My yoga teacher Anne starts each class with this simple, but important instruction: "Keep your eyes on your own mat. There are varying levels, but you are here to focus on your own practice."
I hear her voice telling me to keep my eyes on my own mat, almost every single day. This is advice to live by.
I used to spend so much time reacting and getting upset about what other people were doing, and not even TO me, just what they were doing in general. All over the internet, we are constantly bombarded with social media blasting our friends every move, celebrity gossip pages, and reactivist news articles.
I stopped reading my Facebook feed. Something about reading what a friend had for lunch every day made me like my friends less as people. I was constantly forced to judge others by what they posted, and I didn't like feeling the way Facebook made me feel. I want to enjoy people for who they are in person, not for what they choose to share on a constant feed, day in and day out. Social media is too much of a good thing. It's taken sharing to an inappropriate lack of privacy. While I do still keep in touch, and I find the business referrals quite valuable, overall I try to avoid its tendency to overkill the sharing of personal information. And honestly, I don't care what you had for lunch.
I am now focused on improving me. By improving me, I can be of service to others.
In yoga class, there exists a double-edged sword. There are those more advanced physically, who are worried about competing with others. I was one of these yoga assholes (see my previous blog post). But I've also found that those who are less experienced with asana also judge those who are more flexible. I've noticed the stares and judging looks when I am the only one in class doing an arm balance. I've read the yoga articles that shun the more advanced poses, as not to make anyone uncomfortable.
I call bullshit. Everyone, advanced or beginner, should only worry about their body on their own mat. I should be able to bend myself in whichever way I like in a handstand without looking like a show off. A beginner should be able to struggle through downward dog without feeling intimidated by the touching of my head to the mat in the same pose. I assure you, while I'm on my mat, I could care less about what you are doing on yours. It's hard enough to deal with my own shit, much less yours added with it.
Yoga is for YOU. It doesn't matter what I'm doing next to you. If you are worried about my asana, then how can you improve your own practice? Should more advanced students be segregated from beginners to make them feel more comfortable? No, because you don't learn how to carry your yoga outside of class, living it, by always being comfortable. In this life, there is always someone "better" than you at something. You can choose to either use them as inspiration, or you can ignore them and do your thing. Anything else is a complete waste of your precious energy.
Every advanced yoga pose I've learned was from someone who knew more than I did at the time. And I am grateful to them, because they made my practice better and gave me something to strive for.
Advanced asana or beginner, the only right practice is that which is working.