One of these days I’m going to sit down a write a behind the scenes post just to fill you in on what’s going on here at YBC. Things are ca-razy, as you might’ve guessed from recent instagram posts like this, this, and this. I am definitely feeling stressed but also really excited about the incredible opportunities and projects we have going on.
One of them - and this is just an idea, not set in stone yet - is the possibility to open up a yoga studio. I’m working with a commercial real estate agent to check out the surrounding areas and see if there’s a space I like, and as I explore this idea, I've been asking people what makes or breaks a studio in their opinion. And the responses blew my mind.
Overwhelmingly, people apparently do not like crowded studio classes. Like, some people stop going to the studio if there are too many people in the classes.
At my upstate NY retreat, the girls actually said they would pay a higher price to attend a smaller class.
It’s crazy to me, because, confession: I am the total opposite. I love a crowded studio so much I would pay extra to not be in a small class. I feel more comfortable in a class of fifty than I do in a class of ten. Now, note that the title of this post is confessions of a yoga student and not a yoga teacher. This is because as a teacher, leading a crowded yoga class is hard work. You need to accommodate for all levels, you need to really have eyes in the back of your head so you're sure people are being safe. It's really, really hard! But as a student, I love being in a crowded class. I don’t know if I can explain it, but I’m going to try.
To me, bigger yoga classes mean more privacy. I know that sounds like it doesn’t make any sense but hear me out.
When I’m in a large class, I feel like I can just blend into the background. No teacher is going to single me out or have me demo because it’s just not feasible in a large class. Therefore, I can fade into the background and let my breath be my soundtrack to the teacher’s instruction.
Now, on one hand, I do think my yoga study has given me an advantage here. If I can’t see the teacher, it doesn’t matter because 99.9% of the time I know what he or she is talking about based on their cues or Sanskrit call out. I understand and acknolwedge that a beginner may have no clue what’s going on and not being able to see the teacher may be a disservice...however, couldn’t they just look at the row of people in front of them? I guess that’s annoying because then you’re not really focused on your own practice.
Anyway, another reason I don’t mind a crowded class?
I know that no matter what, I’ll have my own designated space. It’s called my yoga mat.
This goes back to my days of major, debilitating anxiety. I could barely get through everyday errands, but walking into a yoga class made all my anxiety disappear because I felt like my mat was my safe, sacred space and I still feel the same way. Pack us in like sardines if you want, but I’ll still be the only one on my mat!
As far as hands, if people stagger their mats, bumping into other people's arms shouldn’t be an issue. By stagger the mats, I mean that my mat will be 8 inches or so back from the two people next to me, who will both be 8 inches or so ahead of me. If the whole room is set up like that, I don’t have to worry about the arms touching when you reach out to the side because my top of the mat is in a physically different location from the people next to you.
The only time it gets tricky is when you need to come off the mat for a pose. Take wild thing, for example. In order to “flip the dog,” we physically need to step off the yoga mat. In this case, it’s up to the instructor to decide whether the vibe of the room is one in which people feel comfortable and happy to have that happen or whether people will be up in arms about their neighbors toe-tapping their mats. I personally don’t like anyone touching my mat (and side note: gross, but I took a completely packed master class once and the instructor had incredibly playful sequencing and we went from bow pose to rolling on our sides to flipping into bridge pose ON OUR NEIGHBOR’S MAT...which might have been considerably less terrible if it hadn’t been at the end of our 3 hour power class which resulted in literal PUDDLES of sweat on our mats. It was disgusting.), but a creative teacher could for sure find a way to include the pose that doesn’t have the foot on the mat. For wild thing post, the instructor could, for instance, have the foot hover.
Another reason why I love a crowded classroom is the energy. There’s something so, so powerfully beautiful about 50 bodies in a crowded room breathing in and out at the exact same time, doing the exact yoga choreography. It honestly brings me to tears sometimes, it’s so powerful. It’s a very individual practice, in which you’re (hopefully) free to express your interpretation of each pose, but at the same time, it’s a collective effort to move through the sequences. In a small class, that energy just isn’t there. Strength in numbers, you know?
From a beginner’s standpoint, I understand the intimidation of a big class. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it can feel like you're being thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim. So for total beginners, I would say to look for a studio that offers an Intro to Yoga series where you can work on the basics. Once the basics are down pat, give yourself permission to go to that crowded class, and lay the mat down (quietly, because no one likes the person who snaps their mat down) and give it a go.
And if you feel a little awkward, just laugh! I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone. Do the thing you avoid, embrace every unsure, sweaty moment and then after you enjoy a delicious savasana, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
I'd love to know your take - do you hate crowded classes? If so, why? Are you like me and get anxiety in small classes? Let's chat down in the comments below!
Related: Other yoga confessions.
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