Day 16

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Michael Dynie
Studio: Rama Lotus

You know what's really annoying? Introducing someone to yoga, then three classes later they're already doing headstands with no wall support. After dragging myself through countless classes I'm only now coming to that point.

On that note, another element of yoga I've had to get my head around is that ever-prevailing spirit of competition. In our culture the idea of measuring yourself against your fellow human is perpetuated from every angle, in everything from our obsession with sports to climbing the ladder of success in the (rat race) working world. Based on its roots and early teachings, yoga should truly be devoid of that mentality, but as you might imagine, it's easier said then done. Reflecting back on past classes I'm aware that - especially early on - if I was suffering in something like the Warrior sequence, the solitary thought I sometimes clung to was a stubborn drive to outlast my closely neighboring yogis. The thought of saving face and sparing my ego carried me through some tough moments. When I look at it, it's really the reason I find practicing at home so hard. Alone, literally just me and my mind, it feels ten times harder to give a hundred percent. That much more difficult to take the poses all the way to their edge. Alone in the void it was only too easy to come out of a pose if it became unbearable or if I "thought" I couldn't take it anymore. After all, who would see?...

Tonight I'm at Ashtanga with a few friends, and I catch myself doing it compulsively. Seemingly on their own accord my eyes steal glances of other students, analyzing and critiquing posture, subtly congratulating myself if I'm thinking I have better form in a particular pose or feeling envious of another's advanced variation. We always want the one-up, the advantage, the higher status. The prestige, the reputation, the success. Our egos love recognition. Again and again I have to reign in my thoughts like untrained, vicious dogs snarling at the end of their leashes.

I guess overall the idea is to really go within and study yourself... and if there needs to be competition, let it be between you your concept of you. Every human has totally different skeletal measurements, asymmetries, muscle structures, history of injury. One could take naturally to flexible poses but struggle with the strength-based aspect, and vice versa. Individual people have completely different biochemical combinations, each as unique as one fingerprint from another. So I'll focus on that lesson like a mantra, letting it sink in overnight. Tomorrow I'll contradict myself completely and sadistically enjoy watching a smack-talking soon-to-be yogi getting tossed around in the tide at Wednesday nights class, before I take off with a bus ticket and a paycheck to explore the Montreal side of yoga for a few days.


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