Type A-Ness works in the Olympics but not on your yoga mat. Read this Q & A with Lynn Burgess to learn more.
Q: Even as an old guy who should know better I am way too competitive with others and especially with myself. Every day I should beat my personal best on my bike ride, I want to beat the Dow Jones every month and at first I wanted to keep up with all the hard body 30 year olds in my yoga class. But I am trying to relax, be kind to myself, bring no judgements or expectations to practice. Just try to observe my body, be mindful, open, relax, enjoy. Any more advice?
A: I want to acknowledge your competitive tendency. I think yoga is harder for men initially because of the male stereotypes in our society. That is, men are supposed to be strong and goal oriented and to identify physically and mentally with sports. What many men discover is that the stereotype of a strong, independent male is very isolating and doesn’t really work. It sounds like yoga is giving you permission to stop and listen to your inner voice.
Yoga is a non-competitive practice. This means that you’re neither competing against other people, nor yourself. Like the Dow Jones, the body and yoga are different every day. While the hard bodies may give you great inspiration to improve your practice, distracting yourself with whether you’re better or worse than the person on the mat next to you will do nothing to improve your practice. Wanting to beat your personal best every day or beat the market every month sets you up for disappointment. You do everything you can to influence the bike ride or to manage your investments but in the end, most of it is out of your control. If one day you go to class and can’t even touch your knees, let alone your toes, accept that that’s where your body is today.
Yoga brings the body back into balance, into its natural alignment. Yoga, with its full spectrum of poses — prone, supine, backward bending, forward bending — can teach someone where imbalances and physical weaknesses are and can help strengthen the body. You said that you are learning how to breathe properly, how to relax and how to gain flexibility. It sounds to me like you are winning!