Confession of a Yoga Hypocrite. ~ Donna Freeman

Via elephant journal
on May 25, 2010
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I’m a hypocrite. Yes, a yoga hypocrite.

Recently my middle school-aged son was complaining after hot yoga for teens (a class he participates in and I teach).

The conversation went something like this:

Me:    It looked like you had a tough yoga class today. What’s going on?
Son:   It’s so hard to be the only guy in a group of very flexible girls.
Me:    Yeah, it’s tough being the only guy, but they’re not all super flexible.
Son:   They can do the poses so much better than I can.
Me:    It’s not about comparing yourself to everyone else in class. It’s about doing your best.
Son:    But it’s so frustrating. They go all the way into the pose and I can barely bend forward.
Me:   It’s true, you’ve got super tight hamstrings. But they’ve got other things they are working on. Try to remember yoga is an individual pursuit. It’s about you and your experience.

So I encouraged my son to not get discouraged—but instead to look inward and progress at his own pace.

And all the while, a little voice is shouting,

“Hypocrite! You do the same thing all the time.”

That’s the truth.

Every time I’m in a group class or watching a yoga video, I’m checking out other people’s technique, style and ability. I can tell right away who has had training, in which style of yoga, who is there for the social or spiritual or physical elements of the practice, who is comfortable in the space or new in class.

I like to think this is because I’m usually the instructor and this information is essential to each class I’m going to teach. I need to observe the students to make adjustments, provide feedback, and compliment in an effort the assist them in getting the most out of their yoga experience.

But often I just get caught up in the comparisons.

> She’s more flexible than I am.
> Oh, he’s great at arm balances…wish I could do that.
> Bet I can hold warrior longer. Just keep breathing.

Then, I catch myself, smile at my ridiculous self, shake my head and return to my mat.

And so, I struggle just like my son to remember yoga is about my path, accepting where I’m at today, working toward being authentic and avoiding comparisons that might discourage or intimidate.

Because truly, it’s my breath. My journey. My yoga.

But, man, she sure makes that jump through look easy—why can’t I do that, yet?

Donna Freeman enjoys practicing her jump through in the kiddie pool and plays yoga with great enthusiasm for life and the bounty found therein. She is the author of Once Upon a Pose: A Guide to Yoga Adventure Stories for Children, and can be found on her website or Twitter.


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7 Responses to “Confession of a Yoga Hypocrite. ~ Donna Freeman”

  1. integralhack says:

    Great post. I've also been an inappropriately competitive and inevitably frustrated yogi. I'm so jealous of Kathryn Budig–apparently it takes more than a blonde wig to succeed at this stuff.

  2. You're singin' my tune.
    I tend to be have a "big tent" attitude about new and different styles of yoga, attitudes toward yoga, etc.–but draw the line at competitive yoga, which just seems a bit too oxymoronic. But, let's face it, I engage in competitive yoga constantly–comparing myself to others in the room, thinking about how impressed people are gonna be when they see me doing advanced asanas, even planning to invite friends and family to yoga class so they can see how strong and flexible (not to mention spiritual) I am compared to their weak, stiff (and unspiritual) selves.
    But, then, comparing myself to "real yogis" who aren't so caught up in this competitive crap is competitive, as well. Clearly, being truly non-competitive is, like one-armed handstand, something I can't really do yet. But I'm working on it…

  3. YFC

    (Do you realize your initials could stand for "Yoga Fried Chicken". Where's YogaDawg when we need him?)

    Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's the most non-competitive of them all? (Or words to that effect.) This is very similar to the humility issue. These are tough, tough issues with no easy answer:

    Today my wife complained that she should have married someone who was better at fixing things.

    I told her, “Well, beautiful women like you have a tough choice in life. They can go with the buff, sensitive, Yoga-type guys, like myself, or they can go for the handy, beer-bellied guys-with-tools who can fix everything. I can see how that could be a tough choice.”

    “I thought all this Yoga philosophy stuff was supposed to help you with your ego, Bob.”

    “It is,” I replied. ”Thanks to meditation and pure awareness, I’ve come to realize how truly humble I really am.”


    Bob Weisenberg

  4. You guys make me laugh! Thanks for sharing and letting me know I'm not the only one with inappropriate self talk.

    @YFC – LOVE the idea of inviting family and friend to class (yeah ego boost!)
    @Bob – Your wife is a saint!

  5. This is beautiful. Great imagery. I'm stealing the "if when we are 70 we attain the flexibility we had as 3 year olds" quote (attributed to you of course). Thank you, John.

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