The Reason Why Yoga Isn’t a Competition

If you are interested in yoga, please know it isn’t a competition and no matter what your body type, you can try. Allow me to explain.

Practicing yoga in San Francisco’s Castro District is great for people watching. But that’s not what I am there for.  During class, I am typically so internally focused on my meditation, breath and asana movements that I don’t tend to notice others much.

At the beginning of class, my teacher asks us to acknowledge the other people in the room, our community that has come together to share our practice.  Today I made eye contact with a man I’ve seen before but hadn’t paid much attention.  For the sake of clarity, I’ll call him Bob.

Bob is probably in his mid 50s, super hairy and about 60 pounds overweight.  Today he happened to be practicing right behind me.

During downward dog pose, I looked back between my legs and saw Bob.  He was on all fours, staring down at the floor.  His body wouldn’t let him practice this relatively basic pose.  It broke my heart for a split second until I remembered that was his practice.

I could hear his soft breathing, still present, still on his mat as an active participant.  Bob was listening to his body, going as far as he could without pain, yet with calm focus and intention.

Bob comes to class twice a week.  He does the poses he can, and for the ones he can’t he takes a break in a restful position like child’s pose He breathes.

He meditates.  He shows up.  And he smiles.

This is a perfect case in point that yoga really is for every body.  Sure, not every body will be able to move and bend into full or even partial expression in every pose, but that’s not where the true benefit of yoga comes from.  The true benefit comes from showing up: using your breath, quieting your mind, and gently exploring the movements and limitations of your body.

Yoga is not a race or a competition.  It’s a mind-body practice that has more benefits than I can count.  And Bob gets it.