Since childhood, I have learned or “I was programmed” to compete in everything. Sports competitions, school grades, university life and then working life. I remember when being at very competitive sports high school in Helsinki back in end of 90’s, there was a sticker on a wall in one classroom that says “you won’t get a grade for life”. It was a great sentence, but the feeling was just the opposite. After high school you compete to get in to have a good place to study. Then you compete and go through interviews and difficult tests to get a job. At job you want to do your best to keep the job, to maybe have a raise, to get better bonus, to get better title. Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose, competition is endless if you won’t stop it in your mind. (and I am talking about my mind here)
Few years ago when I entered a yoga studio after long time and started to do the practice I used to do at home, in a group, at a studio I thought that “great, this is a place where there is no competition in a group”. It’s true, yoga is something that is just for yourself. But I quickly found out that there are different “levels” of classes. I wasn’t sure how to level myself, is it that I need to do inversions like handstands or do I measure myself how many years of yoga I’ve done, it was a bit confusing. But I understood that looking yoga as a physical excercise, it is good that you have the possibility to go to different class levels then you know that you can practice more demanding poses. Nothing wrong about that. But having competitive mind and sports background I found myself executing poses in that higher level classes. It was also so easy to look over and see and compare what the other yogis were doing. And always you notice that somebody else is doing the same thing – comparing, who does the peak pose, who doesn’t.
Still yoga was doing good for me, because I reminded myself that “this is my journey, I only compete with myself.” I started to follow some world known teachers, all I could see were the crazy poses taken in amazing places. I read yoga magazines, all about the poses and stylish clothes. What has happened to yoga? I found myself in the middle of new competition and created my own yogi ego. I want to emphazise that I am not judging anybody doing crazy poses – its a beauty of yoga too – but telling just how I felt – its been important part of my journey. I need to add that I love beautiful yoga pictures, crazy poses and amazing places!
When I first got to know yoga in 1995 in Malaysia and India, I was taught about the philosophy and not really about the poses. In Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the book of yoga philosophy, the poses are mentioned only in 3 sutras and in very abstract way. The one purpose of poses are to prepare the body for meditation. Still, for our western lifestyle yoga poses and yoga being very physical way of practice works for us, because our mind is so busy. Good way to find the balance between the mind and body is to focus on poses. In modern yoga the poses are demanding so that your mind cannot think anything else. And the great thing is – if you like challenges – work with the poses! You’ve got challenges for the rest of your life.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MIND
Today, how I feel about the competition in my yoga practice? As long as I have that small tiny part of competitive mind in my head – I feel the competition. The moment I let go of that competitiveness, I am free of that. It’s all about the mind. If others compete around me, it’s their competition not mine. The greatest thing in yoga is the meditation – meditation, savasana or relaxation what ever you want to call it, that is the state of practice nobody can compere, nobody can compete, because you cannot know if you relax or meditate better than the other person next to you and at the end, we are all the same. That is your place – completely, competitive free area where everything is possible. Close your eyes and meditate – wonderful place, find your peace and soul.