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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?

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