“Comparison is the thief of joy” - Theodore Roosevelt
Last spring something amazing happened to me. The owner of my home yoga studio, one of the best in town, asked me to “model” for the studio’s promotional material. I was simultaneously flattered and perplexed at the same time. Wait. Is my practice pretty and strong enough for me to be a yoga “model?” I rationalized this request with the thought that maybe she was suffering from pregnancy brain. However, despite my massive self-doubt, and after some enthusiastic prodding from my besties, I agreed with great trepidation. In spite of my misgivings, the shoot turned out very well, and I was happy with the outcome. I showed a few friends and family members the result of the shoot and the photos were met with rave reviews. I felt like a million bucks. Shortly thereafter, Nanga Yoga and a few other brands asked me to do shoots for them as well. What is happening?! I was on cloud nine. Man, I’m in such good shape, and my practice is on point, I thought to myself. What was I ever worried about?
And then...I joined Instagram.
It only took one day of exploring the yoga models of Instagram to find my confidence circling the drain. Who the hell do I think I am? Look at these gorgeous, tall, thin, incredibly flexible women. Look at her back?! She clearly doesn’t have a lumbar spine. I can’t hold a candle to the level of beauty and flexibility these women possess. Why are people asking me to model for them when this is out there in the world? I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I ever thought I was in the same league as these women.
I was doing what we all do to ourselves at some time or another. I was sabotaging my confidence and joy by comparing myself to others. Don’t get me wrong; there are times when comparison can be a useful tool, but far too often we abuse it. As yogis, we sabotage our confidence when we compare ourselves physically to the yogi who walks in the studio looking poised, fit, and lean. We sabotage our peace when we compare our practice to the practice of the yogi on the mat next to us. We sabotage our entire practice when we focus only on our asanas, the physical expression of our yoga practice. The fact that your neighbor or that Instagram model can effortlessly pike into handstand with lotus legs does not make them a “better yogi” than you. Their physical ability to do any asana has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. Focusing on (in a negative manner), worrying about, or comparing yourself to anything that is happening on a mat that is not underneath your own two feet is a waste of your energy and a distraction from the ultimate goal of yoga. Other than being aware of proper alignment, judging the physical expression of your practice will not serve you in a positive manner.
In my moment of self-doubt and comparison (and trust me, this was not a singular occurrence), I almost turned down a great opportunity to do a photo shoot for a local magazine because I didn’t feel good enough. Thank (insert whomever/whatever it is that you thank) that I have some truly intelligent, thoughtful and loving people in my life that were able to snap me out of this self-doubting frame of mind and remind me that there was no need or use for comparison in this instant. I remembered that asanas are but a very small part of what yoga is, and, we all have very different bodies, capabilities, strengths, and limitations. I realized that there is something about the way my body is built and the way I express my asanas that people find value in and that I too should find this same value within myself. We are each unique and beautiful in our own way, and the practice of yoga is for everyone. Never compare your yoga practice to another’s. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and nobody likes a thief.
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