More stress is probably the last thing most of us need in our lives, but one anxiety-busting strategy used by millions may actually be increasing your tension: yoga. While not every yogi is looking to relieve stress—some practice to build strength, improve flexibility, or correct a slouching posture, among other things—yoga is one of the first things many people turn to when they need relaxation.
But don’t let this news stress you out: Once you know why time on the mat can rack your nerves, you can take the steps to make sure you’re getting all the mind-easing benefits you want from your practice.
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Comparing your standing split to that of the woman behind you can discourage you, especially if your body just doesn't work that way. “Some people don't realize that our skeletons aren't all configured the same way, and therefore you just may not be able to do some poses the same way others can,” Santas says. Plus, copying someone with incorrect form can lead to knee pain and injuries such as shin splints.
Stop the silent competition and make peace with your own personal and physical limitations. “So-called ‘shopping’ on another person's mat is counterintuitive to your yoga practice. What comes easily to you may be a challenge to someone else, and what's a challenge to you may be more available to them,” Rajendran says. And don’t forget that once you perfect a pose, there’s often another, harder version to learn. Ultimately, just be present in the moment and focus on you.