Start Where You Are

I’ve been doing yoga for about 5 years now, but when I first started, I was practicing at home. It took me months to attend a class because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I had seen photos of yogis with serene faces, their feet over their heads in a perfect headstand, or arched into a beautiful backbend. I thought I was expected to be able to do those things, too. I was busy comparing myself to an advanced yogi, and finding myself coming up short.
When I finally worked up the nerve to walk into a yoga studio, I found a lot of beginners like me, as well as some people with years of time on the mat. I spent a lot of time watching the other people, wondering if I was doing it right. Then the teacher started to give us options. She said to listen to our own bodies and choose what feels right. She even told us not to look around the room, because it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. I finally realized that yoga is about starting where you are, not where you think you should be.
Of course, my yoga mat is not the only place I tend to compare myself to others and try to keep up. But I’m learning that we each have our own journey, and we are not all at the same point. It’s easier to let go of the shoulds when I remind myself of this. I see other people struggle with comparing and competing, too. Many people with depression think they should be able to smile themselves out of it. I often hear things like “I shouldn’t feel this way, my life is really good.” They feel they should be able to function like their coworkers, or family members. The comparison invariably makes them the loser, as opposed to just on a different part of the journey.
Instead of wasting energy feeling inadequate or less than, why not start each day exploring where you are today? Maybe tiredness or illness will tell you to take it easy, and that boot camp class will have to wait. Or perhaps a new interest will motivate you to start something new. Try allowing your mind to acknowledge your starting point, then you can be confident that the choices you make are the best ones for you. It becomes clear that today is different from yesterday, and you are different from any other person on this journey.

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