It happens. It happens. You attend a yoga class hoping to connect to your body, breath, and the most pure part of yourself. Instead, you get distracted by the other students in the room. You notice that a student has better practice and perfect Instagram-worthy poses. All of your positive thoughts and intentions are suddenly thrown out the window. You feel entirely defeated, resentful, and bad about yourself. Congratulations! Congratulations!
Envy is “a painful or resentful recognition of an advantage enjoyed in another’s presence, coupled with the desire to have the same advantage.” Yoga classes are the perfect setting for envy. As yoga, a personal activity, has spread into classrooms with students of different abilities and experience levels, a tendency to compare and compete naturally occurs.
We don’t want yoga to suppress our feelings. Instead, we should explore and learn from them. Pause and take a deep breath if you feel envious thoughts creeping into your yoga practice. These may include judgments of others, competition, self-doubt, or despair. This is an indication that your thoughts are no longer in alignment with the purpose of self-examination.
When jealousy shows up on your mat:
You can also focus on your inner experience by stopping, breathing, and shifting your attention. Observe where you feel the contractions in your body. Send your breath to that area.
Be curious. What insecurities are hidden under your uneasy feelings? Challenge them. Are they true or false?
Practice gratitude. Be grateful for the fantastic things that your body is capable of. You deserve to be thankful for all your hard work and progress.
Let envy become an inspiration! Change the script to: “Wow! That’s beautiful!” instead of “I wish my hips were open that much!” “I will include more hip-openers in my home practice.”
Avoid the temptation to try to imitate another person’s posture. When we force, injuries can occur.
The teacher of my teacher said, “Look at yourself!” If we remain curious and detached, envy can help us to see where we need to improve and also allow us to practice Santosha.
In yoga, contentment does not simply exist but must be practiced and cultivated. Santosha does not exclude ambition. You can be happy with your current situation while still having an eye toward the future. The only place to find yoga is now. A beautiful asana practice can be the cherry on the consolation prize. Peace of mind and joy on the journey are true gems.
It is a fact that there will always be someone with better hips and greater flexibility. There will also always be stronger people with more balance or higher strength. Maybe they’ve been practicing longer or naturally tend to do these things. Those who are less experienced than you will also appear. They may be absolute beginners or have physical or mental limitations. You may be envious!
We all have unique challenges and strengths. Allow this to inspire you. Be inspired by the beautiful postures of your neighbors. Allow them to show you the possibilities of hard work and dedication. You can admire the student who struggles but still shows up each week. They are a shining example of dedication. Remember that you are valuable as a student and aspiring yogi.