Forget Yoga Envy + Remember Who You Are

Kathryn Budig by Kathryn Budig | October 29th, 2013 | 18 Comments
topic: Fitness, Personal Growth, Yoga

Yoga EnvyThe yoga practice is a glorious dance of the physical possibilities in the human body. An advanced practice can take your breath away as easily as it can expand your ujjayi. It can twist and turn in directions that make an artist quiver with creative jealousy and inspire even the heaviest of sloths to entertain a change of mind.

That being said — it can also be intimidating as hell.

I learned, trained, teach and practice in Santa Monica, California. It is the mecca of yoga these days and the cream of the crop when it comes to beautiful practices. It’s hard to find a level 2-3 class that doesn’t have at least one yogi soaring through the air in-between asanas or adding what appears to be a level-X variation to every pose. It can often be inspiring and mind-blowing but it can also be, in a word, daunting.

Falls and frustration

I’ve been blessed with a body and sensibility that gives me the tools to explore the “fancier” side of the yoga practice. I can invert with the best of them, hip open to a level that looks uncomfortable, and let’s not forget — face plant like a champ. The earlier days of my practice revolved more around the latter; fall after fall, disappointment, frustration and occasionally even tears.

I wanted yoga so bad.

I craved a fluid practice, hoping to float someday like the advanced yogis that surrounded me practicing 3rd- and 4th-series Ashtanga. Often I would look at them with awe and appreciation and other days with resentment because it seemed so physically unattainable. How is one supposed to make the impossible possible? My head would spin with so many questions that I’d have no choice but to stand on it to empty out my thoughts.

My worst experience occurred during my earlier years when I unrolled my mat next to a girl who was new to our studio. She was tall, blonde and statuesque. You could immediately tell by her body language that she had danced at some point in her life and had vertebrae that moved in ways that mine could only dream of. I was already having a particularly emotional day when the teacher brought us to the Handstand section of class. I was still a fledgling in the Handstand department — dutifully trying to kick up in the middle of the room but feeling more like a baby donkey than the Cirque performer next to me.

Every time I failed to kick up, or rather flop over onto my feet, the girl next to me seemed to float even more effortlessly. Every resounding thud of my body falling over made my ego shrink to the size of a peanut. The Amazonian next to me had won. I was so flustered after a few minutes that I crumpled into Child’s Pose on the verge of angry tears. If this girl could do it why couldn’t I? I left the studio disappointed in myself on so many levels — for being unable to perform the Handstand, for being unable to do the pose as well as the girl next to me, and for letting it affect me so deeply.

Nixing negativity

Then I realized all of my thoughts were negative and focusing on what I lacked. I could only see what I “couldn’t” do instead of the plethora of abilities I’d been graced with. I started to see how foolish it was to be jealous. What a waste of energy to compare myself to someone else when I have so much to offer. I often revisit that day in my mind and murmur a quiet “thank you” to the memory so as to prevent myself from falling off track. It’s a shining reminder of who I am and that no one can take that away from me or shake my foundation. Especially in a handstand.

Jealousy makes us forget our gifts and our amazing abilities. All we can see is what someone else has that we think we lack. Once we can accept, as farfetched as it seems, that we lack nothing and are exactly where we should be — face plant or floating high in a Handstand — the need to compare ceases. Never focus on what you can’t do — only imagine everything you could.

When you find yourself looking longingly towards another’s practice, take a moment to realize you don’t know their story. You have no idea what they were born like, what physical blessings they have or ailments they’ve overcome. You don’t know if they are happy or sad, content or confused, or if they spend every waking moment working on that pose that you so long for. For all you know, their practice may be amazing but their social life totally shot!

Also, remember that every time you look at someone with wonder and envy, someone is looking back at you exactly the same way. It may not be for the same reason or yoga pose, but there is something in you so amazing that you’ve forgotten exists because you live with it every day. Our talents don’t seem as special as others’ because we can already achieve them — no big deal, right? The same thing may go for that girl in handstand or a person with their foot behind their head. They may look at one of your poses and marvel, wondering how you do it with so much grace.

From pose envy to inner peace

Moral of the story — you are unique, talented and blessed. The yoga practice is here to guide us. To make us unafraid of connection and to forget our obstacles and realize that everything is exactly where it should be. There’s no need to be jealous or feel any lack because you are already set up with every tool you’ll ever need to succeed or land in a physical pose. I believe Joseph Campbell put it best when he said, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

So be yourself. Connect. Evoke admiration instead of jealousy, compassion instead of competition, and inspiration as you look around a room. We’re all in this together.

Kathryn Budig

Related Articles:

Tips on Mastering Handstand

Go Upside Down to Lighten Up! Stress Less with Inversions

10 Benefits of Yoga Inversions

Dancing Warrior: A Humble Yoga Sequence Teaches Strength

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Practice with Kathryn Budig:

Video: How to Do Crow Pose with Kathryn Budig

Video: Warrior Flow with Kathryn Budig

Kathryn Budig Aim True Yoga

Kathryn Budig’s QuickStart Yoga for Beginners

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  1. It’s true. In envy we overlook our gifts, achievements and unique essence. We unconsciously train ourselves to believe that the negative self-talk will motivate achievement (e.g. nailing that perfect head stand). In truth, it is the moment that we turn towards acceptance and awareness that the shift takes place.

    This blog inspires so many thoughts I wish I could share! Thank you.

    JLR | June 10th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  2. This beautiful blog brought tears to me eyes! It reminded me of the time, when after so much struggle, I (finally) settled comfortably into Bakasana. I was filled with so much joy! I then caught a glimpse of the person next to me who had pushed up to a handstand from bakasana. That joy instantly vanished and I was mad that I couldn’t also do that. Never mind the fact that SHE was a lovely, single yoga instructor who was able to devote her life to yoga (I’m an attorney, mother, wife)….
    I try to remind myself daily, in all aspects of life, that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It is difficult to maintain that perspective, but hearing your story reminds that even those we aspire to resemble in some facet can have their own challenges.

    LACR | June 13th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  3. A lot of this emotional drama can be resolved with a personal practice…meaning one that one creates alone. Group dynamics can be complicated and unhealthy as often as they can be uplifting and inspiring. Balancing a group practice with a solid personal one encourages a mature understanding of our limitations as well as the limitations imposed by our minds. Namaste

    Kerry | June 13th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  4. Wonderful to read and very beautifully written. Thank you! :)

    Reader | June 14th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  5. This is SO true. The sense of competition that inevitably seeps into any yoga class has always bothered me because it really has no place in there (certain people I know disagree and believe it’s what pushes them to do better, but I definitely don’t think you need that to motivate you), in a practice that really should just be about you and what you are doing. I say it all the time and am so thankful you raised this point: It’s unfair to compare yourself with strangers because you have no idea what their situation is, and vice-versa. I struggle a bit in yoga classes due to my neurological condition, which I’m working at healing through physical exercise like [hot] yoga and dance, so it is furthermore completely inappropriate for me to be putting down my own self-esteem comparing what I can and can’t do with someone who’s never had a profound injury like mine before. It’s assuring to remember how long you’ve come and instead of thinking of your neighbors, focusing on the gains you have made. One of my yoga instructors always reminds us to practice without ego and to remember that “Everyone sucks at yoga in their own way.” ;D

    Pamela | June 14th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  6. Thank you , beautiful Kathryn. You are such a beauty and inspiration, it helps so much to hear what is in your heart, your honest sharing of your struggles and doubts.Keep on writing, sharing and teaching! Much love to you!

    Maria | June 15th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  7. Great article – I love the quote at the end: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” I have battled with “comparison” issues for a long time because I had a twin sister and if you are a twin (even a sibling) I am sure you’ve been here … I still struggle with it … I am human after all … but I have come to realize that we must accept ourselves as we are and not look to the left or the right and get frustrated because she or he can do that pose and I cannot. My yoga practice is just that … it’s mine. I practice because it gives me time to connect with my body, breath, & soul and I am finally at a place where I don’t need to compare — I just need to be me. I agree that a solid personal practice is key but it’s also important to be a part of a group class – in my opinion, the trick is finding the right one. I have found a small studio where I feel challenged but not pressured and I think that’s what it is all about.

    Sunshine | June 15th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  8. Thank you, Kathryn! It is a nice reminder to look inward, rather than outward, for the tools that we feel we lack. Namaste :-)

    Lisa | June 15th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  9. Thank you Kathryn…So funny the things that bring us to our knees on our mats. Cosmically delicious really! You are a yogini whose practice both inspires me and challenges me to expand my comfort zones on my mat. Thank you for the sweet reminder. “Right here, right now.” In my body, mind and spirit, knowing that I am always exactly where I need to be NOW. Thank you for tears of joy this morning, I needed that. ;) (p.s. Your last quote is one I use often, both to remind myself and inspire classes. It was good to HEAR it today).

    christie | June 17th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  10. I recently gained 100 lbs. very quickly due to menopause and developing type II Diabetes. I don’t have to worry any more what I look like in my yoga pants, etc., because I know I look awful. I live in a very small town with no means of getting to a larger city to find a Yoga studio, so my practice is almost entirely done with the help of my DVD and one class that my accupuncturist has on Saturdays. I’ve given up Vinyasa Flow because I believe that holding your stance for awhile is better than just breezing through it. I’m trying some Kundalini now. I haven’t liked it before, but I’m all for trying new things now. I think that just learning how to breathe and reaching a deep meditative state is most important for me now. If anyone has any tips, I’m all ears.

    Barbara | June 30th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  11. Wow, this hits close to home…this happened to me last weekend at a Kathryn Budig seminar in Orlando….when you walk out of a yoga class wanting to cry rather than sing, something’s wrong. The worst is knowing you are learning something but still feel like kaa-kaa! The class was too advanced for me (where I live, NOBODY teaches inversions or arm balances) but decided to take the class anyway because I wanted to experience K.B. in person. She is everything you can ask for in a teacher, she was sensitive to everyone’s abilities (or DISabilities in my case), and her encouraging words were blissful, but I was in a class of TEACHERS and felt very inadequate. However, I took copious notes and brought everything to my home practice. By the time I take her next class, I will be inverted,flying and smiling…she is truly inspirational! Thank you Kathryn.

    dea | July 1st, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  12. Thank you for this honest, thought provoking article.

    Janet | July 4th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  13. Really good writing! I am usually wary of pro-yoga writing, as it is too rah-rah for me usually, but this is really, really good. I had the pleasure of attending one of Ms. Budig classes several weeks ago, and found her teaching style fun, informative and really well-grounded. It’s great to see a voice like hers getting out there. Good stuff.

    Matthew | July 19th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  14. I love this–what a great inspiration.

    kerry | December 27th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  15. Thank you for your honesty in sharing your early experiences. I’m a new beginner and learning by using some dvds. This is inspiring because I have to rewind a lot and this is a reminder that progress will get here.

    Robert | October 26th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  16. Thanks so much for this Kathryn. Much needed these days when I am learning to surf (not been jealous of anyone but definitely wishing I could do things other people could do). I keep telling myself it will happen when I am ready for it. I have achieved a lot in the last weeks so I know it will happen :) There were times when I I have cried too when people told me I was going to fail. My yoga has improved too (the biggest surprise was when I did crow pose!).

    Thanks again <3

    Ni | October 29th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  17. [...] Forget Yoga Ego and Envy Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogleStumbleUponRedditTumblrLike this:Like Loading… [...]

  18. Ukraine managed to

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