Don’t be afraid of those big, busy studio classes, let’s embrace the community aspect of yoga and celebrate being part of something greater, says Victoria Jackson
My favourite local studio is also – no coincidence, of course – the favourite local studio of lots of other people too. Classes can be busy and we sometimes begin with the teacher playing a game of Tetris with the mats, making sure everyone has enough space to practice safely even if we’re arranged close together. “Is there room for one more lovely yogi?” he sometimes asks, and we all shuffle up again.
In the early days I found this a real challenge. I was more used to practicing quietly at home or in a very small group. A busy class was actually quite daunting; I worried about my out-of-tune chanting, that I might drip sweat on my neighbour, whether the person in front of me would kick me in Warrior 3 and what the view from behind was like when we did forward folds.
But at some stage these concerns melted away. Now I’ve settled in to the point where the feeling of the group as a whole surpasses my own little anxieties. Definitely not a sublimation of the self, not quite a blissed-out togetherness, but at least an acceptance that we’re all in this together and I might as well enjoy it!
Being with other people creates a feeling of being part of something greater. Plus it’s a good opportunity to practice some generous yogic behaviours and look out for one other, rather than selfishly spreading out as much as we might want to. Now as we move through our vinyasas, I picture us as a shoal of fish or a flock of birds, all weaving our own individual movements but forming a single picture. I sometimes wish I could stand up and watch the ripples and waves of arms and legs moving in time across the room. In my mind’s eye we’re so beautiful all together.
At the end of class our final Om often has a different quality to the opening chant. It’s as though we’ve all tuned in to one another through our synchronised movements and measured breathing. Now there’s a beautiful harmony. And when I roll up my mat to leave, I gather up any foam blocks I find around me. I no longer know which are mine, which might be my neighbours’. And it doesn’t matter.
Victoria Jackson lives and practices in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as a vinyasa yoga teacher.