January is the best time to practice yoga… unless you’ve been practicing all year, in which case you’re likely to be annoyed by these newcomers snatching ‘your spot’ in your favorite class. Perhaps you’ve noticed a territorial streak and you’re perturbed by the overflowing parking lot and the cramped changing room. Sound familiar? I’m certainly not exempt from groaning when I have to walk an extra thirty feet through the snow to get to my class, after griping at other drivers to ‘get out of my way! I’m going to be late for my yoga class and all of those silly new people will get my spot.’ Once I get there, I’m relieved that I got in and got a spot, and quickly settle into the safety of my mat.
And then the teacher says something about welcoming new people and ‘non-hoarding’ right in the middle of my turning inward/personal pity party. Ohm crap. Busted.
The community feel of group practice is why many of us take yoga classes. Whenever I travel I seek out a new studio to have a sense of universal practice. Often, people welcome me with smiles, kind words, and occasionally an offer of companionship for dinner (or at least a great recommendation). Other times I know I’m in someone else’s spot because of the death stare I receive when that person walks into the room. I see myself reflected back in that stare and remember the handful of times I’ve doled it out to others.
Welcoming is as important a practice as any other aspect of yoga. When we begin and end class, we say ‘Namaste,’ which means I see you. If I see you, how can I not make room for you? I may never get into the ‘my mat is your mat’ boat, but at least I can acknowledge you and let you sail next to mine. I can smile, scooch and even whisper welcome. If you see a light in my eyes, maybe the yoga bug will bite you, and that’s the best gift I can offer.
Namaste, spot stealer, Namaste.