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.