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Why It Doesn't Matter How Flexible You Are in Yoga Class

Beginner Yoga Tip: Don't Compete With the Room

Sometimes for a beginner yogi, enrolling in a new class can be intimidating. It feels like everyone else already knows each other, has a designated spot in the studio, and is dressed in the latest and greatest yoga wear.

When class starts, it can get worse. There are all sorts of skill levels and personalities co-existing on the floor, and as you bend and turn you can't help but notice the perfect form of the girl in the corner who's been practicing for years or the guy straining to do the best pose.

As a beginner in yoga I've definitely snuck glances to check out how other people are faring in class more than a few times. But advice from my teacher during the first class of my beginner's yoga course helped put any insecurities aside. His advice is simple: don't compete with the room. Yoga, he said, is about an individual journey, and not whether the person next to you is more flexible. He reminded us that whether we fall when we're trying to balance or can do the best headstand pose in the class, no one will care, or even notice.

It's not just mental; read on for why competing with the room can hurt your practice.

Another important reason you shouldn't compare your practice with anyone else's? You risk injuring yourself if you push your body further than it's supposed to go in hopes of keeping up with your mat neighbor. Yoga may be about stretching your muscles and opening up joints, but you should always stop before a pose becomes a strain, which may be at a different spot for you than for someone else. Don't go past your body's limits by reminding yourself that striving for the perfect or best pose is not what yoga is about.

I always think about about my teacher's advice when I go to class, and it makes me enjoy the workout all the more. Beginner or expert, do you ever find yourself competing with the room?

Image Source: Thinkstock
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LaurieMyersYoga LaurieMyersYoga 4 years
So obvious and yet so true! I have a six week beginner series that starts this week and I'm going to share this with my students.
Kim-Foster-MD Kim-Foster-MD 4 years
@Diana615 I do online yoga classes at www.myyogaonline.com but they do have a (small) monthly fee...I think there are free classes somewhere online, but I'm not sure!
neil-keleher neil-keleher 4 years
it may be easier to not focus on anyone else if you instead focus on what you are doing. That can be difficult in a beginner class since you probably don't know what you should be doing and hence you look around to see what others are doing. Depending on the speed of the class you might be able to look at one person and look at one particular part of their body, say their hands. Then adjust your own hands to match as closely as possible. Then look at their elbows, shoulders etc. If you are doing a standing pose, then you might be better off to first notice the position of the feet. then notice the knees, hips/pelvis etc. And so that you reduce the chance of hurting yourself try to adjust each part of your body slowly so that you can feel the effects and notice when you've gone far enough.
IAMYOUStudio IAMYOUStudio 4 years
For some more beginner yoga tips, follow 7D7N to a NEW YOU with I.AM.YOU. Studio. http://www.iamyoustudio.com/blog/.
Diana615 Diana615 4 years
@Kim Foster MD where would you recommend I look for a yoga class online?
Lo-Lo291303 Lo-Lo291303 4 years
This reminds me of the Body Pump class I took yesterday. I've only been a handful of times, and lift less weight than most women in the class. I can't help but look around and feel sooooo inferior! But I know if I add more weight, I'm just going to injure myself due to poor form, or not even be able to do the moves.
Kim-Foster-MD Kim-Foster-MD 4 years
Definitely. Yoga is not a competitive sport. Or do yoga at home (but not by yourself--boring!)...I love doing online yoga classes, it's great. Plus way better for time management--who has time to get down to a yoga studio several times a week, change, take a 90-minute class...? 3 hours later!
Kim-Foster-MD Kim-Foster-MD 4 years
Definitely. Yoga is not a competitive sport.Or do yoga at home (but not by yourself--boring!)...I love doing online yoga classes, it's great. Plus way better for time management--who has time to get down to a yoga studio several times a week, change, take a 90-minute class...? 3 hours later!
janetmouse janetmouse 4 years
Great reminder in this competitive world!
Advah Advah 4 years
Great tip. I don't find myself competing, but the times I ended up next to a super flexible girl I was definitely not pleased with practice. Now I try to focus on how I hold poses better than a month ago (comparing week by week isn't always helpful on those slow days!) and how *my* practice is improving.Also, that guy in the picture shouldn't have his foot resting on his knee!
Advah Advah 4 years
Great tip. I don't find myself competing, but the times I ended up next to a super flexible girl I was definitely not pleased with practice. Now I try to focus on how I hold poses better than a month ago (comparing week by week isn't always helpful on those slow days!) and how *my* practice is improving. Also, that guy in the picture shouldn't have his foot resting on his knee!
Jenny-Sugar Jenny-Sugar 4 years
Great advice! I always tell students at the beginning of my class that everyone's body is unique, we're all at different levels, and the most important thing you can do is listen to and appreciate your own body.
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