This is written by guest blogger/yogini Veronica Rottman. Veronica is a fellow teacher at Tula Yoga Studio and my Natural Fitness soul sister. Veronica has a calming, grounding energy that makes her an excellent yoga mama and (I can only assume) a bad-ass Doula.
Non-competition: its been drilled in our yogi brains since the day we let our eyes and minds wander over to our neighbors practice instead of our own, yet again and again we give into it. Whether it’s on or off the mat, ego-rinsing is a constant practice and lesson we sometimes have to learn over and over again.
The first step is just recognizing it. When you find yourself having imaginary races with your neighbor or harboring traces of jealousy behind your smile, just notice it first. Without reacting, we have a chance to stop feeding our energy into negative pathways that either inflate our egos or suck the life out of us. The thing is, it goes either way; whether you’re thinking “damn I deserve a yoga trophy for that pose” or “yarg, why don’t I look like her in that pose” both extremes only serve to remove us from the inward focus we need on our mats to grow. Instead of investing yourself in thought patterns that lead to harshness towards you or your neighbor, remember to practice “ahimsa” or non-harming and just observe them. Take note of them, and then reinvest in the purifying current of breath that keeps you in check.
Once you’ve simply noticed it, avoid spiraling down an even steeper slope by making yourself feel bad about feeling bad. I believe its important not to beat yourself up about feeling competitive, this only adds fuel to the fire. When Patanjali wrote about the kleshas or “afflictions” I believe he included “asmita” or “ego” because it can be used to nourish us if we choose to let it. Asmita can be very healing if we use it to cultivate a healthy level of self-esteem and confidence. However, its our responsibility to sift through our thoughts so that we are only planting seeds that bring us to a balanced state of presence. This is where we learn about “satya” or truthfulness. Does doing this pose honestly make you a better, more lovable person? Does it bring you wealth and fame? Nope. So what are you fussing over? Be proud of your accomplishments without using them to put yourself above or below your neighbor.
There are two words that do not exist in the english language that I think paint a really good picture for us here. The first is a german word “schandenfreude” which means “gaining pleasure at the misfortune of others.” Ouch. Not so ahimsa. However, every time we celebrate our success based on the limitations of others we participate in this process. On the other end of the spectrum, buddhism offers us the word “mudita” meaning “joy or happiness gained from the joy, success or happiness of others. Here is one we need more of these days. Mudita cultivates a channel of energy that encourages infinite bliss. When we uplift ourselves via connecting to other people’s joy, we create relationships that promote positive growth for both parties involved. Everyone wins. Mudita kicks schandenfreudes butt.
Speaking of butts, Id like to express how important and urgent it is that me and my fellow teachers practice non-competition. When you tell others to “be ok with taking childs pose” ask yourself when the last time you actual nestled into balasana in class. It feels good. This applies off the mat as well. Lets take each others classes and enjoy learning from one another. Stop comparing the number of students you have with others. Instead, believe and support the power of yoga to transform lives no matter who is teaching. Believe in yourself regardless of numbers, your asana level, or how fancy your pants are. Let go of the outer form and go within. This is where infinite potential and bliss dwell.
Vern ( the yogi formerly known as Veronica)