We’ve all been there at some point. You’re halfway through your yoga class, sweating and out of breath, struggling to keep up, and look over to see everyone else (it seems) effortlessly flowing through the sequences. You check every person in the room. Yep, you are the sloppiest, sweatiest, worst one.
Maybe you’re starting up with yoga for the first time and find yourself in awkwardly bent downward dogs or wobbly tree poses. Or perhaps you’ve advanced to more intermediate classes but now find yourself among the most graceful and flexible yogis you’ve ever seen. You’re back down to the bottom.
It’s not easy to walk into a yoga class and feel that you are the ‘worst’ person in the room. Even though yoga is very much a personal practice, it can seem nearly impossible to not compare yourself to others. At this point, you might be thinking about only doing yoga alone at home and not attending classes anymore. You might even consider ditching yoga altogether, thinking that you’re simply not fit for it. Some might push themselves and try harder, leading to injuries and disappointment. These are all outcome of feeling “not good enough” as the worst person in the class without realizing the immense potential of taking on that role.
That’s right, being the worst in class has it’s benefits. Yoga calls you to the mat not only to find balance and stretch your body. It calls you to learn about yourself, connect with a community, and connect to the world. Just by showing up you have already done half the work, so pat yourself on the back and enjoy being the worst in class!
Back to Basics
Yoga begins with the breath, and that you can definitely do. If you are not able to keep up with the rest of the class, bring your focus to your breath and work to get this crucial part right first.
Before jumping into more advanced poses in your yoga class, take the modifications from the instructor and focus on really getting the hang of the basics. Mastering the foundational yoga poses will not only help your yoga practice develop beautifully, it will also prevent injuries and excessive fatigue from pushing yourself.
By getting comfortable with modifications from the beginning, you will have a much deeper understanding of what your body can do comfortably, and when to take it back a notch. This will benefit your yoga practice throughout your life and you will have a much more fulfilling relationship with yoga in general.
Struggle Brings Out the Important Things
Who has time to worry about how their butt looks or if their new yoga pants are trendy enough when you’re putting every ounce of your attention on nailing that tricky asana? A little bit of a struggle can be a great thing. We only grow when we struggle and accept challenges, and our minds and bodies benefit from these changes.
By joining a yoga class that challenges you, you are more actively aware and involved in the moment. Your thoughts will drift less as you focus on nailing your pose or smoothly making that transition. The struggle helps you focus intently and put away silly vanities or the ever-chattering monkey-mind.
Your Focus is Brought Inward
While yoga is very much an exercise in bringing your focus inward, it is easier said than done. Our eyes often wander to our neighbors or even our reflection in the mirror along the wall. We may jump to other thoughts on how well we are performing or how we feel about the way we look.
When you are the ‘worst’ in class, there’s no need to even worry about perfection here. With no chance of competing for the most elegant in class, you can focus on how your body feels and what it really needs. Devote your full attention to how your body moves and feels in each moment. Notice the areas where there is tension as you make your way through your session with great focus. There’s no need to be worrying about your poses look like, so your attention is within you and your own body. Release any outside expectations you have of yourself and feel the freedom that follows.
Learn From Others
If you catch yourself looking around the room and comparing yourself to other students, instead of judging yourself against others, look to see who you most admire. Is there someone who seamlessly transitions through their chaturangas or who has amazing stability in their balance poses? Pull them aside after class and ask them what helped them the most when they were beginning their practice and any advice they might have for you. Each person has their own unique journey in yoga and everyone will have something to share. Plus, your compliment will likely boost their day!
This is a great opportunity to get some extra help from your teacher as well. Tune in carefully to any modifications or assisting touches they give you in class and get their expertise on how you can improve your practice. Teachers are an invaluable resource to the beginning yoga student, reach out and get some one-on-one help.
Ditch Embarrassment, Embrace Forgiveness
There’s no time to be embarrassed when you are working through a tough yoga class. While you might be conscious of the fact that your flow is not up to par with the others, there is no need to feel embarrassed. You have the rare chance to stop and let go of any expectation. You’ll finish the class and be a better yogi for having gone out on a limb and challenging yourself.
Being the worst in class also offers you a wonderful opportunity to practice forgiveness. Instead of belittling yourself for toppling over in a balance pose or not being flexible enough, stop to forgive your body and accept its current limitations. You will learn to forgive yourself for these “shortcomings” and instead embrace your courage and strength. These ‘failures’ are only hurdles that you will soon overcome.
Forgive the parts of you that feel inadequate, the parts that want to quit, the bits that don’t bend and the even the achey, sore spots. Then thank yourself for being brave enough to try, strong enough to power through the tough parts, and wise enough to slow down or rest when your body needs it.
Little Victories Are Cause For Big Celebration
When we are first learning a new skill, each small win is a big deal. Think of little kid, learning to write letters or do simple math equations; they jump for joy with each success (and even the less-than-perfect attempts) and run off to boast to anyone who will listen. As adults, we are still always learning and we should celebrate our small victories as well. In yoga, this is especially true as the practice challenges both our bodies and minds. It can take years to feel confident in some poses, but mastering the little steps along the way should feel like major accomplishments.
As you do go on and improve in countless ways with your practice, these small but exciting opportunities dwindle or goals become more difficult to reach. You will likely forget that you had to concentrate so hard to do poses that just flow out naturally now. Relish in the learning process! In the beginning there are many of these small victories and chances to celebrate, so enjoy the rush that comes from mastering each step along the way.
Showing up to class, especially as the “worst” in your mind, takes a lot of courage. You may even have to ask for assistance or help with modifications, which can make you feel different than the other students. But this is the time to practice self-love. Step back and look at how brave you are for trying something new, for reaching out, and for asking for help. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is one of the bravest things you can do. Find pride in your accomplishments and practice self-love. You are trying something new and sticking it out! Congratulations!
Be the Best Worst You Can Be
As humans, we typically try to be the best at what we do. We seek accomplishment and approval in most everything we do. We are taught that failure is a bad thing, when really it can be our biggest teacher of all. Failure is where we learn the most and grow the most, both on the mat and out in the world.
It’s no easy thing to be new, inexperienced, or whatever your personal idea of “worst” is. It can be extremely uncomfortable and quite humbling. But it takes immense courage and vulnerability to show up when you are not confident. Take this opportunity to grow as a person and a yogi, and to embrace the challenges and opportunities that this allows you. Get comfortable with being worst and encourage others to as well. Get out there and wobble through your next class with pride!
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Paving the way for yogic living in Nebraska, Jacqueline Roberts is adored by her students as a constant source of support and inspiration. A knack for writing allows her to share what she has learned with the world.