Yoga teaches me not to compare myself to others. I remember when I first began practicing yoga. I looked around the room during each posture to gauge the final shape I was trying to attain. Mostly I looked to the teachers who seemed to be picturesque in each and every posture.
The turning point came when I found myself in headstand. Though my body fit the shape, I felt extreme discomfort, like my body didn’t want to take this particular pose. I was in teacher training at the time and spoke to the lead trainer, Rachel Hector, who asked me to interlace my fingers behind my head. I could see that my head protruded a full 6-8 inches above my forearms so that my neck receives the weight of my entire body when I take headstand. It’s not a good pose for me.
I thought, “great, another thing I can’t do!” But over time I saw this as a positive trait, especially as a yoga teacher. Headstand isn’t a good pose for me to do because the physical consequences to my neck outweigh the positive benefits of the pose.
Other teachers and students can practice this posture risk-free, but I cannot. It’s really cool that all of us are shaped so differently, inside and out. It’s impractical to compare ourselves physically to one another because there are millions of genetic differences between us.
When I teach, I remind students to focus on what they feel rather than the shape of the pose. Even still I see students look at another person in a pose and mimic their movement or hang their head in shame and disbelief as if to say “I’ll never be able to do that.”
Some of us are bendy, so we can take impressive, rock star poses. Some of us have unique physical strengths, like I can hold my arms over my head for 30 minutes or more but I guarantee that does not make an impressive yoga photo, and you’d have to hang around a long time to see it!
But that’s not the point - what things look like on the outside. The transformation of yoga takes place within and manifests itself in subtle ways. I recently saw a post from fellow yoga instructor Mandy Eubanks who said:
“What I desire to say to all my students. I know why you come to yoga. You want to lose weight, you want to detox to be stronger, more flexible and less stressed. (Ask me how I know). But the truth is, yoga can't help us have 100% control over any of that. There are too many factors in this beautiful life, including nature’s cyclical rhythms, hormone fluctuation, food, and even how much sleep you're able to obtain. At its best yoga promises the gifts if we're willing to do the work to be less reactive, more compassionate to self and others, and live a more mindful existence. These are not the most sexy and glamorous outcomes, I recognize. But hey, if you get a nice butt and your skin glows a little brighter than that's the cherry on top. But that's all it is :)”
The fruits of yoga are mostly internal with some external side effects. So the next time you practice yoga, focus on feeling not shape; because your shape is just beautiful just the way it is!
Hi! I'm Robin - Teacher, Singer, & Author. I love creativity & sharing what I love!