Guest Scribe Yasmin Gow: Getting Cozy in a Crowded Class
Yoga Festival season is upon us. Music fills the air and bodies fill yoga mats and plenty of them. Having led and attended many mass yoga practices, I’m aware that despite lots of radical energy at these events, there often isn’t as much room as one may like. This said, I thought I’d offer some suggestions on how to practice harmoniously with others in limited space:
1- Setting up: Chances are you won’t have room to group all your belongings around your mat. Leave what you can in your car or room/tent, and place the rest of your stuff (shoes, clothes, etc.) at the edge of the practice space. If a towel, water bottle or valuables must be nearby, create a neat pile at the back of your mat.
2- Props: Most big yoga events don’t supply props for attendees. Bring what you need like blocks or cushions, with you. Arrange props neatly at the back of your mat for accessibility and also out of the way of roaming teaching assistants and neighboring practitioners.
3- Arm room: There are many ways to raise your arms. With less space, release your need to extend your arms laterally overhead. Instead, consider the following alternatives:
a- Maintaining Anjali mudra (prayer hands), let arms travel along the shushumna (centreline of body), extending from heart overhead, then down toward feet.
b- Take arms straight out in front of you, bringing them up and down the same way.
c- Similar to ‘b’, but allows elbows to bend first, then extend arms—think flight attendant.
4- Leg room: In postures where your legs extend off your mat— Ardha Chandrasana (half-moon), Virbhadrasana III (Warrior III), or even upavistha konasana (wide-angle seated forward bend)— create room for others. No one wants a bloody nose in yoga.
5- Adjustments: If you are injured or prefer not receiving adjustments, consider leaving a small note at the top of your mat letting teaching assistants know. Adjusters, I highly recommend first asking if someone wants a hands-on adjustment.
6- Variations: Regardless of what is showcased around you, remember to adapt postures according to your immediate needs. If you are tired, practice a beginner version, or rest in meditation or balasana (child’s pose).
7- Closing modifications: If you can’t savasana with limbs fully extended, rest your hands on your belly and/or bend your knees. Finally, when chanting Om, be only loud enough to hear yourself as well the people next to you.
8- Gratitude: Practicing with hundreds or thousands of people is truly an incredible experience. Let yourself be transported by the positive energy around you. It’s good for you and great for the planet.
~Yasmin F. Gow has taught yoga for over a decade. She is also an accredited ayurvedic practitioner and the producer of five acclaimed yoga DVDs. In 2010, she completed 108 days of 108 sun salutations and became the first woman to break the Guinness World Records™ Record for the longest yoga marathon lasting 32 hours. This initiative raised thousands of dollars for charity and was featured in publications worldwide, including India’s national newspaper the Times of India. A former studio owner, Yasmin currently offers ayurvedic consultations, leads workshops internationally and mentors others to reach great heights. This summer, she is presenting at Wanderlust Tremblant Aug. 23-25.