How to Stop Being So Competitive and Feel More Comfortable in Yoga Class
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How to Stop Being So Competitive and Feel More Comfortable in Yoga Class

How to let go of the competitive feelings you have towards your fellow yoga students, and yourself, and begin to truly enjoy and benefit from your yoga class.

You want to be healthier. You want to use your body to its highest possible potential. You also wouldn’t mind a little stress reduction and relaxation in your life. So you decide to take up yoga. Most people you know have at least tried it, and many people you look up to practice it already. You finally overcome the intimidation of trying something new, and step foot into your very first yoga class. You’ve come to tone your core and thighs and maybe even clear your mind, but what you weren’t prepared for was the incredible internal battle that would take place inside your mind as you move your way through those poses.

Maybe you took your place behind what happens to be the world’s most flexible (and did we mention beautiful?) young woman, of course appropriately outfitted in $80 organic cotton yoga pants, and a sports bra. Or perhaps you rolled out your mat beside the man wearing spandex, who is warming up by doing a 2 minute handstand, and then transitions to an amazing arm balancing pose you didn’t even know was possible. You haven’t even moved through your first sun salutation, and you are already comparing yourself to those around you, and wondering why you came in the first place.

One of the biggest challenges in yoga is to let go of all the “stuff” outside of you, distracting noises, that conversation you had with your boss at work, and, most challenging, your seemingly perfect fellow students. Comparing yourself to those around you is a form of competition, and it is a competition with yourself more so than it is a competition with an opponent (“now why can’t I just do the pose like her? I will just push myself harder”). This kind of competition can easily become self destructive, whether it results in a torn hamstring or a bruised sense of self worth.

A healthy sense of competitiveness can help you get to where you want to go in life. Whether pushing yourself to come up with a new and creative solution for a problem at work, or running a faster mile, competition is most definitely not always a bad thing. In yoga, however, one of the best releases can be to let go of that competitiveness, and embrace yourself and your body for what it is and who you are at that very moment. In fact, practicing this concept demonstrates one of the core values of yoga (as illustrated by Pantanjali in the Yoga Sutras) Ahimsa, or non-harming.

So how do we cope with this struggle that is so ingrained in human nature? One way is to practice compassion. To remember that nobody is exactly how they seem on the outside. Everyone has struggles; you can never know what a person has gone through just by looking at them. Remember that that perfect girl in front of you has had her share of pain, so instead of rolling your eyes, while secretly being envious of her, try smiling at her, and being happy that she, like you, has found yoga as a way to clear her mind and strengthen her body.

Another important fact to remember when that competitive edge starts biting is that everyone’s body is different. Your pelvis, hamstrings, and shoulders are all completely unique; this means that when you are in a yoga pose, it is going to look different than when somebody else is in that same pose. Maybe the guy in spandex can balance on his hands for a seemingly inhuman length of time, but what you might miss is that he has poses that are just as challenging for him as handstand is for you.

Remember that everyone in the room is just a student, like you, searching for transformation in one way or another. When you let go of the competitive urges and jealousy that naturally arise when you are in a room full of fit people in tight clothes, then you can really begin that journey to a healthier, happier life you fantasized of before class.

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Comments (1)
Jessica G.

Great article. This is so true in yoga and in life in general. Thanks for the help!