In a recent yoga class I found myself quietly competing with the other yogis and yoginis around me. While moving through sun salutations I caught myself thinking “that girl has so much strength in her one-legged down dog… but I bet I can kick her butt in parsvottanasana.” Now, I’m naturally a competitive person and I never back down from a challenge but I was shocked to find this competitiveness rear its ugly head during my Tuesday night vinyasa class… I sincerely thought that competitiveness was something I had removed from my yoga practice long ago. So that got me thinking, if I embrace my competitive nature off the mat, why did I think I was immune from it on the mat?
Bikram Choudhury is big advocate of competition in yoga and established the Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup, a hardcore yoga asana championship which sees contestants donning tight fitting lycra and twisting themselves into pretzel-like shapes. These competitions have come under a lot of criticism from purists in the yoga community that see this competiveness in direct opposition to the peace and tranquillity yoga is supposed to instil.
So it got me wondering: is a little competition in yoga healthy?
Going back to my Tuesday night vinyasa class, as soon as I started to ask myself ‘why’ I was silently competing with my fellow students, I realised that I didn’t have a good reason… Why am I comparing myself to others? Why do I need to be better than the person next to me? Why am I trying to prove myself?
I don’t know the answers yet but I do know that when that competiveness flairs up inside me, it distracts me from the reason I came to my mat in the first place; to still the mind and let go of the ego.