A busy class means you have much less say in picking your mat neighbours. I was 50% lucky. The guy on one side was someone whose practice I marvel at and I love his internal-ness during practice. He’s just solid and it helps me feel grounded and more sure of myself. Great! But 50% lucky means 50% unlucky and the woman on the other side is someone I would never actively choose to practice beside. She often talks between poses, sharing some comment or other which I find both disrespectful to the teacher and distracting to me, and her asānas are often untidy and her breathing erratic. But you know, I’m a yogi, so I focussed on my stuff and was mostly not bothered by whatever she was doing.
And then after class she apologised to me. What for? I was a bit aghast — what had I signalled unconsciously during class that made her feel the need to apologise? She didn’t articulate it very clearly; it seemed a general apology for existence rather than anything more specific. Which is of course even more terrible. She also apologised for her ‘ego’, saying that she always means to practise ‘better’ but her ego gets in the way. I touched her briefly on the shoulder and offered her what words of general reassurance I could. She looked so unhappy and frustrated with herself.
Then two more unhappy women. One who had been leaning, round-shouldered against the reception desk shifted her stance as she caught my eye, rolling her shoulders back. “There you go,” I joked. “Just lost alignment there for a moment!” And she frowned and told me that she was always ‘bad’ like this, that she was just terrible the moment she stepped out of the yoga class, all hunched up. And then finally one more unhappy person: the doctoral student saying how miserable her research was making her, how she was tired of waking up feeling depressed. She smiled and thanked me when I looked her in the face and said I understood, that I had been there too, and that now it was just a memory and perhaps one day it would be like that for her also.
So much unhappiness straight after class. Where was the yoga bliss? Lost already in the confronting complexity of our own minds and the realities they create for us. I don’t like seeing people so down on themselves… but it was curiously comforting also. I can all too easily fall into such recriminations so observing this in others was helpful in some way. My fellow yogis all have their narratives and their habitual self-flagellation. They come back to the yoga mat in search of something else. I kind of like that. This yoga class is such a wonderful little community, so much shared support in snatched moments around practice. How lucky I am to be a part of it. How lucky on this day that I was giving, rather than receiving.