
It made me wonder if I compare myself to others here in yoga, what other areas in my life do I compare myself to others? When I’m at a stop light and I look over and see a person driving a nicer car than me. In the gym when someone can lift more weight. In a meeting when someone else comes up with a great idea. We do this all the time.
Every time I’ve gone to yoga class I’ve caught myself trying to compare myself with others. This always happens to me in the beginning of the class. It can’t be avoided because that is the nature of the mind. What we can do is have awareness of those crazy thoughts and let them go. Below are some realizations I’ve had to forgive myself when I try to measure myself against others:
- Remember what your goals are. Everyone goes to yoga for different reasons. They want to be more active. They want to try something new. They want to look better. I went because I was suffering from lower back pain and I heard it helped. When I think of that and compare it to the goal of the yoga teacher who wants to teach yoga for a living, I understand why their heels can touch the ground where mine can’t and this allows me to forgive myself for my inflexibility.
- Remember yoga is a process. When I said my heels can’t touch the ground in a downward dog, what I meant to say is my heels can’t touch the ground yet. However, they’re closer to the ground than they were when I started. I’ve been doing yoga for 3 years where my teacher has been doing yoga for almost a decade. When I put in the time and the work I believe I can get there too.
- Once you get the flow shut your eyes. This is a more advanced tip, but once I get into the rhythm in class sometimes I will close my eyes. It helps because when I can’t see how the pose is supposed to look when it is done perfectly I just do it the best I can. I won’t overdo it and am less worried about what other people think of me.