– The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.
– An event or contest in which people take part in order to establish superiority or supremacy in a particular area.
– The person or people over whom one is attempting to establish one’s supremacy or superiority; the opposition.
These are the 3 top answers given by Google regarding the definition of the word ‘competition’. One word, ‘superiority’, is repeated 3 times, ‘supremacy’ twice, and the first definition includes the stand out combinations of ‘striving to gain or win’ and ‘defeating or establishing superiority over others’.
‘They sound like fightin’ words…’
The very idea of waging a ‘competition’ sends shudders down this yogi’s spine. Ironic, as it comes from many years playing competitive sports, accepting one challenge after another, and feeling the need to ‘prove’ myself to friends, families, colleagues, and of course, the biggest competitor of them all, myself.
Just typing the words above, honest and open, is testament to the powerful effect yoga and meditation has had on my life. I am not the only one, there are many more of us.
Take a quick visit to your local yoga studio, the stories about positive transformations are endless. It’s not so much a ‘self-help, poor me, pity party’; as it is a mind blowing, positive, supportive rave of yoga asana’s and creativity, bouncing conversations and inspiring ideas from one yogi to the next, encouraging and supporting one another during each person’s little projects (every yogi has at least one project on the go!), and finding a big, genuine smile around each and every corner!
I have experienced the veil of illusion my ‘false ego’ has over me, falling prey to pride over humility when faced with competition in the past, and still do during times of absent mindedness. Through daily practice of asana and meditation, the dedicated yogi becomes more adept at observation. This very act of observing patterns in my own behaviour has enabled me to acknowledge and rectify how I react to certain situations. By detaching from those intense feelings we submit to when we are gripped by fear (such as anger, sadness, envy and guilt, to mention only a few), we allow ourselves space to view our reactions before they materialize.
The ability to move beyond competition and genuinely support, nurture, love and encourage my fellow human beings (including myself) is a daily work in progress. It has evolved from the most basic of animal instincts, and eludes to our capacity as humans to slip back into old habits and patterns during times of intense pressure and stress, which were once generated by the need to quite literally, ‘fight for your life’.
Teaching yoga has transformed me in a way I never expected. All of a sudden you are accountable, for what you say, how it’s said, and each individual action you take. It’s not like I didn’t accept responsibility before, on the contraire, I’m often too sensible for my own good. Yet, having all those eager yogi faces looking at you, absorbing everything they’re hearing, waiting for the next instruction and creating a physical reaction to those words, forces you to acknowledge the power behind each and every word.
So, what’s this got to do with competition? Some of you may have seen those signs outside of your local yoga studio, ‘Welcome! Please hang your ego up outside before entering’, or maybe you’ve heard your teacher reference the ego during a class or difficult pose. I try to encourage students who take my classes, to remain present and enter their practice without expectation, without ego.
A life lived in yoga is one of harmony, balance, good health (physically & mentally) and community. Yoga meaning to yoke, to unite: comm-unity, Come-united? Now, don’t quote me on my interpretation as that is all it is, however; the play on words has many possibilities and obviously originated somewhere. The situation changes when we start talking about supremacy or superiority over others, giving power to one, but not to another. As humans, we are useless when given power! Greed almost always wins, and the very foundation of an idea, a union, or even a community, becomes hidden under the layers of power, greed, and competition.
It takes a strong person who is presented with this power, yet uses it wisely and for the betterment of others. Supporting, nurturing and encouraging each other can only lead to peace and harmony, and enables the individual to approach life with honesty, an open mind, and an open heart.
It is not for us to compete with one another in the yoga class, nor with the teacher or even with yourself. I’m sure every yoga practitioner has experienced the burning desire to conquer an elusive pose, I know I have, but what for? For the glory? To look impressive in front of others? To prove a point to yourself?
If you want to challenge yourself, really challenge yourself, ignore the urge and take a variation that honours your physical body and mental disposition. Not sure what that is? You’ll feel the difference, a deeper message that speaks loud and clear to you, with love, and shines radiance from within. It will allow you to experience true balance, harmony and inner peace; otherwise known as contentment.
I don’t want to sound completely naïve here, I understand the pressures of work, dating and family life just as much as the next person; so let’s start small, maybe your next practice. We will experience, sometimes many times in a day, competition from one source or another. Challenges presented to you by others, or perhaps, spurred on by yourself and your own anxieties, fears and insecurities. You’ll often find those insecurities hidden deep under the many layers of your false ego, and it can only be you who takes charge and starts to peel those layers away.
Don’t become your illusion. Falling prey to challenge tends to drive the fear inside, forcing those anxieties to increase and disrupt your balance, your foundation and the very essence of your being… you know, that little inner glow we sometimes feel in the pit of our stomachs when we experience true peace. I love that little glow.
I am fully aware that these words will only reach a few, and that they may only resonate with a small fraction of those few; the rest left scratching their heads wondering how this yogi girl ever made it anywhere in life, especially in the work place! And yes, you may very well be right, I know I have lost opportunities from declining challenge. However, the opportunities I lost are not the ones I seek and neither are the lifestyles they encompass.
Start small, in the studio, in your practice.
One day, like me, you may find yourself exchanging the words ‘yoga practice’ for ‘life practice’.
Om Shanti, Annie
Images courtesy of http://nahuan.photo