≡ Menu

On Being Competitive In Yoga Class

in Practice, YD News


Are you competitive in yoga class? Maybe not on purpose? Or maybe it’s a internal competitiveness either for a personal goal….or maybe you’re feeling just a bit self-judgmental. (Did we make up a new term?)

Essentially, we’re a pretty competitive society (hello, capitalism!) – it often helps us understand progress and encourages us to reach the “next level.” Sometimes competition is good and healthy and whatnot, but part of what makes yoga different from other life stuff is that it asks WHY. Or, rather, it encourages YOU to ask why.

Today.com reached out to us for input on competitiveness in yoga class. ‘What are ways to not be competitive?’ they wanted to know. We thought about it for a minute and then YD founder Jennilyn Carson offered some tips.

Here are a few of our faves shared in the article:

3. Accept that you may never be able to do some poses

We’re all built differently, so your body may not be meant to fold, twist or bend a certain way, even if your neighbor can, Carson said.

“There are some poses I will never be able to do and I don’t even try them. I’m OK with that,” she noted.

6. Pay attention to your intentions

Since yoga encourages lots of self-inquiry, Carson suggested asking yourself: For what and for whom am I making this goal or setting this bar for myself?

“Are you trying to be as super rock star posing yogi, or are you doing it so you can grow a little bit more?” she noted.

We all like to move forward and do better, but in yoga doing better may mean being able to be still for an extra minute, or keeping your balance for 30 seconds in tree pose, Carson said.

8. Tell yourself: “You’re exactly where you need to be right now”

That’s Carson’s go-to mantra in the yoga studio and beyond.

“Things are moving the way they should be. It takes the pressure off. It’s very helpful,” she said.

Other tips come from NYC yoga teacher Tanya Boulton and Denver-based yoga teacher Drew Overholser, and all of them sound pretty helpful. Check out the full article here.

Have your own tips or suggestions? Let us know.



13 comments… add one
  • Dwayne

    Is the link given above correct? When I followed it, I got a seemingly infinite scroll of Today stories, none of which (AFAICT before giving up) had anything to do with yoga.

  • VQ2
  • VQ2

    How to not be competitive in yoga class (Teacher’s Edition):
    Takeoff on #1:
    Discourage competition. Not just lip service. Like Planet Fitness does for the gym floor, reprimand the “lunkheads” verbally. Maybe kicking them out of class.
    And/or have an LCD version of Power Yoga (kind of like how there are no headstands on those DVDs – but compared to them, YOU don’t have boring, classical sun salutes they could “get off the internet”, either). Kind of a corollary as to how your studio may now have a “teacher training lite” for those who just want to “enrich their practice only” and not become one of the surfeit of teachers who can’t get placed.

    Discourage competition.
    Don’t encourage “advancing” in practice.
    But teach power yoga.
    Not a contradiction in terms.
    YTTP does that without blinking an eye.

  • I think the struggle with this for me is that I’m fairly new to practicing and am constantly looking at others to see how they got into that pose, was their alignment is, etc. And it is frustrating when someone who does not look athletic blows past you in a yoga class and is actually a secret agent for team Gumby. It is even more frustrating that I care.

    As it goes with yoga, learning to love yourself for your own faults and challenging yourself to be a better you, should be done daily.

    • VQ2

      “And it is frustrating when someone who does not look athletic blows past you in a yoga class and is actually a secret agent for team Gumby. It is even more frustrating that I care. ”

      I’d personally, felt I’d left that at the side of the pool deck when the marathoners did that to me as a swimmer. But it took the wrong teacher(s) to bring it all back … and it certainly did. You teachers know who you are—and you did not claim you taught “power yoga” either, but it showed in part of your lineage. It really WAS bad for business, in the long run, because multiply me by 10s of students who decide never to show up again.

  • No amount of bullshit platitudes will overpower that fact that any system that is based on an idealized form of asana to which everyone must conform is intrinsically competitive whether others are around or not. It’s the system, baby. Turn on, tune in, but most importantly, drop out of the studio scene.

  • VQ2

    True enough. That is after you have garnered all the knowledge of form you possibly could, and rely on your own intuition, kinesthetic sense, body awareness and sense of improvisation to bring it all together on your own, at home and elsewhere. This is not to say that the media, both traditional and social media, even if on your own—will not continue to egg you on.

    Guaranteed. I’d by lying if I said I’d not gotten any physical and/or psychic yoga injuries at home, as well as at the studio. But some yoga technicians and experts ignore injuries, right? Injuries are just “tapas”. The self-mortification needed. To transcend.

    Transcend your body.

    Yeah, right: death itself does that very well, thankyouverymuch.

    That’s the studios’ rocket fuel, and they ride that too …

  • k4k

    I’m not sure it’s useful to make a blanket statement blaming studios, teachers or students. Some studios, some teachers, some students are “that way”. It is probably natural in our competitive society that students new to yoga want to “get it right” and part of that to them is being pose-perfect. If the teacher is good, the student will come to realize the fallacy of that desire and will look deeper into yoga to experience its true value. That doesn’t mean our naturally competitive nature doesn’t surface once in a while — like I totally wish I could do wheel pose! — but the practice makes us aware of our intentions and allows us to question them. As I age and practice more yoga (I started about 3 years ago), I am finding more and more of this wisdom.

    However I do agree that practicing without a mirror feels better because I am not tempted to look at myself and everyone else.

  • Lauren

    1. Close your eyes when you safely can.
    2. Practice more by yourself.
    3. Turn inward in each pose to listen and feel what the pose and your body are telling you.
    4. Respect the pose, respect the pose.
    5. Respect yourself.
    6. Start each practice with an intention.

  • Really good article

  • Really good article. I am learning yoga at Art of Living at my health has improved a lot

Leave a Comment