Her mat is front and center in the room, right in front of the teacher. Her long, graceful, slender leg is pointed elegantly, effortlessly towards the ceiling, both hands clasping the arc of her foot. Her ribs flare out from her flat belly, glistening with sweat that probably smells like roses, and on her beautiful face is a look of effortless bliss. She is radiant, in amazing physical shape, and next to her, I kind of feel a bit like a sentient potato.
Well, there goes my yoga high.
I think almost everyone who’s practiced yoga in a group setting can relate to this. There’s always someone in the room who is a little more advanced, a little more stronger, a little more flexible than everyone else. There is always someone with better alignment and more stamina, someone who’s been practicing longer or more consistently, someone who seems more serene and focused.
Of course, it’s easy to remind yourself that the focus of your time on the mat should be 100% on yourself and your own development, but it’s a little more difficult to put that into practice. Even if it’s unhealthy, it’s a natural urge to compare yourself to others, and there are a lot of emotions that come up when you do. There’s jealousy, of course. Admiration. Self-doubt. Frustration. Longing. And those all get in the way of your yoga practice.
When you’re surrounded by people who are dedicated to health and physical fitness, especially if you’re not quite where you want to be yourself, it can leave you feeling pretty down about where your body is. This is especially true when compounded by the fact that the media puts so much focus on how we’re ‘supposed’ to look, too.
The perfect body doesn’t exist, and even if you know this logically, it still doesn’t help with the crushing reminder that you don’t live up to commonly accepted cultural beauty and fitness standards.
This is where yoga can actually heal your emotional relationship to your body. Yoga is for everyone. Every body is a yoga body. Yoga is for all practitioners, regardless of weight, age, or physical limitation, because a true and transformative yoga practice is about more than the body.
“Yoga offers many things to different people at many different levels – whatever they aspire for union with the cosmic consciousness, or physical health, mental clarity, emotional stability, spiritual ecstasy — all this is part of yoga.”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Becoming strong and flexible is a benefit of yoga, but not the purpose. The body is simply a path to find the depths of the soul, and remembering this is the key to recentering your mind during your asana practice. The true goal of yoga is to become more deeply and wholly yourself, to build your resilience and your wisdom, to dissolve stress, and to give you the ability to create a more peaceful life for yourself and for the world around you.
So the next time your focus strays away from yourself and over to the star pupil of your yoga class, gently remind yourself that your physical ability isn’t everything. A truly successful yoga class is one where you moved into every asana with loving awareness, enjoying your breath and your body; one where you put in a little extra effort to go beyond your comfort zone; one where you closed your eyes and mentally relaxed into each posture to experience a quiet place within; one where you concluded your practice with Savasana and allowed the effects of your efforts to percolate deep within.
Book your yoga class today and enjoy being you!
This article was provided by Art of Living
revised by Angela Elliott