The Problem on the Yoga Mat

woman in tree pose with text "practice self-care not comparison

I used to love yoga and then I stopped going because my back hurt too much. Since completing physical therapy and continuing with the exercises, I’m feeling much better. So when a friend asked me to join her at a hot yoga class, I decided to go for it. I felt like crap. I was out of shape, stiff, and self conscious of my physical inadequacies. I did most of the poses with about as much flexibility as a 2×4 and in the most basic versions of the pose. But I kept going.

Fast forward to a Friday afternoon when I showed up for hot yoga to find only a handful of very young, very in-shape yogis. A young woman who walked in right after me plopped her mat in front of mine and proceeded to warm up for the class. This young woman was, without question, half my age and half my weight. She was stunning and confident in a way that very in-shape, beautiful people seem to be. I officially felt awful about myself.

Let me stop here and make a couple of important comments.

  • If there were such a thing as a Yogi drill sergeant, (Which, of course, there wouldn’t be because they aren’t drill people or yelling people, etc.) they would have slapped me over the head. I have already broken every yoga rule in the book. (No, they don’t really have rules or books because they are all Zen and stuff, but still.) I have already compared myself to someone else and I have judged myself in doing so and I haven’t even started the class.
  • Let me describe myself a bit more so that you can see clearly how messed up my comparison to the young yoga beauty was. I’m fifty-four years old and I look like I’m fifty-four years old. My anti aging regime consists of some really nice skin cream that I use and having my fabulous hairdresser cover up my gray hair every eight weeks or so. That’s it. Also, I still haven’t lost my baby weight. My baby is only seventeen so I think I’m doing okay with that. Anyway, the baby weight has settled nicely into looking like I’m still about to have a baby any day. The one really nice benefit of looking like I’m fifty-four years old is that people don’t think I’m pregnant as much as they used to when I was younger. So there’s that.

Anyway, back to the yoga class. I am now full on comparing myself to the half my age, half my weight yoga beauty in my class. I’m saying terrible things to myself while also thinking, “Wait until she has three babies and gets older.” You know, mean to me and mean to her crap all while standing on my lovely yoga mat. The class starts and I’m a hot mess and it has nothing to do with the temperature in the class. I’m nagging at myself for not being flexible, for only doing the beginner poses, and for not being twenty-five years old. (You know, because that’s something I can really control.)

Practicing Self-Care, Not Comparison

I know better than this. I know how harmful it is to judge myself and make comparisons and I know, without question, that this is not what yoga is supposed to be about. I am now aware of the fact that there is a problem on that yoga mat and that problem is me. I’m also ashamed of myself for all of these miserable thoughts. I’m ready to leave. I’ll look for the out-of-shape, older woman yoga class and make a go of that. I’m about to go when I look closely at the beautiful young yogis around me and realize that I don’t need to compete with them, I just need to take care of myself.

Suddenly I decide to send my young yoga competition some love and good vibes. I devote my yoga practice to women all over the world who struggle with big and small issues and I send them love and good vibes as well. Finally, I speak kindly to myself and I say, “Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.” The class begins and I am kind to myself. I accept that I will not look like the woman in front of me and that’s okay. I won’t be as strong and flexible as she is, at least not today. Yet I will be stronger than I was yesterday. I will take care of myself in this moment and feel so much better because of it. That mat will be a safe space for me to explore new muscles and new feelings.

I will take care of myself in this moment and feel so much better because of it. Click To Tweet

I keep going to yoga. I keep working and with each visit to the mat I’m a bit kinder to myself and less of a problem on that mat. Old habits die hard in that I often catch myself comparing and criticizing, yet I catch it sooner and stop it quicker. I’m better for it and so is the lovely young women in front of me who just wants to enjoy her space on her own yoga mat. Here’s to both of us and to exactly where we both are on the mat and in our lives. Fifty-four looks a whole lot better from this angle on my mat.


Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. CPC

Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. PCC

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Smart Women, Inspired Lives: How to Be Happy & Confident

by Dr. Lisa Kaplin
Do you long for more energy? Do you wish you could walk into any room and feel happy and confident? Do you simply want to enjoy your life more – personally and professionally? You can. Too many women today are doing more, but feeling less satisfied. Life doesn’t have to be that way. With small tweaks and simple strategies, you can enjoy a great life with soaring self-confidence, a good sense of well-being, and plenty of laughter. This easy-to-read yet profoundly impactful book will be all you need to join the tribe of smart women living inspired lives. Your life gets better right now.

About Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D, PCC

headshot of Lisa KaplinCertified Life Coach and Psychologist at Smart Women Inspired Lives.

I’m the proud owner of Smart Women Inspired Lives, where I help overwhelmed and exhausted women move from the feeling of being “stuck” into a life filled with calm, confidence, and joy. In addition to the posts and articles I write, I offer individual and group life coaching sessions, classes and speaking engagement opportunities.


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Comments to “The Problem on the Yoga Mat”

  1. Hi Lisa –
    I am the woman behind the computer at the voting site Tuesday. Sad day, but we will move on and move forward!

    I love your articles. Thank you for providing inspiration and helping me find ways to be kinder to myself.

    • Administrator

      Sandra, Yes, my heart is broken but we will move on. You made my day that morning and I held onto it through the misery of that evening. Thanks for the sweet comment.