Who is the best practicioner in your yoga class? As a society, we tend to measure our own worth in comparison to others. Schools assess children by grading them, and we expect them to do well. Sports teams keep score, and we praise the team who has the best score at the end of the game. Adults may keep score by the size of their house, the car they drive, the vacations that they take, or the size of their bank account.
Student #1 was deciding if she wanted to double up on yoga classes last evening. She wanted to know if it was going to be a hard or relaxed class. I responded to her that she could make the class what she needs right now, and she always had the option of taking a knee down or going into child's pose. Meanwhile, a small group of students were chatting about the previous day's class, "Lauren's class was really great yesterday". I had been in that class and responded, "yes it was, and I really enjoyed taking child's pose a few times". This astonished student #1, "You took child's pose? I took downward facing dog every time".
It is all too tempting to keep score in yoga class (or assume that your teacher is keeping score). Did you get into a deeper version of the pose, hold plank longer, or demonstrate more strength and flexibility? I offer this truth, your yoga teacher is not keeping score, and fellow students almost never slap each other in the butt like football players do during a game. Although I now laughing as I picture students slapping each other in the butt while leaving the studio with an encouraging "great Warrior 2 today".
If there were a score in yoga class, it wouldn't be measured in how many times you denied yourself rest (if you needed it). Yes, it is easy to measure progress through advanced poses, but some bodies will fit into those poses naturally. Gymnasts and dancers may more easily find cool looking poses, but that does not make it advanced yoga. So how do we measure our progress?
- Is there consistency in your practice? This can present itself in asana (poses) on the mat or yoga philosophy off the mat.
- Can you give your body what it needs? Evaluate each day (or each pose) if you need to take it easy, or push yourself to work a little harder. Since yoga is a union of mind and body, if you're taking the pose you need, you're advancing!
- Can you become more aware of subtle changes? You can add new awareness by activating the legs, engaging the core, lengthening the spine, aligning the body, or practicing breathwork.
- What is the quality of your savasana? Do you feel a little humming in your body, do you feel fully relaxed, are the tension and anxiety gone?
While there will never be a trophy or a winner's podium after the yoga classes that I teach, I hope that each student experiences something much greater than "winning" at yoga. This can happen when we stop grading ourselves and others.
Hopefully your practice will help you to stop keeping score in other areas of your life as well. What if you picked up a little extra work when a coworker is stressed? What if you put extra effort into a relationship without keeping score? What if you really saw a stranger in need and took a step to help? With nothing expected in return, no agenda in mind, just living life and connecting with others. Don't you think you'd be happier?
If we can find happiness without scorekeeping on and off the mat, we all win. The prize is peace and joy. Doesn't that sound great?
Namaste - Beth