On the Mat Next to You…

You are so glad you came to yoga this morning.  Class is going well.  You feel amazing.  Every pose glides into the other and you are connected to your breath in a way that you normally struggle to find.  Your favorite teacher is on the podium and already they have complimented you…twice.  You are in the perfect spot in the room, surrounded by your fellow yogis, your friends, the people you practice with every day…except that one person over to your left.

The person on your left is not someone you have seen before.  They are “new” in some way.  New to the practice, new to the studio, new to you, for sure.  And they are starting to attract your attention. It’s not their super cute yoga outfit, or the drops of sweat cascading down their legs, arms, and face. They are doing something else.

They are burping, moaning, grunting, or wiping themselves down with a huge bath towel every chance they get. Blowing their nose, or worse, not blowing their nose, but sniffing wildly and with great volume as they come out of each posture.  They talk to their neighbor and take water when they shouldn’t. They do their own version of the posture instead of following along with everyone else, or listening to the teacher. They are all of these things, or maybe only one of these things, but it’s as if they are out to spoil your practice, they may even may be out to spoil your entire day.  And they will if you allow it.

What’s really bothering you is not their insane behavior, or what you might deem as “rude.”  What’s bothering you is they are exhibiting the worst traits of your Self. You have at some point been the ignorant, the gross, the know it all, the too noisy, unwell person in a situation.  You would rather forget about it, but it’s there in your past somewhere, or maybe it’s right under the surface and you have found a way to control it.  Either way, the irritation you are feeling is making you uncomfortable.  It’s hard to admit that at times we are the ones that have a negative impact on those surrounding us, but no one is perfect.

Oftentimes, I find the students that are a distraction to the other students need the yoga more than ever.  Someone who has constant burping attacks throughout class, has major digestion issues that are out of their control, someone wiping and swiping with the bath towel has severe anxiety issues and are simply trying to find a way to survive the heat, and the student that is varying up the postures honestly thinks that what they are doing is better for them in the moment.  As a teacher, it’s not for me to judge these people, but to work with them in a way that makes them release these habits or heal up their issues. The key is to have compassion.

What you think of others is a direct reflection of what you think of yourself.  For me, I believe there honestly is only one of us here.  We are different facets of the same body of people.  The real failure is that we think we are separate.  This stems from the heart of practicing ahimsa, or non-harming- that we should not draw lines around ourselves, but see each individual as a part of the whole, as our brothers and sisters.

On the mat next to you is a chance.  A chance to connect to another and embrace everything you are and they are in this moment.  Sometimes this connection is easy and delightful.  Sometimes it is a challenge and brings up anger, judgement, and resentment.  That is the practice – to embrace what you can, let go of the rest, and learn how breathe.

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10 thoughts on “On the Mat Next to You…

  1. “there honestly is only one of us here”- truth, phrased in a way I have never heard before. This is exactly the message I needed this morning as I struggle not to judge a co-worker. Thank you

  2. Great message and writing. I’ve been “that person” and I’ve been irritated when I wasn’t “that person.” Compassion for self and others- can be hard, and an ongoing challenge, but Bikram yoga paves a way to better understanding of self and others.

  3. Great insights! I do get distracted by students who wait 10 seconds to start a pose and are entering the pose as the class is near the full extension and I am working to extend a millimeter more. On a good day I use the opportunity to ramp up my focus. On a not-so-good day, I think, “damn, how many times do you have to hear the teacher say, ‘move when I say “go,” not before, not after.’

    But anyone who returns after their first Bikram class knows it will be horribly hot, very difficult and often confusing but come to class anyway because they want to do something good for their body and their life. When I remember that, I am in awe of every person in the room.

  4. Ive found having music playing during class helps people focus on the music and the instructor. It helps keep most everyone occupied, so you dont get all the small talk. But you make a great point about looking withing first. Learning how to let something go is a skill we all could use more practice on.

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