Several years ago, I wanted to get deeper into my yoga practice. I wanted to learn as much as I could, and to do this I needed a good teacher.
Having mainly practiced online I began looking for a local teacher. I went to several classes with young, super flexible and pretty inexperienced teachers that I just couldn't resonate with or connect with. I didn't enjoy the classes and it wasn't a good fit for me. I felt quite literally like the elephant in the room.
I couldn't connect to them because they weren't connecting with me. At those classes I didn't feel supported, encouraged or enabled. It was clear that those teachers didn't understand my lack of flexibility, and how to modify poses for me. I was the odd one out.
With super tight hamstrings and an old disc injury, folding forwards (which there is loads of in yoga!) was pretty difficult for me, and worst of all, I was comparing myself to that teacher, to the other students in the class, and because my movement didn't look like theirs, I told myself I wasn't good enough.
I had fallen into the comparison trap.
It was bad enough not having a good teacher to make me feel supported and included, but the internal struggle I brought upon myself was way worse.
I began to tell myself that I wasn't good enough if I couldn't make these shapes with my body, or if I didn't look a certain way in a pose. I told myself maybe I should just give up and stop practicing. I berated my body for not be able to do what others seemed to do so naturally, so gracefully. I beat myself up. My confidence dwindled. I forgot for a moment how far I had come and how good yoga made me feel.
Eventually I picked myself up and listened to my intuition. Its soft but strong voice was telling me that this is what I needed to do. What I HAD to do. The voice wouldn't go away and it grew stronger. Whispering in my ear at all hours of the day and night. Finally, after a lot of research I found a great teacher and she told me all that I needed to hear.
"Your practice is your practice" she said to me down the phone, "It's not about anyone else. We all have completely unique bodies.... Yoga is so much more than just the physical."
I let this sink in.
The next time I went to a yoga class in a studio, I didn't engage with anyone else in the room but the teacher. As far as I was concerned it was me and her in the room and no one else was there. I was determined to change my mindset. Throughout the whole hour I didn't look at anyone else and I listened to my teachers voice as it guided me and I did exactly what she asked me to do.
I tuned in. I closed my eyes. I moved as I inhaled and as I exhaled. I expanded outwards and contracted in, I moved with the breath. At some point I realised I was dancing with myself, purely in the moment, with my breath, and it felt incredible.
That single class changed everything for me.
I had my lightbulb moment. I had set myself free.
I never went into a class and compared myself to others again. That is when my yoga journey really began.
There is not a single person I know that has been to a yoga class and not felt inadequate in some way. Even some of the most flexible and strong people I know. And that is just WRONG.
Of course, finding the right teacher is key. Someone you resonate with, trust and believe in. Someone with experience, kindness and support.
But, even with the most amazing yoga teacher at your disposal it is still up to us to enable ourselves, and to free ourselves from this comparison trap, from these negative inner voices.
We have to go within and focus purely on our own work. It is the inner work that is often more difficult, but oh so much more rewarding.
What the person next to you in class is doing is quite frankly none of your business, and what you are doing is none of theirs.
If you find yourself nodding to this then stop comparing and FREE. YOUR. MIND.
Be bold, believe and tap into that well of deep strength that we all have within us.
That is when the real path to yoga begins. The moment we go within.
I still cant quite touch my toes, and does this matter? Not one bit.
We're on this path together.
With so much love,