When I say that no two of us are exactly alike, it sounds like Captain Obvious just called to tell you it’s sunny in Florida today, right? While we all, for the most part, have arms, legs, and a torso, and are topped off with a cranium housing varying degrees of sensibility, these all come in an endless variety of shapes and builds. There’s an unconcealed fact that on the outside, despite physical similarities, we are all completely unique - with different hair, different skin color, eyes, freckles, heights and builds. Once outside of our mother’s womb environmental factors shape who we are, so that even identical twins have subtle differences and telltales. But on the inside, physically, we are just as different. I could do an entirely separate blog post about how we are all actually the same, how we are connected energetically and spiritually, but for today we’re going to keep it superficial and work on getting physical, just like Olivia Newton John would have wanted.
We learn in anatomy that the heart is located up here, the liver is down there, and the femur should attach to the hip like this and should look like that. But for all the models and diagrams, we are only talking about averages of human variations. The appendix, for example, has been found from as far south as just above the pubic bone, to tucked up behind the rib cage, and even on opposite sides of the body.
Now this might make you feel quite alone, knowing you are different. Or maybe it makes you feel special and you’re starting to get that warm-fuzzy feeling in your appendix area, wherever that may be. I can tell you, the more I dive down the rabbit hole of teaching yoga, I am presented with challenges each and every day as I watch people attempt to emulate me or their mat neighbor as they twist and grind themselves into contorted positions that don’t even suit their body structure.
I’ve delved a lot into myself since I started teaching yoga. Due to standing up in front of the room as the “super model” of my own class, as well as scrolling through Instagram and jealously gazing at perfect bodies doing pretzely yoga poses, I’ve become a bit more self-conscious than I probably need to be. I feel insecure because I’m not always stronger or as flexible as my students, and I feel insecure that I’m not the most beautiful or bendy yoga gal on Instagram. But lest we forget, that the premise of this post is that we are all different.
I’ve always had tight hamstrings, and as a child where my sister could easily drop her butt onto the floor to do the splits, I’d just sneer at her and try to hog the attention by belly-dancing. I was athletic, but I was never a gymnast or ballet dancer – just long, limber and tight. I was generally pretty blasé about this until I started practicing yoga in a room filled with people doing handstand transitions, and until social media, where I am assaulted daily with gumby practitioners sticking their leg behind their head, not even looking a teensy bit at all like they are trying to pass a kidney stone. On particularly insecure and unbalanced days, their zen-like faces make me want to retch up my tumeric ginger latte, and then bow out of social media completely. I simply can’t compete.
Although yoga has helped me tremendously with mind/body connection, and I can now get my rib cage somewhat close to my quads in a forward fold, I’m nowhere near as flexible as I’d like to be. But delving deeper into anatomy, I realize, much to my chagrin, that I may not “master” every pose, and I have to be OK with that (or suffer the consequences of my own mental persecution). Bernie Clark says “there is no pose in yoga that everybody can do, and no one can do every pose”
Being OK with my body has been a journey, and it’s also a work in progress. While I’ve been fortunate to never have been too critical about my weight or shape, perhaps at times I expect too much out of my body in a physical sense. I’m competitive and sure, sometimes I overdo it. But aren’t we all a bit guilty of pushing it just to get that great social media photo or show off that we are just as yoga-perfect as our fellow classmates?
Yoga can be a competitive sport. But what does being “the best” at yoga achieve anyways? That’s exactly when we need to stop for a second, come back down to earth, and remember that it’s not about achieving something, but it’s about the journey. It’s about embracing and cultivating our differences, and that maybe the fact that we are all unique is what makes us so damn special.
This might not even be about yoga (although I’m using it gratuitously as an example), but it could be how you carry yourself when you walk into a room, how you present yourself in a social setting, or about your business growth and goals. There’s always going to be a bar that we are striving towards, but what’s the point of continuing to dangle the carrot and never feeling satisfied with what you have already?
We’re always looking towards those that inspire us and attempting to be just like them. It’s human nature. And while it’s all well and good to emulate someone you admire, if they are naturally double jointed and aren’t, or if they are naturally good at math and spreadsheets and you aren’t, and if you are trying with all of your might to look and be like them, the fact of the matter is that you probably won’t ever look or be like them, and if you keep up with the relentless mind-f*ck, then you’ll probably end up a sad, sorry crumpled mess of a human being.
Perhaps if we are able to accept that we are different, that our bodies all move in different ways and our minds fire with different neurons, we can learn to cultivate how we move within our bodies without basing it on someone else’s journey. So I invite you to take a moment to delve deep, reach out towards your own personal strengths, and think about how you can begin to cultivate them as best you can.
There’s a saying you’ll hear often if you’re ever in Thailand - “same same”. While I can’t be 100% sure what each person clearly means in every circumstance, I took it to mean, yeah it’s kind of the same thing, but not really. Is this the bus to my hotel? “same same” (yeah, but it will probably drop you off down the block, so you’ll have to walk the rest of the way). Is that a Rolex? “same same” (no it’s a knockoff, but it sure looks like a Rolex, doesn’t it?). Is that a meatball on a stick? “same same” (red flag)
We are the same, but we are different, and that’s truly what makes this whole world so wonderful. Embrace who you are. Relish in it. Really, truly love it. Strengthen your strong points. And above all, cherish the body and the mind that you have been gifted.