Yesterday, a friend of mine shared a link pointing to a documentary on competitive yoga.
“Holy cow!,” I immediately thought. “No, no, no, no! Wrong, bad, sad, no!”
My beautiful art, my personal release, my vehicle of growth, source of frustration, and lotus of happiness was being turned into a beauty pageant of pedantry and reduced to nothing more than a…competition.
Surely a competition is the very antithesis of yoga. Yoga is about acceptance and about letting go and learning to use these tools as methods of personal growth. It is about understanding the body as a metaphor of the mind, understanding the mind as a metaphor of the self, and the self as a metaphor of, well, everything.
Competition—on the other hand—is about separateness, about judging one self against another, deciding who is “better” and who is “worse.” We have all seen documentaries on beauty pageants and the unnecessary stress and suffering imposed by pushy and competitive parents on their children. And for what? Recognition as better or the best when compared with another? Why—why would anyone do this?
But then I stopped.
I realized that I was getting caught up in my own ego—in my own idea of what is right and wrong, acceptable and not acceptable. Aren’t I just as judgmental, just as competitive, as the competitors in the competition? Aren’t I really just doing the same thing by saying my idea of yoga is better, more fulfilling, more correct, and theirs is superficial, wrong, and even damaging? What’s worse is that I haven’t even seen the documentary or spoken to anyone involved in the competitions!
So maybe I am right, or maybe not. But I don’t think it really matters. What does matter is that this happening has given me yet another opportunity for self-reflection. To learn, to understand myself, and to muster acceptance without prejudice or judgement so that I can become more aware of my own thoughts and actions—and maybe even understand some of the motivations behind them in order to let them go.
It doesn’t matter if yoga competitors have got it right or wrong; that is not the point. Maybe the competitors will learn whatever it is they have the opportunity to learn by taking part and maybe they won’t. It is what it is and that is the simple, beautiful reality.
It is what it is.
After the link was shared, there were a few replies—not as many as expected, I assume, because the readers didn’t want to get caught in a quagmire of interpretation, or maybe they just didn’t care. But one in particular caught my eye. My friend Henry said, “The Sutras say no effort is wasted.”
I think that is a good point. Whether you follow the dharma dogma or not, and whether you agree that life generally brings us the lessons we need to learn or not, there is always something new to learn about ourselves.
The trick, I think, is to become the watcher of our own reactions rather than getting caught up in them.
Author: John Howard
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Khara-Jade Warren