Updated: Oct 30, 2022
You may have seen it in a group yoga class. Someone looking around to check what other people are doing on their mats instead of focusing on their own. Trying to stretch just a bit farther or hold a difficult pose just a few seconds longer than everyone else. Refusing to use yoga props even when everyone else in the class is using them.
Often at the beginning of a yoga class, I’ll gently ask people to leave their egos outside the door. I tell them that yoga is not a competitive event, and that it’s a very individual and unique experience for every single person in the room, and that’s OK. Most laugh out loud when I say we're here for yoga, not a circus contortionist performance, though unfortunately that is what social media seems to have turned the concept of yoga into.
What’s happening on the yoga mat next to yours is not the same as what happens on your mat. I don’t mean that during a yoga class you can’t look around to see what others are doing if you didn’t hear the teacher or if you lost your place during a flow, but it’s important to know that you simply cannot compare yourself to the person on the mat next to you.
If 100 random people who are the exact same height and weight were x-rayed, they would have vastly different shapes and geometry and angles on the inside. Everyone’s bone structure, joints, connective tissues, and fascia are just as unique as fingerprints. That different anatomy governs how a body can or can’t maneuver into different yoga poses. See how it’s really impossible to compare yourself to another yogi?
Then add in the fact during a yoga class maybe the person to your right sits in an office chair all day at a computer, while the person to your left works on their feet all day long in a warehouse lifting heavy boxes. Different anatomy + different activity levels and lifestyles = completely different people in the same yoga pose!
It's also not a good idea to try to compare your own yoga practice from day to day. We all have low energy days, other days when we feel all fired up and invincible, days when we feel sick or not in a good mood, days when absolutely nothing can bring us down. All of those factors can show up on a yoga mat - Respect yourself from day to day.
Ego sometimes tries to get in the way, but it doesn't fit well on a yoga mat. That’s not to say that you can’t challenge yourself, or set goals for learning a new pose, absolutely go for it! But do those things because they’re right for you, not so that you can compare yourself to others, or even to yourself from the day before.
We’re all unique people with different bodies, different minds, different histories and life experiences. Thank goodness we’re not all robots and not all exactly alike! It’s beautiful to be human and to know that there is only one YOU on this planet!