Yoga is not a competition

Do you ever notice there are no mirrors in yoga studios? Did you wonder why there are no mirrors? It isn’t because the owner was trying to save money. Studios forego mirrors so the students won’t be tempted to stare at themselves or others during practice. Yoga focuses on the inner work of the mind and body connection and the asanas (poses) are a vehicle to connect the mind and body via movement and breath to calm the inner chatter of our mind. Mirrors are outward distractions that create comparisons between what you are doing and what other students are doing. The mirror might also create a sense that the physical appearance of your yoga practice is more important than the inner journey. There is no competition in yoga. You are not competing with yourself or other students nor drawing comparisons to how you look on other days or to other students. The practice of yoga is about bringing inner awareness to the mind and body and not about comparing or competing with yourself or other students.

Do not compare yourself to other yoga students. This is unfair to you and to them, because each person has a different background and a different physical body. Injuries, illnesses, or other traumas can drastically affect how a person moves through a yoga class as can their past experience with sports or dance. You are on your own personal journey in this practice and it is fun and rewarding to see how you grow as a yogi.

However, don’t compete with yourself. You are constantly evolving and changing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The person you are today is different from the person you were in the past. Learning to be OK with the present moment is challenging, and I get it. You may want to cling to your past athletic prowess or on the other hand run from your past lifestyle. Either way, all you have is this moment on your mat to find your breath and connect with your physical body.

There are no winners and losers in yoga. Yogis may claim many different reasons for coming to the practice such as a complement to other fitness activities, to gain flexibility or even to burn calories, but the main theme is to calm the inner chatter of the mind, find peace, and cultivate a safe place. This main theme has nothing to do with your flexibility or balance. There are no awards for longest hold of downward facing dog! The asanas are tools to bring the mind and body together with the breathwork. For example, the movement and breath in Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutation A) links the physical movement and the mind. At once you are grounded and strong yet light and flexible.

Seeing how you grow as a yoga student is exciting, but comparing yourself to others or other versions of yourself is not the path to enlightenment. Other students bring different backgrounds to the mat, and your story is continually evolving. If you continue to practice yoga long enough, you might even do it with your eyes closed, which would really move to inner awareness! In other words, look into yourself and not around the room or in the mirrors to find a place of peace you are searching for. You are enough.

Practice where you are. Namaste.