Scrolling social media recently, I came across two separate photos of people who have the same profession as me--both yoga studio owners--doing forearm stands while reading. One was reading a newspaper on top of a kitchen table, the other was reading a book to her toddler.
If you have no idea what a forearm stand is, picture a handstand except instead of balancing on your hands, you're balancing on your forearms. Now picture doing that while one arm holds your preferred reading material. You get it now: this is a really, really hard thing to do with your body.
If you're one of the people who has posted a picture of yourself doing such a thing, I want to be clear that nothing I write is meant to be disrespectful. In fact, the opposite. I'm impressed, and I respect the work that went into developing such a strong asana practice.
But this blog is about me, and what came up for me when I saw those pictures was jealousy. I mean, we have the same job, so why can't I do that? The truth is that I am very far from being able to do anything like that. Under the right circumstances, with a ton of prep, both arms, and most importantly a wall, I may be able to get upside down in a forearm balance for a few seconds, but my shoulder would probably hurt for a couple of days, and the whole time I did it I would know that I was only doing it to prove I could. It's unlikely I would derive much real pleasure from it. So I haven't tried in a year or two, at least.
But still, the fact that I feel jealousy means there is some part of me thinks that I should be able to do a forearm balance. Some part of me is comparing myself to others and coming up short. I can really spiral if I let myself. Maybe this means I am lazy, unmotivated, and undisciplined.
But jealousy sees no context or backstory. Jealousy definitely doesn't see or give myself credit for all the things that I have done instead of perfecting a forearm balance. When I really think about it, I wouldn't trade any of my accomplishments for a forearm balance. For instance, I've walked my dogs in nature almost every day for the last decade. I've got absolutely nothing to show for that except really tight quads. Well, that and my mental health. If I'd spent that time practicing asana, maybe I would be posting a picture of myself doing acrobatics instead of writing a blog post. But I wouldn't trade. It's not even close.
Like all unpleasant emotions, jealousy points to something. I can talk myself out of feeling it eventually, but still, what is it that I'm longing for when I see those pictures? I can think of many needs I have that might be satisfied by being able to do really difficult poses and posting pictures of them on the internet. The primary one is being seen and acknowledged for my work in the world. We all have that need, but most of us are toiling away at really important but not flashy, un-instagram-worthy pursuits.
Primarily, my work in this world is supporting more people to do things like Warrior 2 and Savasana, simple poses that I know make ordinary people stronger, more embodied, and less stressed out. Big poses aren't in line with that goal for the vast majority of my students. And the work I've done mostly involves words, not images. That's not lesser work, it's just different, and it's actually a much better fit for me and my purposes, even though it hasn't ever generated a ton of likes on Instagram.
Many of us, especially now, may not be involved in work that generates much interest on social media. We are caring for our families. We are in zoom meetings. We are trying to stay alive, literally, in the middle of a pandemic and a financial crisis. We are not photogenic and even if we are, we don't have time to take pictures.
When we are jealous, we are comparing our complex, messy lives with the static and two-dimensional picture of what we think someone else's life looks like, even though in reality, we have no idea. In other words, we are comparing our insides to someone else's outsides. May we all notice our value and worth today, without diminishing the value and worth of others. We are jealous because we respect and admire what someone else is doing, but that doesn't mean it's our medicine, our work, or our path. If it were, we'd be doing it.
Thank you for your work, especially if it is unglamorous and essential for welfare of others. Thank you even if your work is primarily the work of taking care of yourself. You are worth it.