Guest blog by Kelly Smith, founder of Yoga For You Online
I’m average. There, I said it. It’s out there now and I can’t take it back. I am average, and you know what? I’m not ashamed of saying that. Why does being average get such a bad wrap? Why should I have to declare my normal, mediocre, average self with such a leap and little bit of a fear in my stomach as I write those words? What’s so bad about being average? As a whole our society seems to be obsessed with being extraordinary. From a very young age we are told to be the best, gets As in school, volunteer, grow your resume, and get into the best colleges. Then as adults it doesn’t get any better. I spent the majority of my life comparing myself to others, measuring my skills, capabilities, and performances to those around me for validation that I was either better or worse than they were, as if my worthiness was based on how many areas of life I was excelling in.
I wish I could say that once I discovered yoga all of a sudden my constant need to compare, match-up, and be the best fell away, but unfortunately that just wouldn’t be the truth. I was that person in yoga classes taking side glances at the student next to me on the mat and comparing how my practice measured up to hers and everyone else in the class. I would look at other yogis and think that they were “better” or “great” and I was just average. Then when the time came and I started teaching yoga I did the same thing. I would compare myself to experienced and talented yoga teachers that had been working on their craft for years. I saw teachers on social media sharing photos of their unimaginable flexibility and strength while they demonstrated their yoga prowess in beautiful exotic locations. I found myself thinking, I will never be that, I am just your average yogi.
It wasn’t until I started to work with my students in one-on-one sessions that I realized how common it is to be overcome with comparison and self-doubt. For years I watched student after student get caught in the wheel of comparison and tell me how they would never be strong and flexible like I am, or how they don’t measure up when they compare themselves to their peers and friends or what they see on Instagram. It seemed almost daily I heard how they just weren’t good enough or how they didn’t measure up in their eyes. I have to be honest this filled me with both deep sadness and also a feeling of shame. Sadness because my students didn’t see the amazing person that I saw in them and shame because they were saying things that I have said to myself. What kind of an example was I setting for my students when I was just as hard on myself? So I decided that my practice and approach to yoga needed a major revaluation. I needed to start practicing what I was preaching.
I found myself telling my students again and again that yoga is a deeply personal practice and it doesn’t matter what someone else’s Warrior looks like, or how long you have been practicing, or even what YOU look like. Every day it is a practice, and perfection doesn’t exist. Every time you roll out your mat to practice, you work with whatever you have that day - there is no need to compare, compete, or worry that you won’t be good enough. As long as you get on the mat and try, you’re already good enough. I applied this same philosophy to me, my life, and my practice. At first it was really hard. That cycle of comparison and fear of being average kept creeping in but the more I did it, the easier it became, and you know what happened? I started to experience a joy, lightness, and confidence that I hadn’t experienced before. I started finding light-hearted humor in my less than perfect moments and began celebrating the uniqueness that resided in me and each of my students, and enjoyed the process of the yoga journey instead of focusing on the end results.
To me average means that I am human, and humans are innately imperfect. It is in these parts of me that don’t come so naturally that make me a good teacher. I have experienced that journey for myself and I can be there to celebrate my students and build them up when they’re stuck in the wheel of comparison. I am proud to be an example of average for my students. I am not effortlessly flexible and strong, I have had to work for every extra inch of length I gain in my muscles, and every fiber of muscle tissue that I have. I have had to work for hours on top of hours to refine my class planning, sequencing, and delivery of classes and private sessions to my yoga students and I have had both great success and terrible failure and honestly, I celebrate them both.
Today I challenge you to think, I am average compared to who? What about me is not good enough where I need to wish I was like someone else? I challenge you to stop practicing with your eyes, and start turning the gaze inward, practice from the heart for yourself, your body, and mind, only. Stop letting fear of being average get in your way. Treat yourself with the same compassion, love, and understanding that you would give your students. It’s not about having a flawless practice or being the best, it’s about what you learn, on your own personal yoga journey, even if at the end of that journey parts of you are still average, after all, at the end of the day no matter how much yoga you do you are still humans, and humans are imperfect and beautiful beings.
Kelly Smith will be co-hosting our JoyFULL Life Retreat in Iceland this September.
Kelly Smith is an E-RYT-500, YACEP. She is the founder of Yoga For You and the Yoga For You teaching method and is the host of the mindful in minutes podcast. Kelly's method of teaching, the Yoga For You Method, believes teachers should meet students each day wherever they are at in their journey and celebrate the differences in each student. Kelly has been teaching for over 6 years and has taught over 4,000 classes and 2,000 private sessions. Most recently, Kelly has expanded her mission to make yoga possible for everybody, and has started training, mentoring, and coaching new instructors that are beginning to build their yoga business and help their students thrive.