Being a Type B introvert, I could never fare well in a world that celebrates getting ahead. We, unlike our Type A friends, do not have it in our nature to strive and it takes an immense amount of mostly clumsy effort to actually do it. But Yoga, you see, was different. It discourages competition and hence, I found my home in it. Now, after years of practice and teaching, I can appreciate the wisdom behind the non-competitive philosophy which essentially is:
- The safety of students is of foremost importance
- The way pushing hard, frustration and discontent renders you insincere to your practice
- The futility of comparing your body and its capabilities to a genetically different person whose history is entirely different from yours
In spite of believing in the non-competitive aspect of Yoga I still sometimes am guilty of doing the opposite. I would demonstrate the full version of a pose with the intention of inspiring my students and telling them what is possible. Sure, it’s justified to show some individuals whose bodies are capable of fancy poses safe ways to approach those poses. But demonstrating such “advanced” versions to a class at large is fraught with problems.
- When teachers show off, it causes at least some students to feel inadequate. (Remember anyone saying “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible”? This is where it comes from.)
- Demonstrating fancy advanced poses to the students gives them the flawed idea that Yoga is all about getting into such pretzel poses when in reality, it’s about being mindful and respecting the capabilities and limits of your own body.
- It may even lead to some students trying to force themselves into poses prematurely and causing serious physical harm to themselves.
There’s no “perfect” in yoga, and there’s no getting to the “end” of your practice. Yoga is not a race and we are not running it. It’s the responsibility of a teacher to share their experiences and guide the students into a safe, mindful practice.