I heart my yoga studio, I really do. But sometimes the packed classes filled with sweaty bodies breathing allover my mat make me feel a wee bit claustrophobic.
I usually know better then to turn up for the Saturday 11am aka Prime Time yoga. Yes, there was a sub that day. But she’s a pro who fills her own classes to capacity several times a week. Normally I can get myself to the 9:15, but with all the holiday hoopla — me and the fam have slipped into the late sched. Which left me waiting by the door for the 11am.
The last time I was in this situation — the 11am on a Saturday — I left class early. I couldn’t take the steaminess compiled with the lack of air as everyone sorted out their Ujjayi breath. With not a crack in the window, or slight breeze from the ceiling fan, I got light headed, dizzy. Oh, and my discomfort hit a new high when my neighbors sweat started to drip on my mat.
I vowed that this time would be different. I had a strategy. I would hone in on my practice, relax into the breath and stay with the uneasiness of the situation. Basically, I’d keep the yoga alive for the full 90 minutes of class.
Here is how I did that:
- I took a spot in the front row.
In a situation where the studio floor becomes wall to wall mats (seriously — it gets like this!), I prefer to keep my vision on the cool trinkets adorning the flower-filled alter rather than the rows of downward dogs in front of me. There’s also a window in the front of the studio which I could escape to if necessary.
- I moved super slow, and allowed my breath to lead each movement.
Moving slow not only helped keep me from overheating, it also allowed me to tune into a deeper level of breathing. It didn’t matter if I was a pace behind the rest of the class. I knew I could catch up if need be…although that’s not really the point of my practice these days.
- I kept my eyes shut, or almost shut.
I learned this as a meditation technique…the almost shut-eye gaze (there must be a proper name for this, right?). If I looked around at the packed house, the claustrophobia may have crept in. By keeping my eyes either closed or almost closed I could keep the focus inward. (Or on the cool trinkets adorning the alter. And the really nice light fixtures. And out the window, and into the other apartments across the way.)
I’m proud to say that this strategy worked — I stayed in the room! But there were moments when I faltered into distraction. Like when my neighbor on the right raised her hand over my face in an extended side angle variation– she was wearing the sweetest, most delicately fine ring I’d ever seen.
Then there was the moment in arm balances, when my neighbor on the other side slid off his arms, directly onto my mat — sweat drippings and all.
But I brought it back. I rekindled my practice. And refound the yoga.
PS**It was time I gave my mat a good wash anyway.
How do you stay in the room when outside circumstances get under your skin?