By: Kristen Banocy, RYT
Yoga is not a competition. One of the most difficult things for me to hear as a yoga instructor is, “I won’t look like the others in class.” Good! You are not the others in class. My goal for my students is that, at the end of a yoga session, they realize they haven’t paid an ounce of attention to the yogi on the mat next to them.
In life, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and even to ourselves. Always trying to be as good as or better. I get it. I’m guilty of this myself. I also recognize that there is a time and place for comparison and understand the growth it can bring. Yoga, however, is not that time or place. In yoga, growth comes from awareness and acceptance. This is one reason I feel such a calling to yoga. Comparison is discouraged. I don’t know too many other areas in life where this is the case. It provides a refreshing break from our competitive, fast-paced culture.
Growing up as a dancer, I’ve felt the pressure of comparison for years. Yes, there is something to be said for aspiring to be like another. If I’m being honest though, most of the time I was comparing, the takeaway feeling was not how good the other dancers were, but instead how lacking my skills were. The year I began my yoga teacher training, when I really delved deep into the practice and philosophy of yoga, also happened to be the year I grew the most as a dancer; in confidence, passion and skill. Sure the extra stretching and strength building may have been a factor, but there is no doubt in my mind, that the most important change was mental. Once I learned to feel okay with where my body was in space on any given day and took the pressure off of having to have my leg higher than it was yesterday and my balance at least as good as the dancer next to me, my leg DID get higher. And my balance DID get stronger.
Yoga has taught is teaching me to honor my body and its limitations. Some days I feel stronger, more flexible, more balanced. Other days I feel fatigued and unsteady. It is from the practice of recognizing one’s body and mind, and then letting go of any potential judgment or comparison, that real growth comes. There is an ease that comes when we drop the pressure. In this ease, our bodies and minds are able to truly grow and reach their full potential.
(In closing, I must give credit to Jennifer Medina and the dancers of Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company in addition the yoga practice mentioned. It was that same year of yoga training that I found myself dancing under the direction of and in the presence of dancers, who gave me permission to “fall” without the judgment, pressure and competition I was used to.)