by Rachel Carr
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
Comparison and competition go hand in hand. Without comparison, there’s no need to compete. Without competition, there’s no need to compare. If there is one thing that yoga has taught me, it’s to let go of my competitive edge and “release any expectations of the fruit of my actions.” The practice is not about the achievement, but rather, the journey. In order to succeed on the path of yoga, one must refrain from comparing oneself to others.
I like to think I have a good handle on this. However, recently I almost walked away from my hard earned career as yoga teacher. That’s right, this Fall, I became so frustrated with the yoga industry that I started polishing up my resume, convinced it was time for me to get a “real job.” Even participating in the life-changing experience that is the LOAY 500-Hour teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra did little to pull me out of how I was feeling. I was losing my footing on a path to which I felt so connected, and what is important to me as a yoga teacher and student started to become very unclear.
After much introspection and self-reflection I realized that the reason I was feeling this way all boiled down to comparison. Without knowing it, I was comparing myself to all of my peers in my community, especially in the digital and social media world, and it was making me second-guess everything I so fervently believed in. This realization completely humbled me, but at the same time propelled me forward.
My comparison to others was stealing my joy.
I was so unhappy with how I was measuring up to others’ perceived success, that I was stopped paying attention to the good work I was doing. I have always believed there is a yoga practice and teacher for everyone. Like attracts like. You serve the students who show up to your classes and remain unconcerned by those who don’t. I have never believed that standing on your hands is a prerequisite for being a good yoga teacher, but in these past few months I let my ego lead the way and started to believe that was true. Self-defeating stories swirled through my head. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re not popular enough.” “Why can’t you do more?”
On second thought, perhaps my intention should be to stop caring so much about what others think about me.
When you think about it, they go hand in hand. I wouldn’t feel the need to compare if didn’t worry so much what others thought about me and my ability to teach and practice yoga.
In theory, letting go of comparison seems easy enough, but in reality, there is a lot of work to be done. My first action step is to take breaks from social media on regular basis, and spend more time on my practice, relationships with friends and family, and writing. It’s so easy to be consumed by what appears before your very eyes. We are inundated with so much unwanted messaging these days.
Further, when the stories start to swirl, I’ll reconnect with the teachings. Sri Dharma says that instead of comparing yourself to someone else, you should see him or her as yourself. For example, if someone is doing an asana that you are still working on, then you think, “look, that is me. Look what a good job I am doing!” Instead of the ego driven, “why can’t I do that? I’ll never be able to do that. I must not be that good.”
This brings to mind Yoga Sutra 1.33 and the four keys to happiness. We are all made of the same eternal consciousness, so everything we experience is already experienced by all. What you can or cannot do is based on conditions from your karmas (previous actions). So you do your best, but know that everything is perfect just as it is. This is true contentment (Santosha). It doesn’t really matter what you can or cannot do physically, but what’s happening on the inside that matters most.
This post first appeared on the Blog Capricious Yogi.
Rachel Carr, E-RYT 200, RPYT, is a Washington, DC based yoga teacher currently working on her Dharma Yoga LOAY 500-hour Teacher Training certification. She completed an interdisciplinary 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2008 and has been teaching ever since. In 2011, she participated in the Off the Mat, Into the World Leadership Training and became a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT) in 2012. She chronicles her yoga journey on her blog, Capricious Yogi.