Three women doing downward dog at a clean yoga studio.

A Simple Business Lesson I Learned at a Yoga Retreat

I’m staring at the top of my hands as I get settled in what feels like the millionth downward dog pose, when a drop of sweat lands right between them.

I’m in an intense yoga session at a women’s retreat somewhere out in the middle of a California national forest.

And it’s here in downward dog that I’m realizing that there are parallels between my experience with my yoga practice and my experience as a business owner.

Comparing with Others

First of all, I’m not a natural yogi.

In fact, even after having a semi-regular yoga practice for over two years, I still have days where my fingers only dream of touching my toes.

My best pose: Savasana. It’s the one where you lay there like a corpse at the end of your practice to rejuvenate. That’s a pose I’ve completely mastered. The other poses — not so much.

Some lucky ladies leave yoga with a fresh glow. Me? I look like I’ve run a marathon in the Tundra desert. Seriously, I sweat more than anybody I know. It’s actually remarkable – as well as quite embarrassing.

During a yoga session, I often find myself sneaking a glance at the mat next to or in front of me. And when I do that, out come the comparisons:

Am I less flexible than her?

Is she fitter than I am? Thinner?

The problem with comparing to others

The Straight Truth: The comparisons I make take away from my practice.

They take away from my focus, from my breath, and from my body’s positioning and pose.

Ironically, by comparing myself with the person on the mat next to me, I’m NOT making the progress I could be making in that session.

If I kept my focus inward, all of my energy could go toward becoming stronger and more flexible -– instead of feeling self-doubt and disappointment.

The ironic part is that the reason I compare myself to others is that on some level, I want to be as good as everyone else. (Or okay, maybe even slightly better.) But comparing actually prevents me from getting what I want most. It definitely doesn’t serve me or help me meet my goals.

And the other aspect  I often overlook, is that the person I’m comparing myself with might have been practicing yoga longer than I have.

Or, they have might have been more consistent with their yoga practice.

The simple truth is they might be better at it because they’ve spent more time on the mat than I have.

The same is true for comparing your business with your competitors.

Have you ever found yourself feeling a bit sorry for yourself after stumbling upon a competitor’s website who appears to have it going on?

Recently, I found myself struggling with this exact situation. I went from feeling accomplished about the many fabulous new plans I’m putting into place, to feeling like I should just throw in the towel.

Part of that was because the competitor appeared to have something that has taken me awhile to figure out -– and to be honest, is still is a work in progress.

When I started my business, I didn’t have it all sorted out.

While it’s not a standard way to begin, my business started out as an experiment because I had no clarity. I really just put myself out there and learned as I went along.

Over the course of six months, after working with some clients and noticing patterns, my path to focus on service-based small businesses, often led by creative and strong women, became obvious and clear.

However, my earlier lack of clarity meant it took me longer than usual to do certain things -– like finish my website.

So when I stumbled upon a new competitor who had a great website, it stopped me in my tracks. I began to compare my business to this competitor, and felt that all too familiar “comparison-spiral-of-doom.”

It was time for a business ahimsa.

Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that means “not to injure.”

It’s a term often heard in the yoga studio, but in this context ahimsa meant simply to not beat myself up about where my business is (or isn’t). That is, to let go of any harming thoughts I’m having about my progress.

So how did I get back on track?

First, I reached out to a friend, who is also an entrepreneur, because I knew she’d understand.

Her advice was so good, I actually saved it on a (digital) post-it and looked at it everyday for at least week. Here it is:

look at competitors as possible collaborators. If they’re truly rocking the digital world AND their values align with yours — perhaps you can partner with them on a bigger project?  Keep your eyes and heart open. And play full out. That’s all I’d ever want from you.” - Tea Silvestre (

And then I had an ahimsa about where my business is currently!

Just as with my yoga practice, I realized that focusing my energy on a fellow competitor or feeling sorry for myself doesn’t serve MY business.

And spending too much time comparing my business to competitors has other drawbacks, too.

For starters, it’s easy to get discouraged and stuck. You might be tempted to copy what your competitor is doing, instead of being original.

It simply diverts your attention and energy from where it should be, which is improving YOUR business.

Your time would be better spent improving your systems and processes, marketing and promoting yourself more effectively, and creating incredible original content that attracts new customers.

And who knows, perhaps your competitor’s been doing the business thing a lot longer. Or maybe they’ve been more consistent in their work and their efforts?

My slightly yogi-hippy business owner advice to you…

Don’t let your eyes stray from your own “business yoga mat” too often. That is, don’t compare your business to competitors too often.

Of course it’s wise to keep tabs on what others in your industry are up to. But after checking in with them, be sure to bring your focus and energy back into your business.

When you find yourself struggling with the comparison-spiral-of-doom, spend time understanding what’s at the core of this particular freak-out.

Figure out what’s truly bothering you. If you’re having trouble with that, read this article (also by Tea). It explains that the negative feelings that come up when we compare are really because there’s a dream or desire that we covet, that isn’t being met.

With my latest freak-out, it really was about my website being half-done and not representing me fully. After reaching out for support and having a business ahimsa, I started to take action by setting aside more time each week dedicated solely to improving my site.

Don’t be afraid to find the resources, coaches, and professionals that can help you obtain your goals and resolve the core area that needs work.

And finally….

Make an intention to honor where your business is today. Then plan and put your heart into making the necessary improvements.

Tweet this!: Consistency is the secret to a successful business. Make some progress, regardless how small, every day.

With consistent and purposeful action, over time it’s possible that you’ll be the business that everyone else admires.

Now, I’d love to hear your perspective on this!

Have you struggled recently with comparing yourself to others in your business or hobby? What’s your tips on how to manage these feelings?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And here’s to a stronger, flexible, more wise business practice -– thanks to the wisdom of yoga.

P.S. – I wanted to give my gratitude to my yoga teachers from the retreat, Amber Campion and Tawny Sterios. And extra special gratitude to my fav yoga instructor of all time, Cathy Weiss, who has made more of a difference in my life (+ biz) than she’ll ever know.