SURVIVAL OF...THE MOST PEACEFUL?
by Isabel Allen, Yoga Instructor
Survival of the Fittest may have been a reasonable idiom way back when, but now with different priorities, perspective and reality have shifted, maybe a more suitable approach would be Survival of the Most Peaceful.
In the past, “fittest” referred to the concept of one’s physical ability. As we evolve, perhaps our concept of the term should as well. Consider a world with a revamped vision of Darwin’s theory where the most peaceful were the most powerful? How different would it really be? How would your everyday experience be affected?
WINNING IS FUN
From an early age, most of us are taught that winning equals worth. Winning can take many forms: in the workplace, improving our external appearance; our ability to rise in social class; and our ability to compete in academic and athletic endeavors.
It feels good to win. I get it. Growing up an avid athlete, I used to believe my soul’s purpose was to compete, be better than everyone else, and … to win. My self-worth was based on running the fastest, my basketball team's record, tournament trophies, medals, and bragging rights. Competition was central. Excelling equaled pride. Failure was not an option.
REDEFINE THE WIN
Winning or being the “fittest” equated to beating out others down in order to rise to the top. Even though we no longer live in a time period or society where this is necessary for survival, most of us constantly feed the competitor within. This does not come without cost. A sole focus on winning can steal away inner peace. In Yoga, we often talk about comparison as the root of unhappiness. Sometimes that comparison is against others, sometimes a past self, and often the expectation of what we hold for ourselves.
The naked truth is that we can’t win every race. Every painting cannot be a masterpiece. We won’t be the boss of every company we work for, and every relationship we enter, well, may not turn out exactly the way in which we once hoped. If we constantly focus on the result (the win), what happens when we lose? Compound that question with the pressure of training day after day and the hard work and countless hours to try to be the best.
How do we strike the balance between challenging ourselves and accepting the reality that we may fall short of being perfect?
“THE JOURNEY IS THE REWARD”
As trite as it sounds, it’s all about perspective.
In my life, I got to the point where the stress of winning, and the pressure of competition was crushing. One afternoon, after a particularly brutal mid-summer run, I decided that I wasn’t going to play the mental games anymore. I could still work my ass off and play my heart out without the complete melt down after anything less than a perfect performance. And that’s all it took. This choice changed everything for me.
No longer was I a slave to winning.
And then I discovered yoga.
Santosha means “contentment” or “satisfaction.” It is the practice of accepting one’s circumstances as they are. Here are some applications to real life:
Santosha is beyond powerful, because it removes the pressure of competition by emphasizing outcomes less and accepting the present moment more. For those of us competitive in nature, this concept can be hard to grasp. Many confuse contentment with becoming stagnant. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yoga recognizes us as constantly evolving beings and asks us to bring the best version of ourselves at any given moment. It does not compare our best of this moment to a past or future time. Instead, it shows us that we can live fully right now to maximize our enjoyment. If we can do this, we are at all times living a perfect life and will continue to evolve.
Too airy fairy? Try this. Remember, we are only here for a limited amount of time, so why not enjoy? Next time you are running in a competitive race, be aware of all that lies in that moment beyond the will to win or set your PR. Focus on the beautiful scenery, shared human experience, your senses, and the knowledge that you brought your best self to every training run before now. How incredible! What an honor to be part of THIS experience. If we can learn to meet ourselves where we are in the world, the opportunities for gratitude (and contentment) are endless.
Isabel Allen is a rockstar instructor and an integral member of our Community Relations team at YoYoYogi.
Isabel believes in Power Vinyasa Yoga, because it pulls everything together. It forces you to be intensely present, work hard, and feel things. When things get hard, there is room for growth, expansion and opportunity. Individuals have the choice of how hard and how far to push themselves. That is where the true beauty lies. In yoga and in life, you get out of it exactly what you put into it. Isabel chooses to practice with a sense of joy and gratitude. In turn, this the fuel to the fire of her practice.
YoYoYogi is a locally-owned, family-run studio in the heart of the Pearl District. Since opening the doors in 2010, this studio has become Portland’s chosen place for mind-bendin’, body-stretchin’, peace-providin’ yoga. Just last year, YoYoYogi was recognized as one of the top 10 studios in the nation!
Yoga only for the bendy, skinny, pretzel variety? Ha! Not at YoYoYogi. This studio calls loudly for the young and old, thick and thin, big dudes and tiny Grandmas everywhere! It’s a place where all can gather to practice, play, learn, grow, laugh, and share.
At YoYoYogi, many of the best teachers in Portland come together under one beautiful, historic roof to bring you their unique and always awesome brand of yoga. Hot or Not. Power to Restorative. Beginner to Advanced. With 20 teachers, 50+ classes, wide variety of yoga, there is something for everyone!