When I was a younger yoga practitioner, first starting out, I constantly measured my progress and what I thought I “should” do by looking at the people around me. “Oh, that person has their head on the floor. Why isn’t my head on the floor? I should be able to do that. I am younger/been doing this longer/skinnier.” Or, “I’ll never be able to do that, because that person is younger/been doing this longer/skinnier.” As a result, I was really missing out on the depths of the practice. The last couple of years, I practiced Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga. If you aren’t familiar with that, well, here’s how it works. You go into the studio. The instructor isn’t instructing the group as a whole, but working through the room, offering individual guidance and instruction to each student. While there is a led version of the class where you are learning corporately, the Mysore practice is individual as opposed to led. You learn the sequence from the teacher, and you start when you get there with whatever poses that you’ve been given by the teacher, from the series, while the teacher gives the benefit of instruction as needed. For more on Mysore Ashtanga, visit this website. Each person starts with a series of Surya Namaskar A & B, and then moves into the held asanas (poses). When you do see someone, they are rarely in the same pose as you, so there isn’t anything to compare against. That really cuts the opportunity for chatter. Also, you tend to practice with the same rough group most mornings, and then you know how hard everyone is working. So, when your buddy manages to break through to something new, it is thrilling. A victory for one is a victory for all of you. Also, it becomes evident that everyone has a struggle. Everyone. Some folks can’t open their side bodies so well (in poses like triangle), or some struggle in headstand. (Well, most struggle in headstand. Although I was just in a vinyasa class where this one guy held it for minutes, and seemed like he could have stayed there all day).
You can’t predict how someone’s yoga practice is going to go by how they look. People will surprise you every time. You also can’t judge what you will be able to do by how you look. If you continue the practice, you will surprise yourself with what you can do.
Yoga is about finding union between your body, mind and spirit. Your body, mind and spirit. The breath links it all together. If you are looking over at someone else, thinking of your shortcomings, or theirs, or taking pride in doing something that someone else can’t do, you are robbing yourself of the benefits of yoga.
Recently, I was in a gentle yoga class with Kyczy Hawk, who is an amazingly knowledgable, intuitive teacher, with a sense of humor that makes me bark out loud with laughter. She is funny and wise. During class, she said, “Comparison is the stealer of joy. Stop comparing and enjoy yourself.” While that is something I do know, it’s always good to have a reminder, and it has stuck with me all week, so I think I must have needed to remember it.
Expanding that concept outward, where is comparison your Achilles’ Heel? Do you compare your house, car, kids, job, talents against someone else? Let me know in the comments if you plan on taking action somewhere in your life. And today, when I look at my old red couch with all the smushed cushions, I won’t think of my friends who are impeccable housekeepers with showroom ready furniture. Oops…I already did. I’m a work in progress, just like everyone else.