Competition is a …

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As I attended a 6:30 am Bikram yoga class this morning I observed an interesting set of behaviors playing out between my fellow yoga mates. For the purposes of setting the scene, I would like to just mention 6:30 am is not my usual yoga time. I prefer to attend classes at 8:30 am or 9:30 am in order to be in a smaller class setting.  The smaller classes tend to have around 6-9 people in attendance. I like to think these smaller classes provide the attendees with individual attention for learning and growth, hence my reason for liking them. Might I also mention the added bonus, this particular type of yoga is practiced in a room that usually reaches temperatures of or around 105 degrees.  Not an ideal setting for a packed class if you ask me but let’s get back to my story.

As I attended this mornings packed session I came to the realization that the smaller class attendees are less inclined to compete. Not so sure if this is a good or bad thing but I would love for my readers to share their insights.

So here’s what I observed. This  mornings class had around 20 attendees. It was packed with students stretched from wall to wall. As the class was getting ready to begin, a yoga mate made a comment about how the packed classes tend to motivate him more. He said that the added pressure to keep a pose in front of all the other students kept him focused. He then added that he would never want to be the first student to fall out of a position let alone sit out for one of the poses. I looked to see the reaction of other students and i was pretty shocked to see several people nodding in agreement. This interaction really made me think.balancing stick

Now I haven’t been a yoga practitioner for very long but I can recall what drew me to the practice. Yoga is typically practiced to center ones mind. It is said that yoga promotes the stilling of the mind’s disturbances so you can experience life at its deepest and most profound levels.  It is practiced to relieve the stress and tension of ones daily routine in order to  promote a more peaceful state conducive to confidence, grace and calm efficiency in pressured situations.  These are the things that drew me to practicing yoga. I desired a sense of peace and stillness. I yearned for some form of exercise that would not only promote physical health but would impact my mind in a positive way as well. I wanted to reward myself with 90 minutes a day to clear my mind of its daily stresses and devote sometime to just be. No random worries or concerns of the day or week would be allowed to invade my mind during this “alone” time. I would have 90 minutes to break from the worries of my world in exchange for a very gratifying sense of release.

So how does competition come into play? The male student that commented in my class this morning really caused me to question why social settings constantly have a tendency of being just another venue to compete. Must it always be about looking better or being the best? I personally joined yoga for the reasons I mentioned above. If  I were to devote my 90 minutes to looking around the room to see which one of my fellow yoga mates was about to drop first I would be doing myself a huge disservice. I would lose sight of my own progress in the class and in addition I might start to place added pressure on myself to think I’m not doing as well as I should be in comparison to some of the other students.

Now I know a little competition can serve as a motivator for some, but isn’t there a healthier alternative? Being in the moment and building on your own strengths and abilities might prove more beneficial. If you can focus all of your energy on your own actions and allow yourself to be the sole judge of your progress you will begin to see how less critical you are of yourself. Put less of an emphasis on what others might be thinking of you and more emphasis on what you are doing in the moment.  What ever happened to the art of learning? Perhaps learning has become more about learning to have a competitive edge rather than learning for personal growth, development or more simply just for fun. Be confident in your actions and own them. Your strengths, abilities and talents are unique to you and therefore should be embraced. Namaste. Now let’s do yoga in peace! Ambition In The City

“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” 
-Jiddu Krishnamurti

2 comments

  1. I agree, yoga is an amazing way to escape one’s thoughts and create stillness and awareness. A good friend & yoga teacher (yogatropic.com) says it is essential in finding one’s “edge” within the practice and taking child’s pose whenever needed, rather than pushing oneself. Indeed, I earned myself a rather difficult set of muscle strains trying to “compete” with others in a yoga class seven years ago. Now, I don’t do certain inversions, and my forward folds and twisted poses are not deep in the slightest. But when I am done, I am injury-free and happy as ever! I hope the man in your story finds the true purpose of yoga before he hurts himself as well! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by the Be Nice Project! Hope to see you again soon.

    1. Thank you so much for this wonderful feedback. While its hard to let go of the urge to compete in large settings such as these, i find it so much more rewarding when you do something for yourself as oppose to doing it for the sake of looking better then your fellow yoga student. Regardless if you practice yoga in a room of 2 or 100 people, the experience should feel a though you are completely alone. Be in the moment, feel each pose and listen to your body when it tells you to ease up. I think yoga and meditation are such beautiful practices and should be experienced deeply. Like your story shares, when you push yourself too much for the wrong reasons you risk injury and setbacks. I agree with you, i hope the man in my post realizes the joy he can attain from practicing yoga instead of focusing his energy on the not so positive motive of just being the best. Thank you so much for stopping by. I love your blog and will be posting a new story on being nice shortly. Have a wonderful day.

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