Where Should I Put My Mat? A Yoga Studio Geography Lesson
By Becca Washer
It can seem like a silly question but every time you walk into the studio, mat rolled under your arm, balancing a block, towel, water bottle, and an eagerness to practice, you are faced with the decision, where should I put my mat? I’ve traveled my way around the room of 502PY and can tell you the ins and outs, tips and tricks, air flow pattern, etc of almost every spot. Here is my personal, in no way professional, view of the best spots in the room depending on your needs.
1. Your first class
It may be your first instinct to go in the back row, but I disagree. There will be times when you are facing the back of the room and it is helpful to have people behind you in case something is called you are not familiar with. The transition from Down-Dog to Flip-Dog comes to mind here. The fourth row in a full class is the best (or the second to last row if it is not a full class).
2. When you’re finding your own practice
After a while, you will get the hang of Journey Into Power (the sequence taught in all 502PY classes), and you will start to find what works for you. Breaking out from the back can be a challenge, but I promise, the front row is perfect for this. Take time with no distraction of people in front of you. When you can’t see what other people are doing you start to find things out for yourself. New transitions present themselves, challenging poses stop being a competition, you become very familiar with the Om painting on the front wall, and you find your flow.
3. When you get stuck
When only staring at the wall in front of you becomes stagnant, and you are ready to be inspired by your fellow yogis, place your mat in the center of the room. Connect your breath with everyone around you. Feed off the energy of your neighbors and let it fuel your practice. 502PY has a contagious vitality and the best way to reap its benefits is by immersing yourself in the middle of it. Start by literally being in the middle of the room and then expand that into joining conversations, coffee dates, events, and all the other aspects of the 502PY community.
4. When you’re working on a new pose
The walls offer great support when you are working on a new pose or modification and that goes for so much more than inversions. Try dropping back and walking up the wall for wheel pose. Float your hand while balancing on the wall in half moon. Press your hand into the wall to reach your foot higher in dancer. Yes, over time the wall can become a crutch, but it can also show you what is possible.
5. When you just want to be where it’s the coolest
From only my own perspective, the front row can tend to feel the steamiest especially in fuller classes where there is not much space between the front of your mat and the wall. Also, the corners offer less air flow and can feel a touch hotter. In the morning, avoid the center of the first two rows where the sun glares in through the windows (aka the death ray) or take on the challenge of a little extra heat. Take all this worth a grain of salt though (like the kind you’ll be sweating out) because the room is 90 degrees and that is hot no matter where you are.
The single most important thing I can tell you about where to put your mat is that there is magic inside those studio walls. All you have to do to be a part of this community is show up. Wherever you are in your practice, and wherever you are in the room is going to be just perfect; you can plant yourself in the same spot or move every day. As long as you’re unrolling your mat you are setting yourself up for taking your day to the edge.
She is a wife, doggy-momma, musician, wedding planner, and powerful practitioner at 502 Power Yoga. When asked to describe herself in five words, Baely answered, “First and foremost, Nerdy. Artistic, fun-loving, analytic, and stubborn. My husband definitely wouldn’t let me leave out the word ‘stubborn’…” Baely began her yoga journey back in the fall when Hannah Clore invited her to her first ever yoga class. To set the scene, it is a 6 AM Power Yoga Class with the amazing Mimi Hahn.
502: Tell us about that first class.
I had a lot of expectations in my mind of what it would be like- all of which, of course, were completely inaccurate. I thought it would be very mild and relaxing. I did not expect for it to be as intense as it is. I remember thinking during the sun salutations that this was harder than any workout I’d done with my personal trainer. Somehow, by the grace of some higher power, I made it through the entire class. Completing that first class made me feel so strong and powerful. I started practicing regularly during the 40 Days to a Personal Revolution program in January, and I’ve been obsessed/in love with it ever since.
502: During the 40 Days program, you said the biggest change was how you viewed yourself.
I realized I would look at the mirror, and say, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this. I don’t like this…” During the 40 days program, I didn’t look in the mirror for 2 days, which was more difficult than I initially thought because there are mirrors everywhere begging you to look at yourself. It became really eye opening how much time I waste criticizing myself… Now, I think about the poses I never thought I would be able to do before, and I get really happy when I get into them because I think, “Ha, you couldn’t do this like 2 months ago.”
502: What are your favorite and least favorite poses?
I love poses that make me feel open, like half-moon and fish pose. I have a love/hate relationship with twisting poses and chair pose. I’ve definitely been going through the internal struggle of realizing that some pain is OK. The discomfort I feel in my legs during chair pose is OK, and I don’t have to run from it. (This is a lesson I’m taking with me off the mat as well.) So even my least favorite poses I kind of love, because they teach me something about myself.
What kept you coming back to 502PY after the 40 Days to a Personal Revolution Program?
I love how yoga makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel more present in my body, and it makes me feel like I’m more capable of handling day-to-day life. Yoga has taught me so much about how I view the world and how I view myself. I’ve learned so much about myself since I started practicing, and it’s been a truly invaluable experience for me. In addition to that, I have found that everyone I’ve met at 502PY is so encouraging, warm, and welcoming, that you can’t help but feel like you’re part of a family. Even on days when my body does not want to practice, I come for the people.
What are some of your yoga goals for the next year?
I keep waiting to hear when the next training to be a Studio Class Assistant will be (Hi, Cat and Sarah!) so I can jump on that. Then, in the next few years, I’d love to do the teacher training. In terms of my personal yoga practice, I am determined to get into tripod headstand, and be able to hold crow for more than 2 seconds. I’m also working on wheel pose a lot in my personal practice.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I would love to be working for myself as an event/wedding coordinator. I’m working my way towards that dream right now, but I not ready to give up the day job just yet. I’d also like to be teaching yoga and sharing it with the people around me. And lastly, in 5 years I would love to be a mom.
What does being a YES mean to you?
Being a yes to me means being open to the possibility that anything can happen. Being open to the possibility that my body can do more than I expect of it, being open to the thought that I can reach my goals no matter how impossible they seem, and disregarding the negativity and self-doubt that pop up on and off the mat. Being a yes means that when a teacher says try on tripod headstand, instead of telling myself I’m incapable, I look for what I am capable of doing. I can get my head to the mat and my arms in the correct position. I can work towards getting my hips over my shoulders. I can try every time to pull knees to my triceps. If I fall, so what? Being a yes means being open to the process and the experience.
We love having Baely as a practitioner at 502 PY and see big things for her future in our community. Thank you for sharing and inspiring us through your yoga practice!
Check out Baely’s work at her Wedding Coordinator Facebook page.