Through my back legs, I can see her, one knee balancing effortlessly on her elbow, ponytail gracefully suspended in space, legs extended mid-air, like scissors ready to slice through the atmosphere. Lithe muscles flexing, her perfectly executed side crow demonstrates dedication and likely, years of practice. A drop of sweat hits my mat as I take a deep inhalation.
On my fifth day of hot power yoga, there are moves that I can’t maneuver and moments when I feel like a poser amidst these bendy yogis. As I try to balance my knees upon my elbows, my toes awkwardly touch the mat at irregular intervals, arms gently shaking. Even the elderly woman next to me is firmly rooted in her crow. I wonder how many people notice my misplaced feet and wobbly posture. Maybe I felt a touch of pretension when I unrolled my Target yoga mat, adorned with small chunks pecked away by tiny fingernails... glances in my direction and then quickly off into space.
Shooing away the insecurity with my next exhalation, I remind myself that they once were me and take note of how blessed I am to be here. In spite of a decade-long desire to start a true yoga practice (that wasn’t the result of a YouTube query) the stars had never aligned for me until now, and it was instant addiction on day one.
Instead of shrinking beneath the talent in the room, I find myself inspired. I want that for myself, and with each glance around, I feel empowered to push a little harder.
We’re told not to compare ourselves to others, not to want what others have, but I’m calling bullshit on that notion. There’s a time and a place.
Without comparison, how do we know how much further we can go? When a friend mentions an accomplishment, I’m reminded of my own capacity. When I watch a mother with her children, I take mental notes, using them to improve my own parenting. If handled appropriately, comparison can serve as motivation towards self-improvement. Most feats of greatness are considered unachievable until they’re achieved, and then many follow in their footsteps, pushing the bar further still.
Stagnation is the byproduct of never letting your eye wander to the girl next to you, of not trying the new healthy eating routine your friend feels like a million bucks on, of not attempting that book you always dreamed of writing.
The line gets drawn in the sand when your self-worth is hinged upon how you’re perceived by others. Make sure it’s progress that you want for yourself, not of the variety that keeps you in the loop with the cool kids.
Don’t be deterred or deflated by what you can or can’t pull off. The goal isn't to beat yourself up, but to use comparative inspiration to propel you forward. Try and try again. Tell yourself you can do it, and if you can’t right now, know yourself well enough to call it a day. Sometimes our plates are just plain full. You’re good enough exactly as you are in this moment, worthy of all the Love the world has to offer.
Having said that, part of Self-Love comes with pushing forward, getting a little uncomfortable, having enough confidence to challenge yourself, to believe in what you’re capable of, and being willing to give it an effort. Look fear square in the eye and then push past it, because you know how damn great you’ll feel when you do.
Growth is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves.
So, I look over to her again, as she rounds the class out with a headstand, feet to the sky, shoulders harnessing massive amounts of energy, while the rest of us roll up our mats. True to the spirit of Namaste, I see my future self in her, heart already swollen with pride.