Stretch! Yawn! Crack! (Because I’m old.) This morning when I woke up I smiled because today is Yoga Day! Thanks to a great teacher, a wonderful friend, lots of nice people, and plenty of sweaty poses, this has become my favorite workout of the week. I always leave feeling mellow as yellow and loose as Jell-O. Which is saying a lot because I am not someone normally described as either mellow or loose. Although I do have a soft spot for Jell-O.
I walked in the gym and took a deep breath of chlorinated air (the room is right over the pool, not everything can be perfect!), and set up my yoga mat. I was careful to line up my mat with the one other person in there while still leaving plenty of room for the teacher and a full mat’s width on both sides of me for other people. You know, like you do.
Ahhhh. The teacher wasn’t actually there yet so the other lady and I sat quietly and meditated. (Okay lie, I sat and watched the senior water aerobics class. They are everything I want to be someday. And there was one silver-haired lady rocking the heck out of a red-and-a-white slashed one-piece that I just spent 20 minutes searching for online because I want it.) You may draw conclusions about me from the fact I set up front and center in front of the teacher – people pleaser, perfectionist, kiss-up. I’ll own it.
Then this happened:
Do you see that?? The next person set up her mat out of line with the rest of us. Okay, fine, her towel and water bottle lined up but now the back of her mat stuck out too far. I took a deep yoga breath and reminded myself that of any sport yoga is not about rigid rules. There are no points, no “right” or “wrong”, no lines to color in. That’s why I like it! Usually.
A couple more people came in. I forced myself to look away as the third person also ignored the imaginary line and set up her met wrong, er I mean, rogue, er, maybe I mean… I don’t know what I mean. Also, person #4? Your mat isn’t close enough to be row 2 but it’s not far back enough to row 3, right? Am I the only one who thinks of stuff like this?
Now do you see what you’ve done #4, with your random mat placement? People #5 and #6 are trying to create row 2 by stuffing themselves in and subtly scooching your mat back! You have no one but yourself to blame for your wrinkly scrunched-up mat, #4. I also don’t know why #5 and #6 chose to be so close together. I am not opposed to being nose-to-tail in yoga when the situation warrants it (haven’t we all been in a very small studio with a very large class?) but there isn’t any reason right now for this, right? Look at all that room! But I am NOT JUDGING because yoga is ALL ABOUT not judging!
And then this happened:
At least everyone else thus far had managed to set up their mats in the same direction. (And look at all those people in the back, lined up along the wall! Beauty in symmetry!) But #7? What?? And your mat is touching my mat. I gripped my lotus knees harder and tried to pretend it didn’t bug me. What’s a little corner touching? And who cares if her mat is diagonal? Even if it does mean that when we’re both in Down Dog we can nose kiss? We’re all friends here! deepbreathdeepbreathdeepbreath.
I’m sorry, I couldn’t take it! And when my friend #8 came in, I took the opportunity to move my mat back to the next row (the real row 2!) next to her. (Look how nice and appropriate her mat is! This is why we’re friends.) But I still made sure to give #7 a friendly smile and wave so she wouldn’t think I was moving because of her. It’s not her fault I’m neurotic, right?
BAAAHHHHH! Hi, #9? You picked a spot that is neither the real row 2, the fake row 2 nor row 3. I love Harry Potter as much as the next fangirl but you cannot do yoga on platform 9 and 3/4 outside of Hogwarts! Plus, now there’s this huge space between you and #3 which isn’t big enough for another person, even though you know this class gets crowded! #10, everyone knows that you need a good 12-inch border around all sides of your mat, why are you on my bum? One word: Stagger. And #11 I’m sorry, I feel your pain, there is no right spot anymore. You did the best you could.
My cat does not approve either.
Finally the teacher arrived and we started class. Focus. It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. Just the yoga. I totally could not focus. My heart was pounding in my ears. I looked around. Why did no one else seem bothered by this??
True fact: You really don’t need mats to do yoga. They’re nice because they help you slide around less and contain your sweat but you really don’t need them unless you’re yoga-cizing on a field of sharp rocks or on the beach. (Tangent: Beach yoga is always held up as this awesome confluence of nature and breath and while I did very much enjoy my surroundings, the sand always sticking to my hands was a major detriment. And shells are poky. I felt very disillusioned.) I’m convinced that the main purpose of yoga mats is to delineate “your spot” so that you don’t accidentally knock the whole room down like dominoes when you divebomb out of Warrior III. (Picture it! You know you want to.)
As we did our opening breath sequence, instead of visualizing my second chakra (that’s your butt, right? So maybe I don’t want to be visualizing it?) I imagined sneaking into the yoga room during the night and laying down nice, straight lines of tape on the carpet. Beautiful, evenly spaced, straight lines! I could even post a clever little sign like “Good yogis stay aligned and in line!” Okay no. That sounds like Divergent yoga. I may have a sickness.
Thirty minutes into class we’d settled out like this:
People. What. Are. You. Doing.
I tried to breathe through it but as I flowed, I couldn’t help a steady stream of decidedly un-yoga-like thoughts. Diagonal lady, you are not a Lexus and do not need to park across two spots – it’s yoga, no one is going to door-ding you! Lady in front of me, what is with the ring of stuff? Did you spread out your sweatshirt, towel, water bottle, yoga block and tissues around your mat as little totems to ward off people who might invade your personal space? Although on second thought, that’s a valid fear as evidenced by the person still creeping up on my backside. GET OFF MY BUM. And you two squished together on the side – are you doing yoga or drunk Twister??
AGGGGHHHHH THE LINES. I JUST NEED ORDER.
Upside down, in standing split, the thought occurred to me that now that everyone was upside down with one leg in the air this would be the perfect time to run screaming through the room and knock them all off their mats. Before they knew what hit them, I could neatly rearrange their mats! I could be a yoga terrorist!! But, you know, for good!!
Just as I was about to start hyperventilating, the teacher’s voice came through… “Remember yoga is about finding your balance, learning to go with the flow! As you fold, don’t hang like a ragdoll, hang like a waterfall!” Then, suddenly, I was concentrating more on what “hanging like a waterfall” might look like than what my neighbors were doing. I love me an inscrutable metaphor.
I smacked myself. Partly it was from not paying attention when going from a Down Dog to a lunge (someone please tell me I’m not the only one to knee myself in the face doing that?) but mostly it was because I was being an idiot and I knew it. Who cares what any other mat is doing? And perhaps having my maniacal need for order disrupted was a good thing. People are always telling me I need to “be water” and this was the perfect opportunity to practice going with the flow.
I spent the rest of the class doing what I should have been doing from the beginning – looking for my lost third eye. (Kidding! Yoga humor!) No, I was learning how to center myself in the midst of a situation that felt chaotic. I like yoga because it feels precise and orderly to me and therefore takes me out of the unpredictable world, if just for a moment. But this morning I discovered that I love yoga because it’s teaching me how to better live in my unpredictable world, for many moments.
After we were finished with final resting pose and I was all happy lemon Jell-O or whatever, I walked over to Diagonal Lady. I’d noticed she had brought a beautiful crocheted blanket to lay on during Savasana. So I asked her about it. Someone she loved had crocheted it for her daughter, a baby many years grown, and she liked to keep it close now to remind her of the love that went into it, the love that slept under it and now the love that laid on top of it. She let me hold her blanket and examine the intricate hook work.
“I hope I didn’t bother you this morning, when I came in,” she said as I handed it back. “I didn’t mean to make you move. I just need to be right in front of the teacher because my eyesight isn’t very good.”
“No, no of course you aren’t a bother,” I said humbly. “I’m so glad you came today. I hope you come again next week!” Then I added,” And you can put your mat wherever you need to!”
And I meant every single word.
(Although, I still think people need lines sometimes. Have you seen people park in snowy parking lots? I die.)
Anyone else get really disturbed when people don’t line their stuff up properly in the gym? Yoga mats, dumbbells, aerobic steps or whatever? Anyone else compulsively re-rack the kettlebells in ascending order, even if you weren’t using them? Got a funny yoga story to share??