Three Simple Ways to Improve YOGA FOR ALL in 2011

When the new year rolls around, it’s time to be selfish, right?  How do YOU want to make YOUR life better?  Instead, let’s take a yogic approach and think of others first.  How can we make yoga better for everyone?  If you practice at or own a studio, put your Kula first.  What can you do to enhance the practice of those around you?

One.  Pre-class decibel level. I have to laugh at bad jokes and make small talk in my everyday life.  When I enter a yoga studio, I hope I am entering a sanctuary where I can escape that bullshit.  The purpose is to center myself.  Ground myself.  Consider intentions for my practice.  Instead of feeding outside society, it’s time to turn inward and relish the silence.  It’s a challenge to do that when forty ladies are clucking about traffic.  Going to yoga class might be your mat-neighbor’s outlet in life; the only thing she does exclusively for herself.  When you enter your studio, whether you’re an owner, teacher or student, please shut up.  Quietly unfurl your mat, stretch your hammies, and get centered.  Wait in silent respect for your teacher.  When you chatter before class, you’re taking away everyone else’s chance to prepare for their practice.

Two.  Overcrowding. This is a perennial complaint that studios never seem to respond to.  I get it.  It’s a tough economy to own a yoga studio, and you gotta get while the gettin’s good.  No doubt.  But while you’re cramming in more students, you may lose others who can’t relax into a practice when they feel jammed into a corner.  Today I mistakenly assumed class attendance would be low but the studio was packed.  My mat was an inch from my neighbors’.  I probably suffer from a low-level agoraphobia;  class is harder for me when I’m breathing the breath of sixty other people in close quarters, especially when half of them are sniffling and coughing.  Staring at sweaty strangers up-close and having cheesy old feet shoved in my face just doesn’t help me relax and focus.  Perhaps a more enlightened perspective is that THAT in itself is the work of yoga:  sitting with what’s uncomfortable and not turning away.  Accepting the cheesy old foot in your face is akin to ancient gurus fasting and walking over coals to test the limits of their physical bodies.  Maybe, but it’s still nasty.  And I’m not that enlightened.  So, when you do find yourself in a similar unfortunate position, all you can do is keep yourself very much to yourself.  Don’t encroach on your neighbor’s mat space, hold back your farts, and make room for those selfish late-comers.  That’s yogic.

Three.  Women who wear huge diamonds to class. This is very much a personal pet peeve, but it’s one that never fails to get under my skin.  First off, it’s a safety hazard especially in overcrowded classes.  I’ve been scratched (in the face!) by a neighbor’s gigantic ring while sweeping her hands back for a bind.  Ethically, I wish everyone (and especially yoginis) would think twice about purchasing diamonds.  Aside from being dug out of the earth by poorly-treated manual laborers, polished (most often by children) in dangerous workhouses, and capitalized on by shrewd traders, they symbolize the typical American pathos of Bigger-Better-Mine.  (Funny how diamonds are also supposed to symbolize romantic love.)  Yikes.  When I practice yoga in a studio, I try to leave the material world behind.  I don’t own $80 tank tops (thanks lulu lemon) or $100 Manduka mats.  (No need to thank me for not mentioning Bikram’s jewelry choices here.)  A recent yoga journal poll asked whether yoga is pricing itself out of reach for the average person.  A resounding majority said yes, it is.  When your neighbor can barely scrape together enough money to attend classes, the last thing she wants to see is your big diamond ring waving in her face.  Leave it home.  Or better yet, sell it and donate the money to a yoga-for-all charity.

Yoga is an introspective practice.  You go inward.  Help us all out by a) respecting the rest of the studio by starting the class in silence; b) keeping to yourself when you’re in an overcrowded class; and c) leaving your expensive jewelry at home.  In 2011, we’ll all be closer to enlightenment for it.

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2 Comments on “Three Simple Ways to Improve YOGA FOR ALL in 2011”

  1. Claudia says:

    Wow, I wonder what type of class you go to where it is so crowded that a woman’s ring can hurt another one, really? amazing! had never heard anything like it…

    • Hi Claudia. Yep, I wouldn’t believe it either, if it hadn’t happened to me. Our mats were inches apart and we were in side angle, going for the bind. Her arm whipped around so fast, I couldn’t get out of the way! She apologized and it didn’t draw blood, but still.


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