To the Yogi Next to Me

To the Yogi Next to Me: 

Thank you for rolling out your mat next to mine tonight.  

It has been a rough couple of weeks for me and my mat at some of my studio classes. Most of my regular yoga buddies have not been around; the crowds have been large and full of new faces. There have been plenty of latecomers and lots of rearranging of mats and feet in my face and more sweat than usual dripping from bodies and walls. I have felt a little bit like a stranger in a place that normally feels like a second home. As much as I try to let it go, I keep finding myself getting annoyed at the heat, the late start to class, and all of the other little things that I am usually able to soften around. 

Not that you knew any of these things when you randomly set up in my corner of the room today. 

When you introduced yourself (and after I had embarrassingly clarified twice that your name was in fact BRIAN and not RYAN), I asked if you typically come to this class, because I didn't recognize you. When you told me you had been a regular at the nearby studio that just closed its doors, I could see the sadness in your eyes. You looked down as you said the name of the old studio, and I knew in that instant how much you wished your mat could be back there tonight. 

And in that one moment, you changed my whole practice. 

I looked around the room, at the new faces that I didn't recognize, and it was like looking at them with new eyes. How many of them were looking for a new place to land? Although it has been several years, I remember the early days of finding a new yoga home here in San Francisco. Of going to classes where no one knows your name or your practice. The anticipation of how the class would be structured and whether you would like the teacher. Not knowing how the room is set up and laying your mat out like a fish swimming upstream. Maybe the parade of latecomers, I thought to myself, just hadn't yet figured out how to budget time for parking in the Mission on a Thursday night. It is really tough to be the new yogi, no matter how welcoming the community. 

I saw you, Brian, as you lifted your foot at odd times in the sequence, your body longing for a specific sequence that wasn't being taught - the one that you would have had at the old studio. I wanted to grab you blocks during pyramid pose, to make you more comfortable and tell you that, eventually, the abdominal exercises would stop and we would go on to other poses. 

I heard you chuckle at one of the teacher's regular jokes and realized that yes, it is pretty funny when you haven't heard it before. And that made me laugh, too. Not just a giggle, but a real laugh.

I had a good practice tonight. It was sweaty and crowded but I was happy to be there on my 71 inches of home. I was grateful for the unexpected, but necessary, attitude adjustment that I received. 

Thank you, Brian, for a humbling lesson in compassion, and a reminder that I am responsible for the energy that I bring on to my mat.

Please come back next week. I promise that someday soon, it will be home for you, too. 

With love,

the Yogi Next to You