Saturday, November 15, 2008
Peeking at the Poses of Others
Last week I joined some pals for a yoga class at Exhale, taught by Amy Leydon, who recently confided that I was one of her first yoga teachers, as many as seven years ago, here, in Boston. Small world, eh? So it was quite a treat to take the yoga journey full circle and attend her upbeat and graceful class, as a student. Moreover, I was happy to join my friends, who are all serious runners, in an activity that I love so much. Throughout the past year, some of them have, in turn, provided running tips, pieces of insight, and motivation- particularly when I was training for Reach the Beach.
With my mat positioned next to Jack and behind Barry, Sarah, and Chris, I enjoyed the experience of being surrounded by friends while absorbed in a solitary activity that, more often than not, provides me with quality introspection. I tuned into my pals only long enough to notice that they weren't nearly as stiff or inexperienced at yoga as they'd let on. In fact, they looked like seasoned students to me.
Still, when class ended and we huddled together, sharing our collective post-sivasana bliss, Jack joked that practicing next to me left him feeling slightly, yogically inadequate by comparison. To which I responded, "Well, if that's the case, none of us would ever bother putting on running shoes again." You see, Jack once won the Boston Marathon. Therefore, if we follow the logic of comparing each other's yoga poses, we could just as easily fall into the trap of comparing our mile paces (not to mention our bodies, bank accounts, and . . . the list goes on) with similarly dissatisfying results.
I believe it was the Buddha (or perhaps a middle school teacher of mine many moons ago), who said, "All unhappiness comes from comparison."
In other words, heaven help us all, if we base our own capacity to lace up a pair of New Balance sneaks and take a trot along the river, bopping to Rihanna while envisioning ourselves crossing the finish line, before being draped in a foil blanket and adorned with a champion's laurel wreath, on the standards set by someone else. Sh*t, why bother we might say?
Yoga, among other things, teaches us to turn inward and turn off the tendency to peer over at our neighbors, sizing up their downward dogs or dancer's poses. It's not an easy task, but it is just as much a part of the practice as lengthening one's hamstrings or steadying one's drishti.
Years ago, I took a workshop with Bryan Kest, who I recall telling the class, "You should not know what the person next to you is wearing [in a yoga class]," which I think is a helpful rule of thumb. Perhaps you admire someone else's level of experience for a moment or you're a beginner who learns visually; however, avoid getting too swept up with anything that's happening anywhere other than on your mat or in your shoes.
Remember, each of us has our own finish line, with a champion's laurel wreath, in just the right size, awaiting us during our own personal moments of triumph.