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