I used to tell my students that yoga is not a competition and that there are no yoga Olympics until I was proved wrong. A couple years ago during the summer Olympics a student came up to me after class and told me that he had seen yoga in the Olympics. Initially I thought the poor man was confused by the floor routines preformed by the gymnasts. Often many of the acrobatics look like yoga poses.
A couple months later however, my husband brought home a letter to Coca-Cola, the company he works for, from a Bellevue based yoga studio. The letter asked for sponsorship or product donation for their Asana competition that would determine the finalist to be sent to a regional competition in California. I about died laughing. Yoga, soda and competition are very incongruous things. They just don't to go together.
Recently, I saw a poster here in Everett for another Asana competition held at a local studio. Apparently, yoga competitions are very prolific now and yes, there is an actual Yoga Olympics. The next one will be held 2012 in New York City.
I still maintain that yoga is not a competition and that competition goes against the very nature of yoga. Yoga is about doing something good for your body and mind. Yoga should improve your wellbeing, not draw you into comparisons against your fellow students.
Sometimes it feels like we have too many judgments in our society as it is; judgments against ourselves and judgments against each other. Whatever happened to Biblical advice of judge not less you be judged? You shouldn't go to yoga class and feel more judgment. You shouldn't ask yourself, "Will I ever get this right? Do I look OK?" Most of us ask ourselves these questions anyway and not just about our poses. Why put more unnecessary pressure on yourself during the time you should be relaxing?
Yoga class should be at least one of the places where you can practice self-acceptance. A place to stop looking around the room and comparing yourself to everyone else. It should be a welcome break from the rat-race we seem to insist on running. Let go of your ambitions toward your poses and accept that you may never get your leg around your head. I promise the world won't come to an end if you never achieve the perfect downward-dog.
Hopefully, this new attitude toward yourself and others will transfer off the mat and into the rest of your life. When you stop looking around at everyone else you actually see that really we're all the same; a mixture of strengths and weaknesses in various areas.