I am a very competitive person. Throughout my life, I’ve participated in a variety of sports; gymnastics, swimming, diving, soccer, dance team, softball, track, golf, karate and others. I like to do well and I love to win. This desire is not confined to the sporting world. At work, at play, whatever the pursuit, I like to excel. And, I know I’m not alone.
How does this relate to yoga? Like many people I originally approached yoga as a purely physical pursuit. It was a great way to exercise, stay fit and provide balance to an otherwise intense physical routine. I would regularly go to class and treat my practice as a competition with everyone in the room. My focus was on my performance compared to theirs. If a practitioner “did better” than I did on the mat, it was a reminder that I needed to try harder, push further and compete more. Regardless of where I should be practicing, I would many times take it too far based on my fellow competitors, I mean practitioners.
It took me many years to realize that the physical expression of asana was only one part of yoga and really no place for competition. A couple of years ago I had an “aha!” moment. The softening of motherhood, the reminders to “check your ego at the door”, and a better understand of the beauty of yoga being more than just a physical practice created this epiphany.
I turned my focus inward. What did my mind and spirit need, want, and yearn for? Not just my body. What was available to me based on my emotions, energy and physical ability? How was I servicing my whole self? When I stopped competing and started experiencing, my practice grew by leaps and bounds. Personal understanding, openness to meditation and harmony of mind, body and spirit replaced the need or desire to win. I was really able to appreciate the other yogis and their practice.
When I see another’s asana practice that is “better” than mine, I am still intrigued. But, now I can approach it, not as a competitive challenge, but with appreciation for their practice, their expression, their journey and their yoga.
How have you taken competition out of your practice? What was your “aha!” moment?
(This blog was originally posted at yoginiinprogress.blogspot.com)