When I was about eight years old, I joined a swimming club. We used to race every Friday night and my Mum and Dad would watch me from the grandstand. I loved swimming and spent all summer in the water.
Often, I was the last to finish the race. If I was lucky I would come fourth. Towards the end of the season I got the shits with never winning and wanted to quit. I was sick of the other girls already getting out of the pool while my arms were still flailing around in backstroke. But my parents encouraged me to stick it out and finish the season.
At the end of season rewards ceremony, I was surprised to win 2 medals for my age group (not for my flailing backstroke). What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was racing against older girls and what counted was my finishing times, not my place in each race. So even though I never won a race, I was one of the top 3 kids for my age (there were more than 3 in my age group in case you’re wondering). The organisers just put girls on the blocks and recorded your name and time at the end. They didn’t sort by age and didn’t care what place you came in the race.
You often hear the adage “stay in your lane” meaning mind your own business. Focusing on your race rather than your competition. This is something I firmly believe in with running a yoga studio. I haven’t gone down the hot yoga lane, I haven’t gone down the ‘yoga will make you sexy lane’, and I haven’t gone down the ‘asana without the spiritual crap lane’ either. There have certainly been times where I felt like I wasn’t winning. But I remind myself that I’m swimming a different race.
Yoga is not immune to comparison and competition either. We’ve all done it, compared ourselves to someone else in class. So when the urge to compare and compete arises, remember that everyone is swimming their own race. And some people are there because they just like being in the water.
Comparison and competition are the workings of the ego. The ego that separates me from them, that creates a divide between us and the ‘others’ (just like in Lost, the ‘Other’ tribe who couldn’t be trusted). This mental game that you create with the ‘others’ is just a distraction from the real purpose of yoga – connecting to yourself so that you can realise your highest potential and master yourself. My advice is to practise like you’re the only person in the room. Practise for yourself. Focus on you, your breath, your body, your movement and how you feel. Because winning in yoga is about how you feel on the inside.