Several years ago, I sat in a room full of Ashtanga Yogis with their advanced practice, slim and bendy bodies, glistening from all of the tapas (discipline of years of practicing a series of poses to achieve mind body excellence) All this just so I, founder of sattva vinyasa, lover of yoga, but certainly limited in some areas, just so I could be near the great Richard Freeman.
My body is not made for ashtanga yoga, i require many modifications and while in awe I always felt like a bit of an outsider.
I flashed back to a time in Kerala, practicing Kalari and while we struggled with the new practice of this ancient martial arts, the teacher proudly brought over a tall, slender male with very little body fat and demonstrated the posture and said, “this is a Kalari body.”
Again pointing out that it just isn’t in my DNA to be a 6′ tall skinny man.
Richard came over and assisted the gentleman with a similar build and looked at me and said that Patabhi Jois would sometimes say, “If you can’t do the posture than let me do it for you”, as he wrapped his body around theirs to give an assist, or even let someone else do it for you as I tell my students in class that are comparing themselves with people of different genetics in flexibility, strength, or focus.
This reminds me of yoga sutra 1.33. This sutra describes the 4 locks and keys to happiness. A very important key is to “be happy for others.”
In a time of social media when some of us may see our selves only as a measurement of comparison to those in our newsfeeds, may we instead follow two of these keys by giving ourselves to those who are suffering and sharing in the happiness of others accomplishments.
In my book, The Path of Joyful Living, published last month, in step 2 on the path, I speak to the yamas, the ethical precepts of yoga. The yama of asteya (not stealing) I have always related to as not comparing.
When we compare ourselves with others, either greater than or less then; better than or not as good as; we cover up our true nature. Not living up to owning our lives and lessons authentically is a trap for blocking our joy.
When I stopped comparing myself with others, my yoga journey started happening, but we can take that one step farther by also applying the locks and keys mentioned above, sharing in other peoples happiness by applauding and supporting them or giving of yourself to those in need.
The yoga of attention to the present moment and individual purpose in the world, is like the rising and falling of a wave. We may all have our peaks and valleys supporting the ocean of truth.
If you have felt stuck or if you have the repeating question, “what am I supposed to do.’ many times the answer is stop comparing yourself with others.
How do you compare yourself with others? Either by categorizing yourself above or below. Notice the very subtle nature of this that expresses itself as gossip, insecurity and self-doubt.
What will you do for or through others today? How will you capture the happiness of living your authentic life in relationship to those around you, off the mat.