Recently a friend mentioned to me that she feels competitive during her yoga practice and how could she get away from comparing herself to others. We’ve all been there! I know that I’ve personally struggled with this to varying degrees and on many different levels. We all at different times could be, or have been competing for a position at work, measuring our performance based on others, muscling and pushing into yoga poses that we know could harm us, using social media as a guide to what we should have or should be, or even competing with our past self. All this energy that we spend comparing and competing takes us away from the true Being that we are, here in the NOW. It’s wasted energy on all levels!!!
For my yogi friends, our practice is a chance for us to reconnect with our true selves, on a very deep, very pure level, but also to connect as a community. We are so much more alike than we are different and this sense of connectedness strengthens our bond to our Being, and to each other as well.
Apply this blog post to whatever life circumstances that this seems to be speaking to for you as an individual, and tap into where you are leaking your energy.
If you tend to measure your self worth by comparing who you are now, to who/how you used to be then read this carefully…You aren’t fully living! If you are fully present and in the now, then there is nothing that you can measure, or use to compare yourself. Your previous self was the you that you were in the past “now” moment. The you as of now is living in the past, so check in and ask yourself if you’re doing the very best that you can, within this moment. You are so much brighter, stronger, smarter, and more worthy than you could ever imagine. You are enough in this moment and the next. Embrace the tiny miracles that are keeping you healthy, moving, thinking, alive and be present!
If you can’t help, but look around in class, or life and find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others then practice pratyahara. Pratyahara is when you turn your intention inwards, away from the external distractions, and away from the senses. This can be a way to help you observe your own inner strength and tune out everyone and everything else. This “drawing in” of the senses allows you to further connect to your own body, your mind, and your power. This focus helps to allow you to meditate, to complete the end of a race, to blow past your previous PR and/or to just remain calm in very challenging situations. You can practice a form of pratyahara by closing your eyes and by focusing on your breath. Maintain even, fluid, deep breaths in whatever pose you are in. Feel how the breath moves in your body and how different poses effect and change where your breath goes. When your gaze or mind starts to wander, close the eyes and let the breath anchor the mind.
Another way to further connect is with dharana, which is concentration on a single point. I often cue my students to use drishti, which is where you focus your gaze on one spot. Regardless of the pose, the burn, the outside distractions, you keep your gaze and your focus on one spot to increase your power and to bring about mental clarity. This isn’t a new technique for many athletes, since most of them do this to varying degrees without even knowing it. If you are a runner you will naturally keep your gaze a few feet in front of you to judge your trail and footing. If you snowboard then you look where you want your board to go and your body will follow along. Dancers will “spot” during turns so that they can maintain their balance. This technique has made a huge difference within my own practice but for my pilates students as well. My students are able to connect with their breath and their bodies much quicker and have then been able to push themselves to their own edge in a safe, focused, present way.
Repeat after me…”There is only one me.” No one else is meant to be here living your life. It’s your own journey, struggles and experiences that shape the person you are. Embrace being you daily! The next time you catch yourself comparing yourself to others or in some sort of false competition, practice one of these tools to bring back your focus. Our focus is a like a muscle to be worked. It will get stronger over time and easier to focus the more you practice staying present. I find it helpful to remember that the English word competition is Latin for “striving together.” Striving to reconnect to your own inner light, and to feel the interconnectedness of the community in which you live.