5 Simple Steps to Take the Competition Out of Your Yoga Practice
In a room filled with mirrors, yogis popping into handstands and pretzeling their bodies into shapes that seem at times unimaginable, it’s easy to look at the mat next to you and think, why can they do that and I can’t? or should I go deeper into this pose because everyone else is?
The big question for most of us yogis is, how can we start focusing only on our practice and take this competitive edge out of yoga?
This article will explore the concept of competition itself, how to recognize it in our yoga practice, and how to remove the competition so we can experience the true and full meaning of yoga: going inward and gaining a deeper connection to Self.
Competition is Everywhere
As children, we are programmed to spend our spare time competing: soccer leagues, swim teams, video games and then competition within the school classroom. From a young age we are encouraged to compete with our peers. Many people turn to yoga as a means to exercise, breathe and relax by themselves, without any outside competition.
For most yogis, practicing at a studio with dozens of other yogis provides the ability to learn and admire a variety of skills. This inspires many yogis to add postures to their practice, and the thrill of learning a new pose is empowering . . . and addicting!
Competition is the polar opposite of the peace, self-acceptance, and compassion we’re trying to achieve through our yoga practice.
The opposite happens when for whatever reason, you aren’t able to access or find the full expression of that pose yet see others successfully practicing that same pose. That’s when the competitive side rears it’s ugly head and you get stuck in the comparison game.
The good news is we’re only human, and it’s just yoga. But the downside is that this competitive mentality is disrupting and distracting, and also the polar opposite of the peace, self-acceptance, and compassion we’re trying to achieve through our yoga practice.
So – how do we take competition out of our yoga practice? That’s the big question. Just like our yoga practice itself, it’s a process that you must continuously work on and be mindful of. The following steps will help guide you on your path to becoming more aware of this impulse so you can move beyond it both on and off the yoga mat.
To begin the journey of taking competition out of yoga, follow these steps:
- Take a deep breath and remember it’s just yoga. ☺
- Utilize Svadhyaya, the Sanskrit term self-study, and study why you are feeling this way. Is it because the person next to you entered into a pose you haven’t yet attained? Do your hips feel tight today and the resulting decrease in mobility is frustrating you? Target the source of your feelings so you can work through them in a healthy, conscious, and productive way.
- Acknowledge that you’re being competitive. You’ve figured out what the source of this feeling is, so now you can simply acknowledge this impulse to be competitive. Accepting and acknowledging a limiting behavior is a powerful step in letting it go.
- Use a mantra to change your mindset. When you find that you are becoming competitive in a yoga class, find a mantra to keep you grounded and focused. For example, you can use the mantra This is my practice or This is my time on the mat. Once you use your mantra to remind yourself that it’s all about your personal practice, you can take a quick moment to inwardly celebrate the awesome yogi doing awesome things next to you, and then just as quickly let it go and come back to your breath and your practice.
- Let it go. Keep moving forward, and don’t be too hard on yourself. This is your yoga practice, so don’t let competition or negative thoughts get in the way of enjoying your time on the mat.
Remember – mirrors in yoga rooms are meant to observe your alignment and overall practice – mirrors are not there to compete with the yogi next to you. Remind yourself of that every time you get into the studio.
Observe yourself and your yoga practice. Be proud of yourself for making it to your mat and giving your body the gift of yoga. Sure, you can use a little competition to inspire and challenge yourself, but do so with the positive intention of bettering your practice – not just competing with the other yogis in the room.
Have you dealt with competition on the mat? How have you handled it in the past, or is it something you’re still working on? We’d love to hear your insight or questions – please leave them in the comments below!