When you typically walk into a yoga studio in North America, you see mats laid in unison throughout the room with blocks and straps strategically positioned on either side. Students eagerly await the instructor to articulate opening remarks while creating a self-designated personal space around their mat. Students are respectful of their fellow classmates’ space as each and every individual mentally prepares to begin their practice.
If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that each student has their own ritual in how they set up. Some are meticulous about the state and condition before they begin flowing. There was one girl I recall who would spray and wipe her mat down with a cloth and then run her fingers across it to ensure not an ounce of liquid was left behind. In another instance, I remember being in a class at Downward Dog in Toronto and a notable Toronto chef would use clothes pegs on each of the four corners to hold his towel to his mat. Mat rituals are common and I have my own. I flock to the same spot in every studio. Two blocks on either side of my mat at the top. And the cleanest unobstructed mat you can imagine. Perhaps it’s my partial OCD nature, but a clean mat is an essential to me. Practicing yoga in India forces you to change your ritual. Your patience and tolerance is tested - perhaps that’s the point of India to begin with.
There was one day in Chennai where I was stuck inside working and I was starting to feel pretty antsy (pun indented – just wait), and I decided to take a break for some yoga outside. I laid out my mat underneath this beautiful palm tree that had just the perfect amount of sunlight peering through. As I began my Vinyasa, all of these larges ants and beetles started climbing onto my mat. My natural instinct was to brush them away and continue where I left off. I did this a few times but it never seemed to do the trick. I found myself becoming more and more agitated and irritable – the complete opposite of what yoga provides the self. I’d find 30 seconds later my mat was covered again. Instead of giving up and letting my frustration take over, I continued to flow trying my best to move slowly in order to not step on any bugs. Sure enough, I began to notice that once I accepted the fate of the environment I was in, that I was able to practice in peace and find calmness in something typically I would deem as unbearable. Whether this was a coincidence or not, as I moved, the little crawlers seemed to find alternative paths around my limbs and here we found ourselves living in harmony in this moment.
Not only was I able to find comfort in the uncomfortable, but my change in speed during my flow allowed me to zero in on my form and to feel each movement throughout my body in a different way. It was a new perspective. One that up until this point, I wouldn’t have been open to experiencing. Perhaps my stubbornness has something to do with it.
We become self-righteous with our way and the routine of what we deem as suitable for ourselves. Being adaptable for some, and especially for me, not only in an environment setting but in relationships is something I strive for. Who knows what new perspective I will gain if I open myself up to something that isn’t my way.