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Competitive Nature and Yoga

We often hear new yoga asana practitioners sharing their experiences of going to a yoga studio and feeling discouraged or a bit embarrassed as they watch others arch high into a graceful backbend or achieve beautiful form in a pose. These newbies sometimes feel they are the odd one out, and they become disheartened because they are unable to do the poses with such ease and grace.  Does this mean yoga is not for them? Isn’t it helpful to compare ourselves with others to help us be motivated to do better? In other words, is yoga meant to be competitive?

To find the answers to these questions, we asked renowned yoga icon Wai Lana about what is the real meaning of yoga.

Q:  What is yoga?

A: While some people think of yoga simply as physical exercise, it is actually a complete, holistic system for overall health and well-being. This yoga system has been practiced for thousands of years and includes everything from physical postures (asanas), personal hygiene, and a healthy diet to premeditation, breathing, and relaxation techniques. The most advanced forms of meditation and self-realization are also a part of yoga. Many thousands of years ago, yoga asanas were scientifically developed to keep the body in a healthy, balanced state—one conducive to inner peace, creativity, and meditation.

Q: What do you have to say about yoga practitioners comparing themselves with other students?

A: In many yoga asana classes, it is very common for students to look at the person beside them to see how far the other is twisting and bending. They think, “Oh that person twisted 10 inches. I only twisted 2 inches.” Classes like this are always full of tension and may even result in injuries because of the competitive atmosphere. One of the objectives of yoga asanas is to relieve you of tension and heal your body of minor ailments, not worsen your stress and cause you injury.

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Q: Is yoga competitive?

A: Yoga is simultaneously noncompetitive and competitive. While practicing yoga you should never compete with another person. You should not judge yourself by how far another person is stretching or how long he or she holds the pose and so on. I know some people who use their ability at yoga asanas to impress others. They become yogi show offs and there are people who look at them and say "Geez, I wish I could be as good as they are." It reminds me of what my spiritual teacher once said, "Monkeys are more agile and flexible than even the best hatha yogis, but their consciousness is far from the yoga consciousness." So to be a successful practitioner of yoga you must transcend that kind of competitiveness in your practice.

Q: So how do we improve in practicing asanas if we are not competitive?

A: Yoga practice does involve a type of competition, but you are not competing against another person, rather you are competing against your own physical and mental obstacles. On the physical level, you compete against laziness, inertia, tightness and so on. Mentally, you may compete against impatience, lack of confidence, or procrastination. So forget about competing with anyone else.  You will do far better at yoga if you learn to compete against and beat your own personal obstacles.

Q: What do you have to say about the yogi show-offs?

A: This desire for recognition reveals an agitated mind and a sense of false pride—not the signs of a real yogi. True yogis are humble. They may not be doing extreme backbends or advanced balancing poses; in fact, they may not be practicing asanas at all. But because they have achieved inner peace and calm through meditation, they have attained yoga’s higher goal.

Q: Regarding this competitive nature, do you have any words for young practitioners?

A: Asanas should not be practiced in the spirit of competition nor should they be performed for the entertainment of others. They should be practiced only for our own well-being. This is especially important to remember when doing more advanced asana routines. Stay in tune with your body and progress step by step, allowing your body time to adjust to its expanding limitations. I always reiterate to all my students that doing yoga asanas is not a competition. You simply need to go as far as your body can go, according to its own condition. This means you need to feel and listen to your body. In this way, you will be careful and sensitive and you will not push yourself beyond your limits. Do not worry if you can’t twist as far as the other person or if you can’t stand on your head like the person beside you. It is irrelevant. A broom stands on its head!

 

Juice of the Week: Nature’s Bounty

Providing an abundance of essential minerals that have been absorbed directly from the earth, this tasty root juice has for years been a popular source of strength and stamina in my family.

Boost

Add a small clove of garlic or a dash of cayenne pepper.

Benefits

This juice strengthens your blood and circulation. It also cleanses your liver, kidneys, and digestive tract, helping prevent toxicity and disease, especially cancer. Carrots and parsnips help preserve your eyesight and reduce acid conditions like acne and arthritis. Root vegetables are by nature cleansing, ground foods.

Simple & Delicious Cauliflower Tomato Soup

From Wai Lana’s Favorite Soups: Cauliflower Tomato Soup with Fresh Paneer

Making paneer, or fresh cheese, is a ritual I’ve grown to love. It’s both relaxing and rewarding to stir the milk and watch the curd magically separate from the whey. When you taste it pan-fried to perfection and added to this sumptuous curried cauliflower soup, you’ll definitely agree it’s worth a little patience! This soup itself is very straightforward and simple to make. It goes well with basmati rice and samosas or pakoras.

Soup of the Week: Cream of Summer Harvest

This delicious healing soup is filled with aromatic delights like fennel, tarragon, asparagus, and parsley to help detoxify and fortify your body. Raw almonds create a creamy, dairy-free foundation for antioxidant-packed foods that fight disease by destroying or removing cancer-causing free radicals. Blend half the soup if you prefer a thicker consistency.

Juice of the Week: Sweet Clover

This zesty combination provides a burst of sprout energy, including a wealth of protein, vitamins, and iron. It also guards against cancer, tumors, and heart disease and helps purify your blood.

Boost

For extra energy and health protection, add an ounce of aloe vera juice and/or a teaspoon of green grass powder.

Benefits

Rich in chlorophyll, sulfur, protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and plant-based estrogen, this juice is a superb source of nutrition. It helps lower cholesterol, relieve sore throats, and beautify your skin. Thanks to spicy clover and arugula, it can also stimulate your metabolism, improve circulation, and detoxify your blood and tissues.

Juice of the Week: Carrot Cake Cooler

Energizing, refreshing, and bursting with nutrients, this delightful drink tastes just like carrot cake – without all the fat or calories. If you miss the icing on the cake, simply add a swirl of creamy vanilla soy milk.

Boost

Make this recipe a smoothie by adding a frozen banana, 1/2 cup milk, and a scoop of protein powder.

Benefits

This juice provides an abundance of enzymes and digestive spices, making it a boon for your digestive system. If taken regularly, these spices keep your digestive fire strong and improve nutrient absorption. Beneficial to your throat and lungs, this hearty, nourishing juice can also be lightly heated.

Juice of the Week: Sweet Ginger

My kids call me the Ginger Queen because I’m likely to put ginger in almost anything. Besides adding spirit and flavor, ginger helps stimulate metabolism and promote weight loss. Ginger also improves circulation and boosts immunity.

Benefits

Warming ginger improves circulation by dilating arteries and helping lower cholesterol. With pineapple and plum, this juice supports your lungs and can help relieve coughs, congestion, and even asthma. Ginger ignites your digestive fire, while enzymes in pineapple help your body absorb nutrients.

Tip

Make sure your pineapple is ripe. If you’re not sure by looking at it, taste it. If it’s more acidic than sweet, it’s not ripe. The acids in unripe pineapple can damage your teeth and burn your mouth.

Soup of the Week: Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli has been an Italian favorite for centuries and is the epitome of rustic elegance. A casual one-dish meal that everyone loves, this easy pasta and bean soup has often been a saving grace for last-minute dinners.

Tips/Variations

Vary the herbs, beans, or pasta: Instead of or in addition to basil, feel free to use arugula or Italian parsley. Also, you can use different beans, like romano or borlotti, as well as other pasta shapes, such as orzo or ditalini.

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