“There are no goals in yoga,” said the teacher at my Saturday morning class, “Well, no. I lied. There is actually one goal.”
I thought he was going to say that the only goal is to improve, that yoga, like life, is a process that is never perfect, and never complete. Apparently even something as vague as “to improve” was too ambitious of a goal.
“The only goal in yoga is to breathe,” he concluded, “If you can’t breathe, or you’re not maximizing your breath, then adjust the pose so that you can breathe. You can lie on your back in corpse pose the entire time as long as you breathe. That is the most important thing.”
I am not the most athletic or coordinated person by any means, but I find myself being able to (overtime) achieve more difficult balancing poses by focusing and practicing mindfulness. The teachers are always reminding everyone to find a drishti or focal point to stare at on the wall, to breathe deeply, and to not look around the room to see what other people are doing. This is actually quite difficult to do, or to not do.
We are always looking around at what other people are doing; so much that we’re not consciously aware of it most of the time. Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, or in real life when we look at others in the same physical space and make comparisons. It’s difficult to judge if we’re truly happy because there are so many different yardsticks that we’re constantly measuring ourselves against.
Our friend’s trip to Europe broadcast on Facebook, SnapChats of our acquaintances’ nights out at the clubs, or days at the beach, pins of the hottest dresses, swimsuits and jewelry on Pinterest; as we’re bombarded by all of these outlets they constantly beg the questions: do I have enough things, and enough friends? Is my life as exciting and fun as its “supposed” to be? Am I pretty enough, interesting enough, happy enough?
Making it the theme of her class one day, one of the instructors, Jessica spoke about comparison.
“When we look at someone who can do a headstand, or a crow pose, or something else challenging and we haven’t yet reached their level, we shouldn’t judge. We don’t know what it took for them to get there. Maybe they have been practicing yoga for eight years and it took five to get that pose. Maybe today is the first day they’ve accomplished it. Maybe they do two hundred crunches every day to develop the core strength to do a headstand. There was probably a lot of work that went in to make that pose look pretty. Don’t resent or be jealous.”
Similarly, when we look at the Facebook statuses, or the Instagram feeds of people we know, or even just by talking to someone in person, we have to recognize that we’re not getting the full story. People don’t often share the negatives, the struggles, or the frustrations on social media (or even in real life). Consequently we only see the positive outcomes, the highlights; the things that are “worth” sharing.
Next time someone appears to have the “perfect life,” or have it all “put together,” either in real life, or as displayed via social media networks, pause and remember that nobody does; some are just better at making it appear that way.
I am a public relations specialist and writer in Washington DC, and a graduate of Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. I enjoy exploring the connection between the mind and body through yoga and meditation. Writing is my passion, and I enjoy crafting anything from a social media post or tweet to a short story. I have lived abroad in Ireland and France, and my favorite things to do are travel to new places or get lost in a good book or movie. Visit my website at lafilleamericaine.com.