Reality Check: Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Mat

Written By: Erin Bach

Reality Check: Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Mat

In yoga classes, teachers often say  “keep your eyes on your own mat,” meaning don’t compare your pose to the person next to you. This makes sense, of course. Each body is different and has a unique past (injuries, flexibility, etc.) and therefore will approach and perform the pose differently. But like most things in yoga, this isn’t just mat advice, this is life advice (deep, I know).

In a world as hectic and media-filled as our own, it can be difficult to remember this. So consider the following your loving (yet stern) reminder.

First, let’s talk social media. Logically, we all know that what people post online is not actually reality. Yet that doesn’t stop us from mentally berating ourselves when someone’s #sundayfunday makes us all too aware of our plans to binge watch Scandal and eat soft pretzels (wait, that sounds amazing).

Images are chosen (and often altered) to present a certain facade, whether that is beauty, popularity, adventure, or just having their shit together. But let’s be real, everyone has dirty laundry, pimples, and a junk drawer, it’s just that no one’s posting about it.

Approach social media knowing that this is only a slice of one person’s life (or sometimes it’s their job. Read Gabi Torres’s insightful SMV article about a marketer’s perspective here).

Now, sometimes it’s not strangers we’re comparing ourselves to but someone we know all too well. Whether it’s comparing our current waistline to the skinny jeans we used to fit into, looking at pictures of  “the good old days,” or just longing for what we were doing this time last year, all of it leads to the feeling that we aren’t measuring up to our past self.

But like social media, this past self isn’t real. It’s the “selective memory” version of one moment in time. Maybe we fit into those jeans because we were stressed in a job we hated and never had time to eat; maybe those pictures of “happier times” was because no one was being honest with each other; maybe this time last year we were actually comparing ourselves to the year before.

The same can be said for idealizing “future you,”—you know, the version of yourself that suddenly reads cookbooks, can french braid her own hair,  gets up without an alarm, and has a color-coordinated closet (spoiler alert: she doesn’t exist either….and that’s okay).

Be grateful for the good times and go for your goals, but don’t use the past or future as an excuse to suffocate the present moment.

Because the present moment is the only thing that matters. If you can be in this moment right now without trying to escape it or compare it to something else, you might feel something close to peace (or dare I say even happiness).

The same goes for your body, your job, or your relationships. Can you be with it right now for what it is? Not what it was, not what it will be?

I won’t pretend I know how to do this, or that I’m any better at it than you. But like my yoga practice, I’ll keep coming back (irregularly and imperfectly) and try to focus on my own mat.