Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comparison Yoga

When I first started practicing yoga, I would spend a significant amount of time in classes comparing myself to the other students. I'd think, 'I'm not as flexible as her' or 'I'll never be able to do a back bend like that.' I'd get my body into a posture and immediately start looking around to see who was doing it better, who had it more right, who looked more serene and yogic. There was always someone. Always.

These comparisons often discouraged me from taking yoga classes altogether. In fact, they kept me from venturing into a full-fledged yoga studio for years, because that's where the REAL yogis practiced. And I clearly wasn't a real yogi if I couldn't stand on my head or contort into a pretzel, right?

It was only when I began focusing on what was happening on my own mat that I started really benefiting from yoga. At first those moments were sporadic. Maybe I'd close my eyes for a second in Warrior I and realize how strong my legs felt, or I'd find myself gazing at the floor while in Warrior III and realize I'd been balancing in the pose longer than I ever expected I could. With time, I started to link these experiences together. I spent more and more of each class present in my own body and less time worrying about what the bodies around me were (and were not) doing.

Instead of measuring myself against some outside standard, I tried to be more accepting of who and where I was each time I stepped on my mat. With that shift, instead of finding discouragement in yoga class, I started finding strength and peace.

This change in perspective gave me permission, finally, to enter a yoga studio--as a teacher trainee. I'll admit, that entrance was a bit more dramatic than it needed to be. I could have simply taken a class, after all. That doesn't really matter, though. What matters is this: By letting go of the comparisons (at least most of the time), I gave myself permission to do something that, in the past, I would have considered off limits to someone "like me" (read: someone not flexible/strong/thin/whatever enough).

Don't get me wrong. I haven't stopped comparing myself to others. I don't know if I'll ever be able to stop completely. It's a behavior as ingrained and instinctive as scratching an itch. But now that I'm aware of the part of me that finds my own worth (or lack thereof) through comparison to others, I'm able to notice how it affects me and, with a little effort, let those comparisons go.


Jen said...

Thank you for voicing this! I am comfortable with my home yoga practice, but recently I've begun attending a class with a good friend. The class is intense and wonderful, but I usually spend a chunk of it looking around and comparing myself to the other students. When we can just turn off the inner tape measure, beautiful things begin to happen!

Ami said...

Jen - Thanks for the comment! I love the statement "When we can just turn off the inner tape measure, beautiful things begin to happen!". So true!

funkyjoy77 said...

Really like your post, especially the last paragraph. Always wanted to try yoga but tend to start things and never follow through!!! anyway..liked it a lot..

If you fancy reading my blog my latest is about me trying to loose weight for my wedding..

Jen said...

I feel the same way when I go to my fitness group class. I don't see people I see Avatars. Size doesn't matter, attitude does. Where the only limit is our imagination, we leap to our virtual world.

After the class, I feel really good--this is the time I wake up to my reality, I come home and wash the dishes happily. We just need to find our "oomph".

Jen said...

Ami....the last comment was me Jen P. (blog on findoomph) thanks :)

Priscilla Warner said...

I'm so glad I found your blog! I used to worry about the same things you did during a yoga class, comparing myself to others, even with my eyes closed! I have a home practice, although there's a yoga class every day two blocks away from me, that's been calling to me lately...

Hmmm... there is something about committing to a class that is very stimulating...maybe I can give one a try, with your insights in my head...thank you!

Ami said...

Hi Jen - Thanks for the comment! I did get your email, by the way, and well respond shortly. I've been a bit overwhelmed with life lately. Hope you're doing well!

Priscilla - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It's always great to "meet" new readers! You should definitely give that class a try. You never know what you might learn!

Sara said...

this was the perfect blog post to read today,Ami. Thank you for writing it :)

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