For many of us, our ego is constantly telling us that we’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not pretty enough, we’re not skinny enough, we’re not muscular enough, etc. That inner voice telling you you’re all of these things is your ego, and it’s your ego that’s the root of your inner competition. If your ego is anything like mine, thoughts and feelings of inadequacy regularly plague your practice. Some of the competitive thoughts that pass through my mind include:
- My body isn’t right for yoga
- My imperfect body doesn’t properly contort into the postures
- My breath isn’t connecting as my imperfect body moves
- My alignment in my imperfect body is completely wrong
And so on and so forth. I used to listen to my ego through every yoga class, allowing it to fuel my practice by developing a challenge for myself. I love a good challenge, but I’m much fonder of loving and accepting my imperfections both on and off the yoga mat.
The true irony of letting my ego fuel my practice is that I know everything it tells me is a lie:
- There is no “perfect” posture for me to try to contort my imperfect body into
- Every body is perfect for yoga
- Every pose is perfect as long as the practitioner is feeling the benefits
- I practice mindfulness during yoga and always move with my breath
- I recognize every thought as it comes… and then I let it go
Overcome Any Perceived Yoga Competition
Recognizing your ego and your inner yoga competition is the first step to overcoming it, much like admitting there’s a problem is the first step to solving it. Like I said, I struggled for years with my ego during my yoga practice, though I tried to use it to fuel my practice. I believed everything it told me about myself, but I challenged myself to be better and do better.
It wasn’t until a yoga event I attended at the beginning of the year that I truly realized my ego was creating competition within myself and with others. Not only would I challenge myself during yoga and create competition to go further and deeper (and sometimes cause pain), I would compete against others in the studio who were there for their own reasons. I would feel better if I could go deeper into a posture than someone else, but I would feel torn down if others went deeper than I could.
The words that changed this for me are: “Yoga isn’t a competition. It doesn’t matter who’s got the loosest hamstrings because who the f*** got anywhere due to loose f****** hamstrings? No one. It doesn’t matter who can do what in yoga – the only thing that matters is that you show up, you’re present, and you feel it.” -Bryan Kest
If you feel like you’re constantly competing with yourself or others in the yoga studio – STOP! It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing during a class, even if you’re less than 1” away from the next person. Keep your eyes on your mat or focused only on yourself. Turn inward and recognize everything that is happening in your body during your practice. Enjoy your practice and be grateful to your body for everything it is capable of, because believe me, it is capable of so much more than you give it credit for.