We seek not to compete
Although it is probably second nature for us to compare ourselves to one another, one of the abiding principles of yoga is that we are not to compete with one another. I ran across this wonderful quote recently from Jiddu Krishnamurti, a philosopher, speaker and writer who rejected the role of ‘World Teacher’ and spent his life traveling the world speaking to large and small groups and individuals. You can find out more about his interesting story here: J.Krishnamurti.org
The quote of his I found relevant to what we seek in yoga is this one:
“Throughout life, from childhood, from school until we die, we are taught to compare ourselves with another; yet when I compare myself with another I am destroying myself. In a school, in an ordinary school where there are a lot of boys, when one boy is compared with another who is very clever, who is the head of the class, what is actually taking place? You are destroying the boy. That’s what we are doing throughout life. Now, can I live without comparison—without comparison with anybody? This means there is no high, no low—there is not the one who is superior and the other who is inferior. You are actually what you are and to understand what you are, this process of comparison must come to an end. If I am always comparing myself with some saint or some teacher, some businessman, writer, poet, and all the rest, what has happened to me—what have I done? I only compare in order to gain, in order to achieve, in order to become—but when I don’t compare I am beginning to understand what I am. Beginning to understand what I am is far more fascinating, far more interesting; it goes beyond all this stupid comparison.”
Much of his work focuses on reminding us that we should quest to understand who and what we are. That is a wonderful mindset for us to adopt as we do our yoga. We have experienced many things both physically and mentally and this historical path reflects itself in how our body functions. Your ability with a pose is exactly the way it is because of everything you have experienced. If we wish to change ourselves we must first observe ourselves.
If you would like some inspiration on this topic there are several works of J. Krishnamurti for you to explore. A good place to start is his book Freedom from the Known.
He has quite a list of other writings as well.