I read an interesting blog the other day about competitive yoga: “Oxymoron, abomination, or just a thing?” it asked.
The competitive side of yoga
It got me thinking about what yoga means, what competition means and whether the two are compatible.
Yoga, literally, means unity — which doesn’t sound very competitive. In fact, it sounds like the opposite of competition, which is a struggle between two opposites.
On the other hand, when two contrasting things meet and engage — or compete — there is an opportunity for them to influence each other. Perhaps, in the end, for unity.
Without getting too philosophical, I think there is a way in which yoga guides, or encourages us to compete with certain aspects of ourselves. If our natural inclination is to sleep in till the last minute, then rush frantically to work, without breakfast, yoga encourages us to challenge that behaviour with a more positive set of actions.
When negative thought patterns or habits emerge, yoga is a tool to compete with those impulses, to help us get back on track.
When not to compete
However, there are definitely areas in which yoga should not be a competition.
First, it should not be a competition about looks, flexibility, or how long you’ve been practicing. Everyone’s journey is unique, and comparison or competition in this respect is counter to the true spirit of yoga.
Second, yoga should not be used as a tool for self-judgement or deprecation. We often compete internally, constantly measuring ourselves in terms of outside markers. This is not the purpose of yoga. It should open us to greater awareness and self-compassion, not an attitude of impatience or pressure.
There are no winners or losers in yoga. The achievement is the practice.