I’m going to be a little bit controversial here, because this is very un-yogic in its origins but I am working on letting go, promise! Do you have a Yoga Nemesis?
Allow me to explain what a Yoga Nemesis is. They are a unique breed of yogi, created in your own mind like a fictional character. It’s the person you see at the class you attend or more likely on social media, who just appears to have it all down. They can rock an amazing arm balance (which you’ve been working on for ages and are so far from getting any lift off it’s unbelievable), while wearing their new lululemon (or another designer yogi brand) and using the mega mat, which you would buy if you didn’t also have to eat.
Sometimes they profess to only have taken up yoga a year ago (omitting their gymnast background experience) and you’ve got yoga mats older than their yoga journey. Occasionally they can be a bit of a Yoga Snob (name dropping teachers they’ve worked with, only going to certain studios, or wear certain brands) or more infuriatingly, they can be really, really nice!
There’s a distinct difference between looking up to someone as inspiration, acknowledging that their lifestyle, age, abilities, and body are very different to your own; and seeing that person as a competitor whom you need to keep up with. The mind is great at getting us into imagined situations, you may find yourself sneaking envious glances at this yogi throughout class, comparing yourself to them. By doing this, you are more focussed on their practice than you are on your own. Who are you here for?
The ego begins to take over and we can forget the true meaning of yoga, which is to unite – mind, body and soul. To achieve this, we need to have a one-pointed focus on our own practice, not be so busy checking out the colour of her yoga mat that you don’t hear the cue to transition into downdog.
While you’re watching your Yoga Nemesis, you may even come to a part of the practice where they don’t float gracefully into the full posture. But you do! This is not the time to mentally high-five yourself, that finally you can do something they can’t. Instead, try to accept that any number of reasons could be attributed to the fact that you are both practicing different versions of this particular asana. Focus on your breath, focus on yourself and not on the other person.
This is where we can practice some of the yamas and look at honesty (satya) and non-violence (ahimsa.) If you continue to compare yourself with this person, and harbour feelings of envy you are practicing a form of violence and non-acceptance of yourself and where you are in your current yoga journey. The best possible course of action is to be honest with the person, approach them. Ask them for tips on the incredible arm balance, complement the colour of the mat you’ve been lusting after, or just say hi! You may turn a Yoga Nemesis into a Yoga Buddy. After all it’s only yoga, and sometimes we all need to lighten up and remember this.