So, you know that one person in your yoga or pilates class, who just gets you annoyed? The one who instantly gravitates towards the hardest variation with an ease that makes you want to kick them in the stomach? That student who is obviously spending way too much time on physical fitness and making you look bad?
Yeah, sorry about that. My B.
I think there must nothing as obnoxious as a teacher-in-training at an actual yoga class. Even from the teacher's perspective. You tell your class to only do what serves you, only to watch your class potentially injure themselves because they naturally try to mimic what that bitch in the corner is doing.
I'll be the first to admit that I was way too competitive for my own good when I started yoga. If the person next to me could put their heels all the way down in downward-facing dog, best believe I was going to potentially snap my Achilles tendon to do the same. I was constantly looking around, assessing who was better than me, who was worse than me, and who was on par with me.
Of course, this is as far from the yogic mindset as possible. It's why I cringe at "Yoga Competitions", because I'm hard-pressed to think of a bigger oxymoron (except for "Government Intelligence", nyuck, nyuck, nyuck...). But that didn't stop me from constantly comparing -- constantly being in competition, constantly figuring out how I "rank" in the grand scheme of things.
This part is going to sound super self-involved (well, shit this whole post is self-involved -- this whole blog is self-involved -- so oh well), but it took mastering the poses before I could let that go. In a perfect world, I would've had a great yogic realization and stopped comparing so much, but, hey, I'm only human. When I was in constant competition, I imagined how awesome it would feel to be that student, who ~floats~ to the top of her mat and goes into full boat pose and wheel pose and can master a headstand like no other. But the fact of the matter is that the only thing that feels awesome is how that individual pose feels to me. Do I feel like I'm stretching the right muscles? Do I feel like I'm challenging myself without forcing my breathing to become erratic? Is this the pose variation I need to shut this overactive brain up and get into a meditative state?
A crazy thing happens when you let go of that competition: you stop potentially injuring yourself. Suddenly, I wasn't afraid to modify, to back out of poses when necessary, or go to child's pose. I (temporarily) let go of the ego and recognize that sometimes some muscles will be more flexible or less fatigued -- that the pose variation that I "master" on Tuesday will not be as easy on Friday.
The fact of the matter is, I was constantly comparing, constantly in competition, constantly assessing and re-assessing, because I was superbly insecure about my abilities. The same can be said with anything in life: the amount we compare ourselves to others is directly relational to how insecure we are. It took upping my physical abilities before I could finally take that step back and let things be.
But it shouldn't take that. Because there was no guarantee that, when I got to that physical level, I'd suddenly be secure in my abilities. Because there is so much stuff that I still cannot do (Google "Ashtanga Third Series" for a brief overview on the insane shit some yogis can do). I'm almost always in a class with people with more strength or more flexibility than me. The last thing that should ever be on my mind is, "Well, when I get to this level, I will feel secure."
So maybe, just maybe, it wasn't because I got to a certain physical level. Maybe I just stopped worrying so much, and it just so happened to be around the time that I could do arm balances and headstands. Maybe, through all the various avenues in my life, yoga included, I just learned to be secure in what I can and cannot do. That it's not worth it to constant compare and be in competition, because, really, at the end of the day, the only person you are fighting is yourself.
The yogalates instructor yesterday joked that she uses me as her litmus test, because, "if Abby starts showing fatigue, then I know it's time for me to back off, because she's hardcore. She'll do anything." I blushed and shrugged my shoulders and went about my day, knowing that the only truly hardcore thing I got going on is the comfort of knowing that I go to my limit and my limit only.