Yoga is Non competitive and Other Myths
I have been teaching in the same town for over 11 years now. It is a quaint little town of about 2,000 people within the city limits and around 15,000 county-wide. I have had students of all kinds – they come in all ages, shapes, sizes and gender. Some have been sedentary for years while others are athletes.
In all of my classes, I try to teach them to be in the moment and let go of all competitiveness. To let go of judgment and ego. Although our society has taught us to be competitive, in yoga class it is actually a time to just be you and who you are. Not surprisingly, the toughest group to teach this to are the athletes. This was always been somewhat frustrating for me because, never having played competitive sports, I didn’t understand their need to be competitive.
Then several months ago, an empty storefront around the corner from my studio had some signs put in the window that read “YOGA.” When I saw that, I realized another yoga studio was coming into my little market, and I felt a wave of “yoga competitiveness.” Okay, I’ll admit it felt like a tsunami – my whole yoga business world rocked! I had never had to work to prove myself as a teacher. I didn’t have to as I was the only choice for miles around.
I immediately planned my defense! First, I had to make sure I kept all of my students; next, I had to bring awareness to my studio because mine was on a side street and hers was on the main drag. Then I started descending into negativity. What was I thinking? I should have rented that building instead of the one I was currently in. I know it doesn’t have an upstairs that is like my super-cool loft apartment, and I know I would be renting instead of owning my studio, but still…WHAT WAS I THINKING??
My friends would tell me not to worry about it as there is plenty of room for everyone. My thoughts on that? What a crock of hooey!!! Most, if not all of these friends live in a city where there is plenty to choose from. But when you live in rural Missouri, 150 miles away from any city, keeping enough students to keep your doors open is a challenge. Now I would have to share the market with someone else. What did they know? They didn’t care that my world was falling apart! Theirs was fine!
But, in the midst of beating myself up for not going with all of the things that would have been totally wrong for me, I realized that this shake-up was actually making me do all the things that I had been procrastinating about for years (literally). I finally set up a really hip and cool storefront window. I started making and selling hula hoops. I updated my website and marketing materials. And I began to get more serious about my business. In other words, I was beginning to “compete” against the other studio. But wait! Haven’t we always said there’s no competing in yoga?!
That’s when I realized what a little healthy competition can do – it can make YOU bring out YOUR best. It makes YOU work a little harder for what YOU want. Is that really a bad thing? Well as it turned out, it has been almost a year and the other studio got no farther than the signs in the window. Does that make me happy? No, not really. I know how I would feel if I put a lot of money into something that still hadn’t opened almost a year later. I don’t know her circumstances, but I know that she still has not opened. And that’s a bummer for her.
BUT my point of all this is to ask why competition is so looked down upon in the yoga community? I found over the last year that some competition was good for me. It gave me a new-found spirit with my business. It made me look at what I had been doing well and what I could be doing better. It made me look at myself with a little more scrutiny and figure out how I could better serve my community. It made me get up in the morning, do my practice, write my blogs, update my status and run my business. It made me stop eating fries and drinking too much wine; it made me clean up my act! How could this be a bad thing? It isn’t.
I think what the ancients were trying to tell us is to not let competition get in the way of the real picture. It is okay to strive to be YOUR best without it getting in the way of a healthy mental attitude about it. To find balance with all we do. My emotional response to the possibility of having someone else open a yoga studio was not really a healthy attitude. My nose was way out of joint – how dare she step into my territory! But my physical response to up my game was actually very productive. And after a while, my emotional attitude changed as well. Maybe it was knowing that I had some really great marketing in place. Maybe it was because I was feeling the benefits of a clearer mind due to a healthier, cleaner lifestyle. At any rate, the result was positive.
I have now come to terms with the fact that most likely I will not always be the queen bee of yoga in my little town. Eventually, someone will open another studio and, when they do, I will be more at ease with it.