Yoga Tip: Measuring Up = Yoga Trap

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This morning a dedicated Yoga Passion studio member mentioned feeling depressed after looking at YouTube videos of Bikram’s Advanced Series. She was wondering if she could still think of herself as a yogi even though she would never be able to contort her body like these so-called elite yogis. This is precisely why competition has no place in yoga. 99.9999% of our human population will never be able to wrap our legs around the back of our heads. Not because our consciousness isn’t awakened. Not because our effort is absent or because our breath/bandha techniques are poor. Even for those few individuals who do wrap their legs around their head, is it going to fix their lower back pain or strengthen their core? Is this posture going to awaken their consciousness?

None of the spiritually evolved yogis at whose feet I’ve been privileged to sit bothered to invest 10 minutes in practicing contortionist yoga poses. For example, years ago at Kripalu I met 94-year old Swami Brahmananda Saraswati who was half paralyzed and blind. Despite his obvious infirmities, this man radiated an incredible light. His words were filled with great wisdom. If performing these so-called advanced postures were necessary for him to maintain his Source connection, he would have long since been plunged in the darkest depression. Instead he remained a true yogi to his last days on earth.

For those individuals dedicating themselves to contortionist practices, god bless them. But for the rest of us, please don’t denigrate yourself for not measuring up! The ego mind will always make comparisons which will either build you up or knock you down. Believing any conclusions drawn from the ego is a huge yoga trap. So if looking at YouTube videos inspires you to get on your mat, then watch them. But if the inevitable comparisons diminish your self-esteem, then I hope you’ll do what this studio member did … which is … talk with an experienced yoga instructor. Someone you respect and who respects you. Get a clear perspective on what it means to be a yogi.
I thanked this woman for confiding her concerns. Then I invited her to witness this depression in her practice & put more trust in the intelligence of her breath & the immediate sensations in her body than the conclusions of the comparing mind. After class she reported feeling radiant & clear about whom she was & the value of her yoga practice. Her story inspires me to get on my mat & practice. How about you?