Jealousy in Yoga, Part One
I sometimes get jealous of other yogis. It’s true.
When I first started practicing Ashtanga, I was so focussed on learning, I simply didn’t have time to place my attention elsewhere. In led classes, desperately trying to keep up and not pass out, I wasn’t paying attention to my fellow students. In my home practice, I used every ounce of brain power to remember the sequence of postures, to inhale or exhale, to count my breaths, and to fix my gaze. There was no room to deviate or let my mind wander.
And then I started to get comfortable. With comfort, my focus began to waiver. With lack of focus, I started to watch others. When I watched others, I began to compare myself to them. When I started making comparisons, I occasionally became… Jealous.
Whaaaaaaat the heck is going on? What am I doing? This isn’t yoga! How did I get here? And why do I now feel bummed out after watching the most incredible Laruga Glaser YouTube video I’ve ever seen? I mean, seriously, she’s REMARKABLE! Did you see her arms and how she effortlessly floats through them? I can’t do that. Maybe it’s because my arms are too short. Or possibly because I don’t have enough core strength. Why don’t I have enough core strength? I’ve been practicing Ashtanga for two years now, you’d think my core would be rock solid. I did eat cookies last night, that could have something to do with it. And I drank a glass of wine. Ok, maybe two. She doesn’t have cellulite on her thighs, I do. Is my cellulite prohibiting my jump through? Why did I eat those cookies?
Down the rabbit hole of jealousy and self deprecation I go, like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland.
At one time or another, we’ve all been there. No one fully escapes the grip of jealousy, it’s a very human emotion. It can stir us up and make our brain go bonkers. Irrationality sets in. Unrealistic expectations for ourselves take over. We begin believing that our arms are too short. That the cookies we eat impede our core strength. That the cellulite on our thighs prevents a seamless jump through. Sounds silly right? I know! But when you’re amidst the throws of a jealous moment, it all feels very real. A once confident, self assured yogi becomes deflated.
So, what to do when jealousy strikes? I can’t speak for anyone else, as it’s different for everyone. I can, however, speak for myself: I used to watch other students practice. Whether in class, on YouTube, or the live video feed on Periscope. At first it was helpful, I would apply the different methods I saw to my own practice and I would progress. Watching other students practice was a tool for expansion. Yet this tool came with a price… I started making comparisons, and sometimes those comparisons would make me feel bad about myself. I quickly realized that watching others was both helpful and detrimental. Sound familiar? Have you been there?
For the time being, I have tried to solely focus on my own practice. I deleted Periscope from my phone, I’ve stopped watching YouTube videos of asana practice, and I’m learning to be more reliant on my intuition. I fully realize that simply removing the situation is not a solution. When jealous feelings arise, I work to recognize them and try to better understand them. I don’t harp on myself for feeling jealous, that doesn’t help. I let myself feel. After that, I try to release the feeling. For me, having a jealous moment is one thing. Holding on to jealousy quite another. Yet more so than anything, I get back to basics... Posture, breath, gaze. Just as it did when I first began practicing Ashtanga, these three actions take me inward and make everything else fall away. Jealousy included.
This method works for me! I find my jealous moments have lessened. Yet here are some questions to think about… Is it ok to be jealous? Can jealousy be helpful? Why does jealousy always have a negative connotation? What can jealousy teach me about myself? Is it better to avoid jealousy or learn to accept it? Could jealousy be a good thing? Should I allow myself to occasionally go down the rabbit hole?
That will be Part Two of this conversation… Stay tuned.