You’ve seen them. Those brochures. Those promises. Those cliche words that say yoga is non-competitive. Is it really? Did you know there’s such a thing as a yoga competition?
Since I’ve broadened my reach in my community, I’ve noticed the competitive vibe that hovers amongst students, teachers, and studios. I know it’s in our nature to compete and set goals to achieve more whether it’s in our lives, careers, or yoga poses. In fact, it’s healthy. It’s called growth. But there is a fine line between healthy competition and serious ego.
As a student, our egos might get in the way of being present. Who’s talking while you’re in a pose? Is it sensations? or is it ego? Are you looking at the person next to you and wish you could do what they’re doing? Or even worse, do you put yourself down because you can’t do what your neighbor is doing? That is serious ego. So what does healthy competition look like? One of the things I am working on this year is my handstand. I envy those who can turn upside down without any support. At one point I was getting really wrapped up in this self competition. I wanted others to envy me. I wanted others to say, “wow! look at her.” I was really beating myself up about it and pushing myself until out of the blue, my carpal tunnel syndrome reared it’s ugly head again. I caught myself listening to my ego. I realize that I was not ready for it. I had some healing to do physically and emotionally. I am still working towards it, but the difference is I am really honoring the sensations in my body. Some days I’m upside down. Other days, I’m lying on my back.
As a teacher, competition is many fold. I see teachers bring their egos into classrooms all the time. Some teach advanced poses to show off what they know even though the students aren’t ready for it. We compete for the popular time slots. We compete for students. Again, unhealthy competition takes us out of the present. Are we there to show off? Are we there to share? Are we there to help people heal? Or are we causing them more suffering? Some teachers have even said some really mean things to me like “why do you teach for free? why would you give away your podcasts for free? You’re stealing all the students with your free classes.”
I teach at 6 different studios and I see competition amongst studios who are not even in direct competition with eachother. Let’s face it. If you’re a studio owner, yoga is a business. You’re fighting for the student base. You’re fighting about how your yoga is better than the next. You’re fighting to get the best teachers. You’re fighting because you don’t want your business to fold. That’s a lot of fighting and competing. But what happened to the sayings on your pretty brochure? Why can’t you refer a student who may benefit more from another studio’s style of yoga? Why shouldn’t I refer students to the other places I teach because they might fit in over there better?
Just as I see my asana practice as a constant inquiry about my body, I think we all could question our intentions and behaviors every now and then. Are you promoting the very thing that you are teaching students not to do?