Everyone, from the seasoned yogi to the brand new beginner, has compared themselves to others in class. Going green at someone else’s perfect chakrasana may motivate you at first, but competing with others will leave you discouraged and distracted in the long run.
Comparing yourself to others gets real ugly, real quick. You can feel like you’re falling short and put yourself down. Alternatively, you can make yourself feel superficially better by criticizing the person you’re competing against. Both thought processes are poison to your practice.
It’s hard to turn a blind eye when some showoff is in full handstand (sirsasana) while the rest of the class is struggling with shoulder stand (sarvangasana), but it’s key to finding the inner focus that will actually help you improve. Here are four techniques that kill competition and feed focus:
Go to the front of the class
If you’re already feeling self-conscious, choosing a spot in the front row is probably the last thing on your mind. There are, however, many benefits to going to the front of the class, especially if you don’t feel like you belong there.
First, you have an unobstructed view of your teacher. It’s easier to mimic poses, ask for modifications, and get adjustments from up front. Being close to your teacher helps you focus on him or her instead of on the other students.
Second, with the exception of a few poses, you can’t see anyone else from the front row. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s really hard to compete with someone when you have no idea what they’re doing.
Don’t compete with yourself
Unlike Crossfit, PR’s are not the way to measure progress in yoga. Always pushing yourself to be stronger, more flexible, better balanced, and more focused than you were last class is not a great way to get better. It’s a great way to get injured.
Don’t set expectations about how you want to feel and look in each pose. Your strength, flexibility, balance, and focus vary from day to day. Each time you step on the mat, you step into a brand new practice. Let go of your past experiences and, instead, celebrate what’s possible today.
Close your eyes
When you’re sick of looking at everyone else’s annoyingly perfect poses, close your eyes. This technique works well when you’re holding a pose although, obviously, you’ll need to open them up for a sun salutation (suyra namaskara).
Alternatively, maintaining a strict drishti, or gaze point, will keep your eyes from wandering onto your neighbor’s mat. In balancing poses, which are difficult to hold with your eyes closed, use a drishti instead.
Don’t take yoga too seriously. Instead, play around in the poses. Laugh if you need to. Joke about how impossible a new pose seems. Walk your down dog and shake out your legs after uttanasana. Be goofy.
Yoga is really great for your body, yeah, but it’s also a ton of fun. If you find yourself getting caught up in comparisons and competition, make an effort to find the humor in your practice instead. Happy baby pose (ananda balasana), anyone?