Today was one of those days.
As usual, I got to the yoga studio at least 15 minutes early. It’s all part of my routine because I need to sign in, settle my things in the locker room, and then head over to the hot room to set up my mat. I’m really particular with how I set up my mat. I believe that in most classes, there is room for everyone to indulge in her or his practice. Most people forget that when you lay our mat down, you need to look at the mirror, not the floor. Each person needs just a sliver of their body in the mirror to check form and alignment. My biggest pet peeve is when someone (especilly when said person arrives to the practice late) lays their mat directly in front of me, thus blocking my access to the mirror. It seems like a little thing, but it’s such a sign of entitlement.
How you lay your yoga mat tells me who you are in life. It tells me if you’re aware of those around you and care enough to share space with them. It tells me if you’re privileged, selfish, and have zero awareness of anyone but yourself.
Yes, a woman arrived late. There was plenty of space in class, yet she laid her mat directly in front of me. This happened when I was in the midst of the breathing exercise and didn’t realize how blatant her rudeness was until I looked in the mirror and was nowhere to be found.
Therein lies the problem. In one breath, I was rendered invisible by this woman.
I have my days when I hate my practice. Today was one of those days.
I am, among many things, a scholar who specializes in issues of race, class, gender, culture, etc. My research is always on my mind. As I get older, I constantly confront questions about the body (more specifically, my body) and the ways in which it has to experience colonial legacies of subjugation, and exploitation.
So WTF does this have to do with this overprivileged lady hogging my spot in the mirror?!
Let me repeat what I just wrote earlier: In one breath, I was rendered invisible by this woman. (Since it’s now in a BOLD and PRETTY color, I hope you caught that.)
The current state of yoga in the United States and elsewhere in the Western world highlights the power imbalance that remains between those who have access to wealth, an audience and privilege in contrast to those who have been historically marginalized…. By remaining unaware of the history, roots, complexity and challenges of the heritage from which yoga springs and the challenges it has faced under Western culture, they perpetuate a re-colonization of it by stripping its essence away.
You see, it’s not just the mat that I’m so angry about. It’s the colonial entitlement that is carried on and perpetuated in yoga (yes, ALL forms and practices are implicated here). My yoga practice is deeply connected my sense of social justice and my commitment to education. How I engage in my practice and how I share space with my fellow yogis, are all connected to some of my core fundamental beliefs. Granted, I’m not a gold-star yogi all the time. However, I am mindful in my practice. I am aware that yoga has been co-opted by the capitalist world and transformed into a vegan-when-convenient, chai tea drinking, Whole Foods shopping, lululemon wearing monstrosity. I am aware that a once deeply spiritual practice has become a co-opted space for the elite. Yes. I’m am absolutely aware of how ironic it is that I still manage to show up to class. However, grappling with decolonization needs to start somewhere.
So it’s not just about the mat. It’s what erasing a fellow yogi from her practice means to someone like me.
While I still have fantasies of gouging this woman’s eyes out, I will not end this post on a sour note. Instead, I would like to thank the kind gentleman who was practicing in the row behind me. When this over-entitled woman erased me from the practice, I hesitated to move to my right because I would end up blocking him (sorry, I’m not in the business of erasing a fellow yogi). In a gesture of solidarity, he actually moved his mat over, and then tapped me on the shoulder and gave me the thumbs up to move, so that we would all have enough space.
Just like that. My faith in the people who practice has been restored.
Celebrating EVERY body,
the fierce fathlete