Whilst on a recent visit to Whistler, Canada with the family for a spot of skiing, I managed to squeeze in a few yoga sessions at a local studio. On my first visit I arrived 10 minutes early to a studio half the size of mine with 3 or 4 yogis already there. As the start time approached there was a last minute flurry of arrivals resulting in 12 yogis laying down their mats for practice in the studio. The studio was cosy and we all had enough mat space with a few centimetres either side of our mats to create a 'personal space'. The practice was a hot one and an awesome flow, the teacher moved efficiently around the room giving adjustments and modifications with ease. At the end of the session I thanked the teacher and left the studio, stepping back out into the snow to retrieve my 'frozen' trainers!
The second class that I visited at that studio started off with a similar vibe, yogis hanging around wishing each other a Happy New Year and discussing their festivities..... but the studio door seemed to be continuously opening and yogi after yogi after yogi came in. When the class started, 21 yogis were squeezed into the space, this time without the couple of centimetres to spare around our mats. The regulars seemed comfortable with this so I went with it and found my breath, soon forgetting the space limitations around me. As the practice went on we were guided through postures which involved sharing each other's mats and even assisting our neighbours by holding legs, feet etc. At first I found this quite awkward but as time progressed I became more relaxed and really got into it. It was actually quite liberating not being precious about personal space or whether someone else's sweat was dripping on my mat or theirs. After all we were all there for the same reason, to practice yoga. Again I left the studio to find my trainers frozen and felt energised and motivated by a new type of practice.
A week later I am back in York, in my own studio Yogabomb, teaching the wonderful yogis who come through the studio door each day. Is it because we are 'very British' that we like to have personal space and feel unnerved/violated if someone gets too close? I watch all of the yoga bombers setting up their mat spaces before class and there is generally 50cm or more around each mat creating an invisible shield, stopping anyone else from entering the space. When there is a late arrival, there is sometimes a look of panic as yogis look around to work out where the extra mat will go. What would happen if I increased the numbers allowed into the studio so we were practising mat to mat? Flipping our dogs into wild thing can often include a quick look to ensure there isn't anyone else's mat in the way. Deep standing hip openers can find someone's foot in you face, but is this an invasion of personal space? Is it a British thing?
I really enjoyed practising in a busy, full studio. The sounds of the breath and yogis finding their flow was motivation itself. Also helping a fellow yogi during a practice was rewarding, maybe helping them to get deeper into a posture. And on the odd occasion that the domino effect happened, and 2, 3 or 4 yogis fell over, it created a light hearted feeling, causing laughter and smiles. All of which should be in every yoga class right?
Maybe i'll give it a try one day