Cathy Weiss

Yoga | Author | Spiritual Teacher

Private and small group yoga instruction for women. Professional, reliable, authentic.

More on Competition

In my last blog "It's all about..." I mentioned that yoga is not a competition. Much easier said than done. I think we go through phases in our yoga practice, one of which is the competition phase. Here's what I mean and what I've done in the past. When in class it was absolutely my belief that I had to be and was the best in class, whatever that meant. I had to have the best pose whether that meant touching my toes and beyond, not wabbling when balance was required, by having very serious yoga face. I wanted to be the best because it made me feel validated, seen, liked by my teacher - maybe- I didn't really know these things were happening it was just what I thought.

Some days someone would be in class who in my opinion was better than me, who could do a "fancy" pose, who the teacher would compliment, whatever it was. And I would literally be offended. How dare that person show up to my class and do such and such in my presence.

I would be so busy thinking these un-true statements that I was missing the point. It was my practice but I wasn't there for it. I wasn't feeling what was happening in my body or really listening to the instruction. I was so busy competing with the other students that my practice was getting lost.

I finally gave up competing with other students when an instructor pointed out that just because someone has a beautiful pose on the outside doesn't mean they are happy and peaceful on the inside. I really got that. I had some pretty darn pretty poses but my mind was so jumpy that there wasn't a true sense of calm happening, even if I did have very serious yoga face. No longer interested in the other students I then began to compete with myself.

Competing with yourself is just as unproductive as competing with others. My attitude was if I did such and such last time I have to do it again today but better, further, longer. I must surpass my own abilities every time. Then I'll like myself and at the same time maybe make my teacher proud. But it didn't and still doesn't and never will. Competing with yourself denies the natural ebb and flow of energy in your body and the natural evolution of your practice, which changes every time you come to your mat. And it doesn't make your teacher proud. And it will probably lead to injury since the focus is on achievement rather than honoring your body, mind and spirit in the moment. I've tweaked my back, shoulders, wrists, inner groin, and lots of other body parts in the spirit of self-competition.

The good thing about injury is that it forces you to step back and get out of the competition mind set. When I finally surrendered the need to compete with myself and others I realized how much energy it took, how exhausting and unproductive it really is. My hope is that you will not need an injury to understand that competition in your yoga practice detracts from the heart of the practice.

The heart of the practice is finding union within yourself. Union with your body, breath, mind and spirit. Releasing my competitive feelings helped me move closer to my own state of union, calm and peace because I could then focus on the true moment, be interested in what was happening with a sense of curiosity. My attitude became, oh I had trouble with this today...interesting or oh, I didn't have trouble with this today....interesting.

The same can happen for you. Each time you arrive to practice remind yourself that yoga is not a competition with yourself or others and become curious about what is happening in the moment.

" Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are. " ~Jason Crandell