How can you tell if someone is good at yoga?

How can you tell if some one is good at yoga?
Ha! Trick question- you can’t.
Yes, of course you can see if someone has tight hamstrings and finds forward fold challenging, or if someone cannot balance in tree pose.
What you can’t see is the internal process of someone else’s awareness.
And yoga is all about awareness and acceptance.
I would rather see a student trying, failing and trying again to be that tree with equanimity and good humour than a student looking smug and trendy and self obsessed as they execute a perfect eagle pose or ashtanga jump-through.
But even then, who am I to judge? I don’t know the trials of that lululemon girl’s life; I don’t know if that perfectly built guy without a shirt in hot class has a mother in hospital. Despite appearances, we do not know what someone else’s life is like. So how can we judge them? Maybe their attitude is all front when really they are clinging on for dear life as it falls apart beneath their fingers.
So we should limit our judgement to the edges of our own mats. And even then, yoga teaches us to be actively accepting of the present moment. If that moment includes struggling with a vinyasa flow, then the only important thing is whether we are fully present to that experience. And if we are not, then let’s accept that too.
And again, asana, which is what most people think of as ‘yoga’ is only one of eight dimensions of living a yogic life. So even if someone has perfect alignment and amazing flexibility in class, it doesn’t mean they have a strong meditation practice, or live compassionately or have any of the other yogic virtues.
My advice to students: don’t compare yourself to anyone else in class; spend that energy instead on focussing clearly and closely on your own practice- and enjoy being in that moment no matter your distance from “ideal form” or “full expression”.
That spark of pure, perfect, divine essence is in you anyway. What else could you possibly add to that? 

 

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