You vs. Yourself: Yoga Practice
By Libby Young
Self-competitiveness is an innate characteristic in all of us. Some more than others;
but all of us try to push ourselves to be better. Self-competition is when we try to
outdo our own selves. To take what we’ve accomplished and say “I can do better”.
When we step onto our yoga mats, we all feel it; that drive to push our bodies
further and deeper than we ever have before. Every pose is a new challenge. Every
posture, a goal to beat.
Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Well, yes and no. Life is the great yin and yang,
the big balancing act. And it’s no different on your mat. Pushing yourself in your
yoga practice is important. If I didn’t push myself then my practice would consist of
savasana for an hour and I most definitely would not be a teacher. Self-competition
when focused can be a powerful tool to help you achieve things once thought
impossible. However if I pushed myself too much, I would have very serious injuries
not limited to: torn muscles, torn ligaments, herniated discs, even broken bones. The
physical practice of yoga is an exercise and needs to be treated like one. Warm ups
and cool downs, moving carefully and holding poses with the correct alignment.
Pushing yourself too hard and too fast won’t help you be better, it will help you get
So harness that drive into realistic goals for every practice. Take time at the
beginning (even during Pranayama or breathing) to focus on one specific goal.
Maybe it’s to hold a balancing posture longer or moving deeper into your forward
fold; whatever it is, it should be singular. When we bog our minds down with
becoming the best at everything, we usually accomplish very little. Progress is
almost always made in the baby steps. Most importantly, make it realistic. Don’t
expect to back bend your body into a wheel when you are recovering from a slipped
disc or put your legs behind your head when you can’t even touch your toes. We
hear this phrase so much in yoga, but that is because it is an important one: LISTEN
TO YOUR BODY. Know yourself; know your strengths and your weaknesses. So set
your goals accordingly and keep that drive in check. And most importantly, be at
peace with your current state. Often times when we set goals for ourselves, we think
we should achieve them in a blink of an eye. Be realistic about the timeline as well.
And forgive yourself even if you surpass it. Be okay with where your practice and
your body is at on a day-to-day basis. It’s good to look towards a goal and to hold
ourselves accountable and be disappointed when we don’t reach it. It’s bad to think
that we can instantly achieve said goal and punish ourselves when we don’t reach it.
Whether your goal is big or small. Break it down and assess it every day. Let that
self-competitiveness drive you forward, not crash you into a ditch. We all want to be
better and to achieve new things. Be aware, be present, and be conscious every time
you practice and you will succeed.