When I was a runner, many years back, I strove to improve my personal best in a race and checked to see how I finished compared to the other runners in my age bracket. When I went out for a run around the neighborhood I tried to keep pace with the faster runners, passed some and always ran just a bit farther. Running, like a lot of things in life is competitive. We compete with ourselves and others. This is not a bad thing; in fact it’s good to have that drive, that desire to be better. Yoga is not like that. At all.
If you are new to yoga you will learn that the practice is not about getting better, stronger, more flexible and out-posing the other students in the room. Yoga is about appreciating where you are at that moment on your mat. We learn that no matter where we are in the evolution of a pose is exactly where we are supposed to be, at that moment. Then with the next deep breath we push ourselves to our limit staying focused on our body, mind and breath- at that moment.
This is a difficult transition for some to make, myself included. I am used to seeing where I should be as better to where I am. I am used to looking at the faster, more graceful runners and thinking I need to be there. Over time, after taking several classes at the studio, I learned to see the other students as just that, students. They are not my competition, not my indicator as to how well I am doing.
Can you get better in yoga when the competition is removed? Yes, and that is what is so exciting about taking the classes. I am stronger, I can hold a pose better, my balance has improved and I am slowly getting the hang of some poses that make me fearful (AKA walking the wall). How is that possible? Practice. When we practice we get better. When we practice yoga we focus on the positive, being happy about where we are and finding our own limits rather than where we think we should be. Replacing those negative thoughts, those feelings of, I will only be good, achieved, a master when I ... is replaced with positive thoughts and feeling about yourself, your body and skill by realizing what you are doing in that moment is fabulous.How often do you get to say, what I am in this moment is fabulous and is exactly where I should be? Not often. And I think we could all use a little more, I am fabulous as I am, in our lives!