Firstly I have to admit the heading of this article is a little misleading. I personally never fainted on my yoga mat, someone else did, but the part about it changing my life is absolutely true. Here is how it happened.
I love yoga and have had an on and off again relationship with it for almost 15 years. Recently it has been entirely on and I try to get to class at least five times a week. For me the opportunity to ‘exercise’ my mind, body and soul simultaneously is too good to be true, it is multitasking at its best.
I have also recently spent time studying the history of Yoga and the philosophy of the practice. It really is a way of life as opposed to a series of difficult, in fact sometimes impossible, poses on a mat.
In all the classes I have attended the one thing I hear the teacher say is ‘this is not a competition’ and ‘do not focus on what others are doing around you, yoga is a personal journey’. I get it but have to admit I find myself comparing my abilities with those around me. I feel pride when I can stretch that little bit more than my neighbour, and shame when I struggle to even contemplate doing a handstand, while the woman beside me looks like she could read a book upside down. I don’t mean to be competitive but too often my competitive alter ego takes over.
This week, however, things may have changed for good.
Yesterday I entered the class like any other day, rolled out my mat and took my place in the front row. Soon after, a tall, stunning blonde woman walked in and set up proverbial camp behind me. I took in her perfect composure, designer attire, meticulously manicured nails and flawless everything (including the huge diamond on her left hand). She looked like she belonged on the pages of VOGUE. My competitive alter ego started to raise its little head.
The class started and as we went front child’s pose to downward facing dog to warrior 1, 2, 3 and every other warrior in between, I would every so often catch a glimpse of my competitor, though she had no idea she was participating in a competition.
My head started to swell as we moved into the more difficult poses and I realised I was ‘winning’. I smiled to myself and as we all took a big forward bend, I pushed myself as hard as I could, willing my head to touch the floor between my open legs and hoping she would see how much better I was. That was of course until there was a large thump on the ground and we all quickly stood up to see what had happened. At first, I assumed someone took the forward bend too far and literally fell forward. I was horrified to see my competitor was down, out, cold on her mat. She had fainted from the heat.
In that moment I was shaken out of my stupidity and into the reality of caring about this fellow human who was suddenly so vulnerable. We all kicked into action, had her positioned on her side, called the ambulance and cleared the studio while a few of the women did all they could to bring her back to consciousness. Our greatest fear was that she had fallen on her neck and done irreversible damage. She came in and out of awareness and would cry out in fear each time. She may not have been aware of it but she was surrounded by so much care and love.
When the ambulance officers arrived, we quickly found out she was pregnant and in the heat, it had become too much. She did fall on her neck but thankfully she had movement in her arms and legs. We were all so genuinely worried and relieved when we were assured she would be fine. The ambulance took her for observation and we were all left with the experience.
I personally learnt a lesson that I will never forget. May sound dramatic but sometimes, big lessons come in small packages. What stood out in my mind is how dramatically my perceptions changed of this woman as she went from ‘competitor’ to ‘comrade’. Nothing on the outside changed, it was all in my head.
As a ‘competitor’ I scrutinised every little thing about her, as a ‘comrade’ I celebrated and supported who she was. As a ‘competitor’ I made myself feel as though I was less and she was more, as a ‘comrade’ we were equal. Had she not of fainted, I would have undoubtedly continued to play silly games in my mind. I would have wasted my time and not to mention the opportunity to relax, reflect and reward my body with yoga. In the beginning of the class I convinced myself that the only way to win was to compete, but by competing I was losing in every way.
I found a little quote on Instagram that sums this sentiment up perfectly ‘You’re not in competition with anyone but yourself. Outdo your past, not other people.’
As you peel away the layers of our outward appearances, take away the clothes, the material objects we define ourselves by, and go beneath our skin to the core of the living cells that make up our body, there is a light, it is the energy we call life. It is the same energy that every living being shares. It is our greatest gift and without it we have nothing. Everything else is insignificant in comparison and certainly not worth competing for.
This Christmas focus on that light in yourself and others, celebrate the power of life and don’t waste time focusing on the things that really don’t matter. At the end of your life, when that little light is about to go out, you will have no choice but to recognise the magic and beauty you always had within you.
Love and Magic