We all know that yoga is not supposed to be competitive. There is no game to win. There is no better-than. And yet, most of us do competitive yoga. We look around the room and see who is doing a pose better than us, who we are doing a pose better than, how much more serene we can look than the person next to us, how loud and smooth our breath is compared to others, how this person looks better in yoga pants, or that person looks happy so I should look happy too… we push ourselves to do variations that aren’t right in our body because someone else is doing it, we tell ourselves we can’t be seen in child’s pose… frankly, it’s exhausting.
And it’s not yoga. The yoga comes in not comparing ourselves to others, in cultivating an inner awareness and focus, in practicing acceptance and compassion for ourselves… and in simply (ha, is it so simple?) being our authentic selves. Actual yoga can’t be seen or measured because it exists inside.
Just like all of yoga, what’s true on your mat is a reflection of your life off the mat. So it stands to reason that by letting go of comparisons on our mat, we can also let go of comparisons off the mat. And man, that sure would free up a lot of time to do things like feel awesome about ourselves just as we are.
So here are some tips to begin letting go of the comparison, whether on the mat or off:
The opposite of stress is relaxation. But when stress happens, relaxation is
easier said than done- right? Actually, if you have the right tools to manage
your stress, becoming relaxed during a stressful event is easier than you
Below is an exercise that will help you control the
sympathetic nervous system response (fight or flight) when it’s not needed, and
turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Engaging your parasympathetic system
allows you to calm down and reduce the harm stress inflicts on your body and
This exercise is called Progressive
Relaxation. You focus your
attention progressively through your body, becoming very aware of specific
muscle groups then consciously relaxing them.
Research has shown that progressive muscle relaxation is
highly effective in reducing stress (Carlson & Hoyle, 1993; Lichstein,
1988). People who practice Progressive Relation techniques have less
cardiovascular reactivity to stressors and stronger immune function (Lucini et
al., 1997; Sherman et al., 1997). Plus, this tool is a wonderful way to help turn off your
wondering mind and allowing you to slip into a restful sleep.
So let’s try it!
Start in a comfortable position, laying down or seated
Starting with your toes- bring all your attention into the
10 toes, observe anything that may be in contact with your toes, the
temperature, texture , any sensations. Now consciously relax your toes
completely, allowing them to become heavy. Keeping your attention on the toes for around 15 seconds
while you allow complete relaxation to sink in.
Move your attention to the top of your feet, noticing any
sensations or tensions that reside there. Consciously relax the top of your
feet, let them release.
Bring your attention to the heel. Noting any sensations, and
then allow the heel too to be completely heavy and relaxed.
Continue in this manner, moving up your body. Notice how you
feel? You can be as specific or general as you like. Working your way through
every inch of muscle or focusing on larger areas at a time (i.e. your legs,
The more you practice the more automatic the response is, allowing
the parasympathetic system to engage quicker. Teach your body and mind the
tools to take control over stress!
Give it a try every
day for a week and let us know how it goes! Do you notice any changes in how
you feel? How you sleep?