We’ve all been there—we showed up to a yoga class and halfway through our first sun salutation, we notice a stunning yoga god or goddess in the middle of the room. Not only do they emanate radiance and strength, but their chaturanga is fierce, their headstand effortless. Instead of sending positive vibes their way or feeling motivated by their practice, we start to berate ourselves. We suddenly feel frumpy, dumpy, and nothing like the confident warrior we’re supposed to be emulating in Virabhadrasana I. Ugh. Yup, that’s the yoga envy.
Those feelings, while valid, aren’t the healthiest. Luckily we can change our game plan for the next time we encounter an inspiring yogi. Here are three simple, actionable ways to flip the script when you notice the comparison monster piping up in the back of your mind. It all starts with showing up.
Choose a class with positive values.
You know the saying “your vibe attracts your tribe”? That’s definitely true, but so is the converse: Your group of friends directly affects your energy. If you find yourself practicing somewhere that breeds comparison and competition, you’re likely to leave feeling deflated, rather than fueled by yoga magic. Instead, seek out places with messages of inclusivity and community.
Close your eyes and go inward.
The fastest way to connect with yourself? Connect with your breath. Sometimes hitting the reset button is as easy as closing your eyes and meditating for a few moments. If feelings of insecurity and low confidence hit in the middle of a vinyasa class, let your eyelids close and notice how your body feels as it flows through down dog into plank. Not only will you not be able to give that ultra-flexible yogi next to you the side eye, you’ll connect with concrete examples of your own powerful body doing its thing.
Take it deeper by sitting for a full meditation and bring your attention to where the feelings of negativity and competition are coming from. It’s through confronting our fears that we truly begin to heal and grow. You can easily tack on 5 or 10 minutes before or after your home practice, or you can get inspired from the pros by signing up for a meditation or mindfulness workshop.
Connect with your community.
When all else fails, here’s a radical idea: Talk to the yogi that sparked the self-pity session. When left alone with our monkey minds, we concoct stories and make judgments about others —and ourselves—that usually just aren’t true. Breakthrough the ego’s hold by reaching out and introducing yourself to the inspiring yogi next to you. You’ll no doubt discover that (surprise!) he or she is also a complex human being with fears, insecurities, and strengths, just like you. You may even kindle the start of a lifelong friendship.
Although so many modern studios offer quick hits of asana without the sangha, or community, aspect involved in yoga practice, a festival is all about those “nice to meet you” moments. (Trust: It’s impossible to feel isolated in an acro class!).
When all else fails, it helps to keep Buddhist writer Zen Shin’s words in mind: “A flower doesn’t think of competing next to the flower next to it. It just blooms.” Every yogi’s personal lotus is unique, but that doesn’t make anyone less beautiful.
Rochelle Bilow is a yoga teacher and wellness writer based in Upstate New York. She’s an advocate for body positivity and healthy attitudes toward food and spends the majority of her free time concocting feel-good recipes. She’s also a nature nut and proud corgi mom. Connect with her at her website and on Instagram.