Yoga is for everybody, including runners! Part 8 – Your body is your body alone

In part 7 I included the quote by BSK Iyengar,

“Words cannot convey the value of yoga – it has to be experienced”.

I cannot emphasise this enough!

You cannot learn what you do not know, but what you do not know may already exist. There is a lot that we cannot learn by reading books (or blogs) but only gain through experience. Through the actual doing. This is the hard part and this is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

After reading parts 5 and 7, I really do hope you managed to find a yoga class online to simply just experience what it is to be in a yoga class. If you did, well-done, but don’t make it your last. If you didn’t, that is okay, you have plenty of time. Just remember, the first class is always overwhelming, you go in wide-eyed, inexperienced, and innocent.

Don’t give up now. Yoga is a practice, that requires you to show up time and time again. And just when you think it’s getting easier, you’re thrown a curve ball. Just like running, it requires discipline, patience and practice. Whether that be using advanced asana to explore the sensory world of your body or whether that be tapping into the nuances that help you transcend into the world of metaphysics.

Today, I would like to touch on a topic that has been highlighted for me by lockdown - the importance of ‘your body is your body alone’ - yoga is not a competition and should not be about comparing yourself to others.

“Enjoy your own life without comparing it with that of another.” Marquis de Condorcet

Right now, during the COVID-19 global pandemic we are all doing online yoga classes. What I have noticed is that my students are finally realising how they ‘compete’ or ‘compare’ or ‘worry about others opinions’ in group yoga class settings.

A little (very informal) survey with my students gave me insight into their mind chatter during class at a studio sounds like:

Why am I sweating so much? Are my pants see through? Did she/he see me fall? Can she/he tell I wore this same outfit last week? Is she/he thinking I’m a lame for using props for this pose? Who wears make-up to a yoga class? I should be able to touch my heels to the floor like they can. Why can’t I hold plank as long as them? I’ll never be able to do that. I bet he/she is not even a real yogi. Look at her designer yoga clothing. (ps. I love my students for noticing and for being open to talk about this).

What’s wrong with comparing yourself with others?

  • It’s usually an unfair comparison and you’ll always feel inferior if you look at someone’s strengths and your weaknesses.

  • Even if you compare strengths, there will always be those who are better than you.

  • Even if you do well in comparison with others, this is usually a short-lived ego boost.

  • You end up resenting others for their achievements or strengths without seeing the full picture or even knowing them. She or he is human too.

  • You might end up boasting about your own accomplishments more than is necessary – this can be unconscious or conscious.

  • You might find yourself criticising others to build yourself up.

Practicing online, alone in a safe space where no one cares what you wear, how you look, what props you use, how you do the pose or how much you are doing has allowed students to go deeper into their own practice – it has allowed students to be in their body (emotionally, physically and spiritually) and to observe their own transformation without comparison. This has been the perfect lesson for many students about the statement I often say:

“Only compare yourself to yourself” Dale Guthrie

But practicing at home, alone, is not all that fabulous, despite the convenience; students also miss the motivation of having others in class, the social and playful interactions with others, and importantly, the community.

So, the question is, how can we be like this (imagine practicing in your room) on our mats – free of the mind chatter, constantly comparing to others? But simply just moving on your mat, in a space with others, on your own sensory exploration.

Here are some tips of how to break the cycle of comparing yourself with others (whether this be in the yoga class or while running):

· Notice. Become aware of these thoughts. This means you need to be on the lookout for them. Like most things this just takes practice, and the more you notice the harder it will become to miss them.

· Acknowledge. Stop yourself in the thought without judgement. Just pause, breath, acknowledge and change the direction or focus to a more helpful thought.

· Celebrate your strengths. Instead of placing all the focus on your weaknesses, ask yourself what your strengths are. I know that when I ask people what their strengths and weaknesses are they can give me a long list of weaknesses and I often have to squeeze their strengths out of them. Be proud of your strengths, without bragging; feel good about them and work on using them to your best advantage.

· Let go of expectation. Stop thinking about what you should be able to do and appreciate where you are at. Each day offers us a new body. So keep checking in. As this is going to make you feel different. Rather explore how you can work with what you have.

· Accept imperfection. Imperfection is the new perfect. No one is perfect — our rational brain knows this, but we seem to feel bad when we don’t reach ‘perfection’. Stop striving for the impossible. Keep trying to improve, but don’t think you’ll ever be the ‘perfect person’ rather strive for the best version of yourself.

“Imperfection is perfection to a beautiful perspective”

I would like to reiterate that yoga is a journey. Do not rank yourself in comparison to others - it’s not a competition. We are all on our own journey. Your practice should be a process of self-discovery and not a competition. In yoga we learn through experience. As we experience (through our practice) we begin to reveal information which we hold. Often information that we have not allowed to surface or have ignored. We, as yoga teachers, cannot tell you what to experience, we can only provide you with the tools to do your own unraveling. Each and every one of you will more than likely find something different. Why? Because, we are all unique physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” - Margaret Mead

Finally, in summary I hope this blog (and its 7 other parts) provided you with some insight into yoga and its benefits for you and your body as a runner. Yoga can help you:

1. shift from imbalance to balance (see part 2)

2. breath with more ease (see part 2)

3. focus your mind (see part 3)

4. gain control of your thoughts (see part 4)

5. rest! (see part 5) or,

6. adopt a more positive mindset (see part 6)

7. potentially decrease your risk of injury (see part 7)

8. and unravel that which you already hold

It has been such a pleasure to share insight into the beauty of yoga with each of you. The main point I hoped to have achieved is that anybody can do yoga. Give it a try.

The light in me sees the light in you.

Dale Guthrie

MSc Occupational Therapist: neurosciences

Adaptive yoga specialist

Founder of Holism Health

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