When someone tells you “Do this and that”, what`s your reaction? Asking back “why”? Or “Sure, no problem!”? Or a by default, stubborn “No!” comes out automatically on your mouth?
I was a child, we were playing with my cousin and we built an entire empire in my granny`s room. Books, cars, train tracks, building blocks, a proper harbour, small blankets to represent the ocean, lego figures, plastic horses everywhere....you can imagine. Around 12 the order came from the kitchen “lunchtime!”. So we had to clean up our mini metropolitan - of course, I resisted, building is fun, but who wants to pack?! My cousin (how smart at that age!) turned it into a challenge - how fast can we do it? He was loudly counting down meanwhile I was running up and down in the flat putting everything into boxes and we made perfect order in a few minutes...actually I made it, he was just counting....even smarter....:D
Kindergarten, 2 pm, everybody is after the lunch nap, full of energy. When the teachers can`t handle the anarchy anymore, when sober words don`t bring results anymore, they throw in the “silence game” where the kids compete with not saying a single word and the winner is the one who can stay silent the longest. Genius.
Or, when mom said, eat the soup! and you said, No! I want pancakes! Mom said of course no, because you actually cannot eat it, only big girls can eat soup! Tada, challenge accepted, the soup is gone. :D
Why do we like challenges? I guess it is in our veins. From the evolutionary point of view, we were exposed to challenges to survive. Once we survive, we face the next challenge: we want to step a level higher up on the hierarchy ladder of our tribe. Done, but then here comes the next challenge immediately: finding a partner and being the best of all the candidates...
It seems like challenges were always there in our lives. Some of them involuntarily (run away from a saber tooth tiger, find water in the biggest drought), others more voluntarily (fighting to become the head of the colony vs. chillin on the beach and not really caring about politics).
We face challenges from the very beginning of our existence, but what about the instinct that says stay in the safety zone, keep the comfort, don`t "challenge!" No risk, no loss - let`s not discover, let`s not experiment, let`s not play with the lion, and then we all will survive.
True, this is also in our blood! Being more on the fearful side rather than on the courageous side.
So again the question, why do we like challenges? Because we do our best when we are challenged. Our muscles grow and get stronger when they work to overcome resistance force and they downgrade when there is no such force, no such challenge. We also need intellectual challenge (it can be as simple as a sudoku game) to test our limits, develop our skills, our personalities by learning from our mistakes, and inspire ourselves to stick our heads out of the turtle shell of our comfort zone. Just think about an elaborated discussion that turns into a debate – a bit of mental fight with your best friends, tricky questions, different point of views, fiery arguments. What a beautiful, sophisticated form of challenge, one of the best mental foods we can give our brains, I think..:)
Not only participating in it but also watching other people being challenged is something that attracts us. Football matches, Formula 1, talent shows, cooking competitions, OMG the Olympics!! Personal limits being pushed for a higher goal. So exciting! We are crossing our fingers for a favorite, for our nations, and without being physically involved, we breathe with them, we are there with them. In these cases, achieving those higher goals means that you have to be the best. The top. You have to beat the competitors....
And here we come to our topic – what`s up with yoga? Who do we want to beat? Teachers keep saying “it doesn`t matter what your neighbor is doing on his mat, focus on your own practice” or “take a rest, child's pose is always there for you” and then they announce a 30-day yoga challenge?! How?!
The answer is yes, there is a challenge in yoga! Challenge does not equal competition on our mats. The challenge is not about impressing the other yogis in the studio, not about beating anybody, not about nailing your Pincha Mayurasana in those 30 days. Or ever. The challenge is to show up. Each and every day. To push yourself to roll out the mat again and again. No excuses, no tomorrows. Just go for it.
But why?! Why is it good for me to challenge myself even in my yoga practice when I am already challenged in every other field of my life?!
Well...because this is really only about you. The only beneficiary of this challenge is you, yourself. Not the dude next to you in that 7 am class, not your teacher who pushes you, not the company who you are working for and who pays for your office yoga classes, not the country under whose flag you would compete on the Olympics of Yoga (Is there such a thing? I hope not.)
It`s all about your personal growth. You don`t have to prove anything to anybody. Just do your individual best in that very moment and you are the winner. Very simple...It is enough to step into this journey, practice a bit of patience and the results (physical, mental, emotional) will reveal themselves. Competing with the self provides us with the benefits of stretching out our limits, increase endurance, sharpening our concentration, working on self-acceptance, building self-confidence, and become more curious – how far can I actually get?? The only thing you have to do is to show up. And you might end up showing up for months and months, year and years ….each and every day...(Have you listened to our podcast with Wolf? I highly recommend! ;))
Yes, child`s pose is always available. Yes, meditation is also yoga, and no, it really doesn`t matter what the others are doing in the shala next to you. This is not a “dead or alive” question, you will never hear “Do your handstand or get out!” Not at all. The faster is not the better, the stronger is not the winner, and the one who tries and falls is not the loser.
The only competitor you have is you, yourself. You can be the only winner (and the only loser as well...). And yes, sometimes this “you”, this “self' is the hardest cookie, the last piece of pistachio at the bottom of the sack, that you keep putting aside and almost give up with trying to break the shell....almost... ;)