The Challenge of Not Competing with Anyone, Even Our Former (Well) Selves (Spoonie Yoga Day 5)

A year or so after getting sick, I tried to do a program that involved going to yoga classes everyday for 40 days. Other people in the group were (reasonably) struggling with time, work, and childcare. My struggle was different. Too much movement doesn’t just require a rest day for me, it can induce a flare that lasts for months. I quickly found out that the studio did not offer enough classes that were my “speed,” but that ceased to matter too much because my experimentation early on with what I could do caused a pain fall-out that required me to all but leave the larger program.

Let me just say, this sucks. Trying to take care of myself and commit to something for my spiritual and all-around growth and well-being causing a health crash was really discouraging and I had a really tricky time articulating why. At first I thought I was jealous, so many in my cohort could choose to push themselves to “stick to it.” I tried discuss in this with program leaders who encouraged me not to compare myself with others, stressed that I didn’t need to compete with anyone, and that my only work was to grow in what I could do.

I then realized that I had misread my reaction, I wasn’t jealous of them, I was grieving the loss of my non-spoonie self who could make a commitment to a daily practice and choose to do more than I had done the day before, the week before, or the month before. Spoonie life takes this away and that’s rough. We live in such a competition based dominant culture that it can feel like a huge change just to not compete with others and, instead, to claim that the only person we need to compete with is ourselves. But here’s the thing, we don’t need to compete with ourselves. We don’t need to compete at all.

We only need to be awake to our own lives. I didn’t have to “go every day” to live up to my commitment. I needed to tune into my body and breath everyday and make space to unplug from technology and find quiet. That is a commitment I can make while living chronically. From this quiet space I am better able to assess what supports restoration in and growth for my body and spirit and ensure I sustainably build a practice from a place that is not based in competition but in connection to what is. 

So on this Day 5 of Spoonie Yoga challenge, I invite you to do just that, to tune into your body and self and what is actually happening. Can you, for two minutes, put Spacedown your computer (or phone or pad) and begin to focus on a deep inhale and longer exhale. Can you focus on a simple dozen long inhales and longer exhales. And from this place of connection to your breath, you can ask yourself, what asana does my body need right now, as it is, to support yoga that I can do right now, as I am? It is not a race. It is not about where your body was last week or where you hope it will be tomorrow. It is not about being better than you were before. It is about you being present with what is actually happening. You do not have to love what is. You do not have to be grateful for or positive about it.  The question can just be– where are possibilities for compassion for myself in that place?

What is a kind way to hold your body in its pain? What poses will support you in a practice with the balance issues you have? How can your body, with its nausea, find release? Regardless, I invite you to spend a little time, even just a few minutes, breathing deeply in 2 or 3 poses as an active practice of compassion for your body as it actually is. 

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