I have a confession to make: I cheated with my yoga teacher.
This was years ago when I lived in NYC, but I think about it often. I was in a dramatic triangle with my friend Sarah and I was lying to her about the yoga teacher. Sarah was infatuated with this particular yoga instructor and changed her name to Shakti. I have to admit that I, too, was obsessed with the teacher, but all the lying was interfering with my inner-peace. Then, I had an "aha moment" and I remember it vividly.
My ephipany happened during a yoga class with the teacher with whom I was cheating . As I breathed deeply into sarvangasan, the instructor reminded the class that we are not in competition with anyone. Then, it dawned on me.
Shakti had exalted the gifted yogini constantly and insisted I take her class. We quickly made a habit of her Thursday morning classes, followed by a vegan lunch. One day, Shakti's boyfriend, Jeff, joined our Thursday ritual. While eating sprouted chick-pea croquettes and mock tuna delight, Jeff expressed how much he enjoyed class and was surprised at how "hot" the yoga teacher was. The following day, Shakti went into great detail of what was so offensive about the yoga teacher. She informed me that she would no longer attend this yoga teacher's classes and I would be betraying her if I continued my practice with her. So, being a loyal friend, I joined Shakti on the pursuit to find a male yoga teacher.
Initially, I reconciled this as Shakti's insecurity, knowing all about her bitter rivalry with her sister. I decided Jeff should have been more sensitive and I could live without that particular instructor. I took other yoga classes with Shakti and realized that I actually missed the gifted yogini's class. Good instructors are what make any class special, so I began cheating on my friend with my yoga teacher.
I felt like such a tramp - because I was lying to and sneaking around on my friend. Or so I thought. Then, in the shoulder stand, with all the blood rushing to my head, I realized who I was really betraying: women.
The yoga teacher was not going to steal Jeff from Shakti. I began to think about the insidious and pervasive contest women have with each other. How many times have I been destructive or hurtful with another female classmate, coworker or friend by my own thoughts, gossip and rivalry with other women? Unlike the open and healthy way men compete over sports and business with each other, competition with women takes on a personal nature, while maintaining a facade of being, "nice".
Whether or not it stems from sister rivalry or an insecure mother, we must resist the temptation to compete with women. If we compete with other women over men, looks, jobs, clothes and children, we are dooming ourselves to a lifetime of perpetual insecurity. Sometimes the rivalry is reversed and we apologize for our own successes, fearing our friend will interpret our accomplishment as her own defeat. Seeing our lives as a grand contest among women is exhausting and robs us of the chance to make women our allies.
Who better than other women to understand what we are going through - on the job, with men, in friendships, with our family? With whom should we join together for women's causes? But we cannot expect other women to join us in a powerful sisterhood if we are continually reminding ourselves that these very women are our enemies.
After yoga, I was anxious to share my revelations with Shakti. At lunch, I passionately shared my newfound philosophy: we must celebrate other women. She expressed that she couldn't agree with me more, asked me to teach her how to bellydance and told me that she changed her name to Soraya.
Posted on Thu, April 24, 2008
by Ms. Dolphina