My classes are only for people who are good at yoga.

Last weekend I was at a party at a friend’s flat in Balham, South London. A few years ago it was the venue for a weekly class I taught to a group of blokey triathletes. You can read about that entertaining experience here.

Over a glass of wine I was chatting to a girl and it was revealed that I taught yoga. She said, “I’ve done yoga but I’m not very good at it.”

“I’m not very good”

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we put ourselves down? We judge ourselves against others and against ourselves. We tell ourselves that we should or could be better.

We compare ourselves to before we had that injury or health condition. We compare ourselves with the body we had 20 years ago. We compare ourselves against someone who’s been doing yoga for years or against someone whose background is as a gymnast or dancer.

So much of our lives are lived as a competition. How much can we do before we have to pick the kids up from school? What can we achieve today? Can we improve our 10k personal best? We’re always striving.

netball trophy
This is a picture of a netball trophy. It isn’t mine.

The joy of yoga

For me, the great thing about yoga is that it isn’t competitive. PE was never my forte at school. I hated netball. I got motion sickness on a trampoline. I’ve got a funny running style. I always got picked last for any team.

But with yoga, you just move your body in a way that feels good for you. And some days it feels ok, and on other days you feel like you’ve got the body of Dorothy’s buddy the Tin Man… and that’s ok.

You become aware of what’s going on inside. Emotions come up. Sensations come up. You simply witness that stuff and you accept it.

To hell with the competition.*

“The renowned seventh century Zen master Seng-tsan taught that true freedom is being “without anxiety about imperfection.” This means accepting our human existence and all of life as it is. Imperfection is not our personal problem – it is a natural part of existing.

We all get caught in wants and fears, we all act unconsciously, we all get diseased and deteriorate. When we relax about imperfection, we no longer lose our life moments in the pursuit of being different and in the fear of what is wrong.”

Tara Brach

* But if you beat me at Scrabble, I’ll never forgive you.

9 Replies to “My classes are only for people who are good at yoga.”

  1. I can relate to this, I was always picked last for the team, was made fun of for letting the teams down in hockey and netball but doing yoga since I was a child has always been very comforting to me… need for any competition whatsoever – just melt into the pose and experience it…..x

  2. Om Om Clare,

    I recognise that quote… so you’re enjoying the book!

    Here’s another one; this time from a less-anticipated bodhisattva, Theodore Roosevelt, which I think sums up in a nutshell, the devil that is our flawed ego and vanity:

    “Comparison is the thief of joy”

    Incidentally, I was always picked first for the team; I was such a fantastic footballer!!! I’m sure you can imagine!!! How I never got to play for Liverpool is still a bigger enigma on Merseyside than is why Paul isn’t wearing any shoes or socks when crossing Abbey road… but I digress! However now, as a result, I have to live with my dodgy knees, I can’t run for as long as I used to, and some of those asanas make me feel like the rusty Tinman who fell off a ladder and rolled under a passing HGV… and that’s after 10 years of yoga!!!

    But that’s ok! I feel great with who I am and what I can do today… this state of mind being real, tangible benefit of my 10 Years of yoga… I don’t compare, I thank the good Lord!

    Hope to see you soon Clare…

    Peace ‘n’ Love,

    Conor Vishnu

  3. This definitely resonates with me. I’m often asked how long it takes to “get good at yoga”. We’re so conditioned to compete.
    (And I had a great fear of PE in grade school, thumb chum. 😉

  4. Hello Wener,

    Nice work as always. I’m horribly competitive with myself (and select others, I hope I reign it in on a day to day basis!) and I agree that yoga has a way of distancing you from that mindset. Can’t escape it fully though, i’ll always want to get my head closer to my shins in a forward bend, or be able to stay up longer in a bridge/crab/wheel position (what is that called?!). It’s from a ‘holy mackerel, wouldn’t it be cool to be able to do that…’ point of view, rather than an ‘i wish i was as bendy as when i was 11’ point of view though. Look to the future methinks!

    Let’s not talk Scrabble. Or Boggle. I may need professional help.


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