I wake up 6 days a week and unroll my mat for a personal morning practice, I sit for at least 10 minutes a day to watch my breath and ground my thoughts (though it’s usually 8 minutes of monkey mind and 2 minutes – maybe – of centering), and I try my hardest to follow yogic philosophy and be a good person. I’d like to think that I’m a practicing yogini, but when it comes to the physical form of yoga, I guess I’m just not very good. To give you some insight, if you were to compare the poses and sequences that I flow through in the mornings to those on Instagram… well, you wouldn’t think I could “do yoga” very well.
I can’t do a handstand, I can’t do the splits, and I can’t bend myself into pretzel-like shapes. Sometimes I’ll find myself comparing my practice to the images that I see online; I’ll question my ability to teach, and I’ll consider if I should “practice harder.” But then I stop myself. I turn off my screen, and I go to do the things that I personally deem to be more important to my values.
I see quotes such as: “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s what you learn on the way down” floating around the internet, and I love them (and usually share them), but do most of us actually listen to them? Personally, I’ve strived to achieve a pose more than once, but the thing is, whether I did it or not, my life didn’t change. I didn’t feel any better about myself and I wasn’t any better of a person. So I stopped practicing all those “fancy poses” that usually hurt my body anyway, and I started focusing on what brings me to my mat every morning in the first place; the things that truly matter.
Don’t get me wrong, the yogis that can do those poses are likely wonderful people, but they’re technically no better than you or I. You can do a handstand and still be an asshole… just saying.
The point that I’m trying to make is that whether it’s conscious or subconscious, we tend to hold ourselves to such high standards in many aspects of life. Yoga poses aside, we compare our appearances, finances, job descriptions, relationship statuses, and more, to those of others. We put those we deem more successful than us on pedestals, and we often feel that we can never stand quite as high.
The problem is, we start to let these comparisons hold us back. The problem is, we start to let the things that we perceive we can’t do dictate how we feel about ourselves. And the problem is, we start to let those feelings trickle into other aspects of our lives as well, affecting us as a whole.
There’s this “successful” epidemic floating around that I want to address. We’re getting really caught up in the idea of success from materialistic or shallow viewpoints. For example, we assume someone’s big house or fancy car makes them successful, but maybe they’re in crippling debt because of it. We assume someone’s thin and toned body makes them happy, but maybe they’re depriving themselves in order to maintain that ideal. We assume someone’s prestigious job makes them better than us, but maybe they’re unhappy and exhausted trying to maintain their position.
We assume that people are better than us, people are more successful than us, people are happier than us, and we have no idea. And in turn, we’re making ourselves miserable with comparisons.
There is a quote I love that says: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I like to think similarly about comparisons. We’re not going to get to our own level of success if we focus on someone else’s version.
There is a portion of the interview with Derek Sivers from the ‘Tools of Titans’ book that I want to point out. When asked who Derek thinks of when he hears the word “successful,” Derek responded with this (after a few deeper dives into the question first):
“We can’t know [who is successful] without knowing a person’s aims. What if Richard Branson set out to live a quiet life, but like a compulsive gambler, he just can’t stop creating companies? Then that changes everything and we can’t call him successful anymore.”
So rather than tying your worth into holding a yoga pose that means nothing in the big scheme of your life, or comparing how you look, or the stuff you own, or the experiences you’ve had… just stop. Stop for a moment and get clear on what successful, or happy, or whatever other comparisons you hold yourself a prisoner to actually means to you.
Because when you acknowledge all the things that don’t honestly mean anything to you, and when you realize the things that truly do, you might find that what you’re looking for has been around you all along.
What, at the end of your life, will you look back on and feel happy about?