The other day I drove to a meeting and ended up stuck in traffic where I: one, was supremely grateful for the great tunes they were playing on triplej, and two, thanked my lucky stars that a daily commute is not part of my life.
While I and fellow travellers crept along the freeway at breakneck speed averaging 25 kilometres an hour I noticed a few drivers who decided where they were going was more important than the hundreds of other drivers stuck in a mid-morning jam along with them.
Mostly to my amusement I saw the odd driver duck out of the freeway lane and try to get ahead a few hundred metres by cheekily jutting over to a merging lane if it wasn’t all ready occupied. So a few people in a really big hurry got ahead by about a minutes’ worth of travel time. Which I guess more power to them, but really, wouldn’t it just be nice to give your neck and blood pressure a break and wait while respecting everyone else? Even if there was somewhere that you “needed” to be, would the world keep turning if you showed up 20 minutes late?
Alas, there will always be people determined to get to where they want to be and willing to endanger themselves, and sometimes others, to create the illusion they are “getting ahead.” It reminded me of what I like to call sticky-beak-itis that we can all be prone to in yoga class. Admit it, you’ve raised your eyebrow a time or two maybe admiring someone’s asana practice, or felt a twinge of jealousy seeing someone’s strength, or even smugness in noticing another student hasn’t quite gotten to where you’re at in this or that posture.
But how does comparing yourself to others actually serve you? Some might say a little bit of healthy competition is a motivator, but why compete with someone who has a different history, body and set of life circumstances than you? It reminds me of something that a fitness educator said to me years ago: There will always be someone “worse” than you and someone “better” than you. Instead of getting caught in the comparison game, the drishti, or focus as we say in yoga, should reside within and on yourself. This focus, though sustained, should be soft, pliable and realistic.
Pushing your practice too far beyond comfortable limits on a given day, and especially on a regular basis, can cause injury or permanent damage. If you are not attuned to how your body is feeling in a given moment because you’re sticky-beaking it before speeding into the wrong yoga lane, you can’t respond to its’ needs appropriately.
So use your yoga practice as a time to develop compassion and reverence for what your body does and how it feels, instead of keeping up with the yoga Joneses. The majority of us don’t practice yoga for the modelling gigs over at Yoga Journal. We come to feel better, have functionality in our bodies and stability in our minds. Devote your energy to that, and watch your yoga practice flourish.
The next time you’re in class, see if you can keep your focus on yourself; yep, stay in your own lane. Observe what really feels right for you, and respect that by modifying your practice to work with any limitations or goals. Of course it is natural to check out what is going on in our surroundings, but true depth comes with self-observation.
Broadly speaking, poke yourself in the backside the next time you feel those familiar twinges off the mat. So your friend just moved into a bigger house, your colleague just got an incredible promotion, a Facebook acquaintance just posted a pic with Ryan Gosling. Sop comparing, and instead assess and be grateful for all you’ve been blessed with.
I believe we all have a unique path that is ours alone. It is easier to find it if you’re not wasting energy measuring your achievements against anyone else. Instead, respect where you feel the natural zing, joy and ease in whatever you are doing in each moment and keep your focus there.
Out of curiosity, when was the last time you were figuratively doing a sneaky lane change, and what did you do to soothe the symptoms?