Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Yoga ... Competition?

A yoga competition? I know, it makes no sense.

Entering my photo in the Yoga Journal Talent Search has irked me, bringing up many different conflicting emotions.

One of the reasons I so much enjoy yoga, after a long journey through competitive gymnastics then collegiate diving, is the absence of competition. In fact, the minute you try to "compete" in yoga, you end up looking like a total fool. Which is what I feel like entering this competition.

Competition in yoga, however, is not a foreign concept. Apparently,  intellectual debates between masters of various spiritual traditions were a vibrant part of ancient Indian culture. Nowadays in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, the monks also participate in intellectual debates. 

So, where'd we go wrong?

For better or worse, competition is embedded into the very fabric of American culture. From schools, sports, jobs, to comparing yourself to your neighbor or your siblings. And I HATE it. I never liked the idea of having to be the BEST according to someone else's rules.

I've always loved to push myself and see myself grow, but I've always hated the icky feelings that come with not winning when I so much wanted to. Or the resulting feelings that I just wasn't good enough. 

Today's culture of competition can involve a "die-hard" attitude about winning. As in blindly winning at all costs. Healthy competition involves a respect for others, and a respect for yourself. 

It is easy to get swept up in the idea that winning will make us "happy". Or, that doing a difficult pose makes us more of a yogi. But we all know winning rarely brings lasting happiness. 

So if competing brings up feelings of unworthiness if we don't win, and fleeting happiness when we do win, why do it at all? A good Buddhist teacher would take the opportunity here to point out that this sounds a little like the first noble truth: life is suffering

Fortunately, the way out of all this sufferings comes with the second noble truth - the origin to suffering is attachment. So then, the trick to "right competition" must be to not get attached to winning or the result.
Competition is certainly a detriment when you do it to inflate your ego or get so focused on the end result that you forget about joy of the moment. 

As a teacher, it becomes so obvious when ego starts getting in the way when watching my students. It comes out even if they are simply competing against themselves. They are so lost in their one-pointed attempt to do a, say headstand, or bind in that darn twist, that they can't see it. On the mat, some days I play out similar battles against my own ego. On good days, I will realize it: just chill man, stop torturing yourself. You are making good effort, but now let it go and just enjoy what is.

I certainly think a little competition is fun as long as it is paired with "right effort" and "right motivation". Competition helps to connect with others and can help push your skills-level and sharpen the mind. 

I do admit that perhaps my ego is a little in the game. Of course I would like to see my picture in the Yoga Journal. It'd be a little retribution after becoming a Domestic Yogi before I was ready. But, hey, I am human.

So after evaluating my reasons for entering the Yoga Journal pose contest (right motivation? right effort?), and because I am doing something I love to do (yoga along with my baby), that is why, in the end, I decided I am okay with entering the competition, no matter the outcome.

In fact, I've been quite pleased about the journey.  It has been wonderful to connect positively with others over my silly little picture.

I love inspiring mothers to continue practicing yoga after their baby, and want to inspire them (with my pictures and blog) to try and bring their practice off the mat and into their parenting.

If you agree, please click over and vote by pressing the RATE button.

Thanks so much for everyone's positive feedback and support these last couple weeks! And thanks to talented photographer Venus of Venus Leah Photography for capturing us so beautifully/

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you said! I have seen a couple contests like this and reviewed the winners. I have decided that there is some trick to them. I thought just maybe this one was different.

    I have gotten so much positive feedback from the pictures and that is enough for me. Of course I do want the photograph to win.

    Keep life in perspective. Don't be in it to win, but join something that is greater than yourself. If you are genuine and positive no matter the outcome good things will come to you.

    Thank you Sam!