I can’t backbend like some of these yogis on Instagram or handstand like Rachel Brathen; my sequencing is not as creative as Tiffany Cruishank or Kathryn Budig.
My asana practice pails in comparison to these big names in yoga.
I would be lying if I told you that I have not spent countless hours pondering whether the bendiest of the yoginis among us were born that way or if it was something they worked to achieve.
Just maybe, I can work to achieve it too. You know, because the day that my toes can massage the crown of my head in scorpion is the day that I’ll massage my way to enlightenment. Oh wait, no.
We all know that it’s not a competition. Our teachers told us and some of us now tell our students that it doesn’t matter what the people around you are doing. We’ve all heard that the practice is about nonviolence (even towards ourselves), about non-covetousness and about contentment. Despite the nurturing philosophies that have been passed on to us, you still find yourself (or myself, maybe I’m projecting) trying to slide that leg out a little bit further to get your crotch down to the earth, because only then will it be full hanumanasana.
Comparison and competition are the human condition.
I have two torn hamstrings and a wonky hip to prove it.
I have to take a step back on a daily basis and remind myself that this is a life long practice and there’s no need to be in a hurry. Some days my mantra goes something like this, “there is no space for this type-A, get-in-the-full-expression-of-the-pose-by-next-month nonsense here.”
My asana practice is strong, but average. My meditation practice is messy. But, when I’m not looking at it through a lens of comparison, my practice makes me feel strong, weightless, graceful and beautiful.
Each time you come to your mat, you cultivate and radiate beauty and self-love.
You have chosen to do something so positive for your body and mind. We have got to learn to ward away the thoughts of comparison and competition and love the journey, rather than lust after people and postures that are not right for us, in this moment.
Here are the three practices I’ve integrated into my daily routine as a reminder that it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing as long as I am taking care of myself, creating positive energy and sharing that with others.
(1) Home Practice
No Yogaglo, no sequencing books, no mirrors. Immerse yourself in a pure unadulterated practice. Sense your way through it and when you find that sequence where your breath is strong and you feel as graceful as a professional ballerina looks, repeat it.
Be with yourself. Not just in a daily meditation or asana practice, but candidly. Have a conversation with yourself, be it aloud or internally. Ask yourself difficult questions about what you want and why you want it and be honest. Sometimes it can be difficult to admit things to yourself, but if you can’t be genuine with yourself, who can you be genuine with?
It’s this practice of internal dialogue that allowed me to truly believe that it doesn’t really matter what I can and cannot do on the mat. I asked myself, “Why do I want this,” and I couldn’t come up with a single good answer, so I learned to let it go.
(3) Acts of Self-Love
The food I put into my body, the care that I take in my appearance and the asana sequencing I put together with my injuries in mind are all acts of self-love. Recognize that we have hundreds of opportunities in a day to care for ourselves. Each opportunity that we seize makes us a little better.
We all know that the little things add up and turn into the big things, like being the best version of you.
Aren’t we so fortunate that this practice is not about creating the most impressive shapes with our bodies?
In the end, yoga is about being the best version of yourself that you can be right now.
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Asst. Ed: Leace Hughes / Ed: Catherine Monkman