The past two weeks, people all over have been participating in the YogaWorks Heart Opening Challenge to raise awareness for heart disease and to help establish a consistent practice. It has been a fun 14 days - especially for me, since this weekend was a training weekend with my teacher training program. I think it's safe to say we were all feeling the love buzz!
Tonight, after training ended, Charm City YogaWorks Midtown crammed 70+ bodies into the (not all that big) Fire Studio. We were basically on top of each other, and as a neighbor commented, "It's all one big mat!"
Our teacher - and my teacher trainer - Kim - made the setup work optimally by tailoring her sequence and cues to make the super-crowded room a positive instead of a negative. After an inspiring beginning meditation on self-love, we all came together and bonded over love songs and our proximity. In my favorite part of the sequence, we all placed our hands on each other's backs, creating human chains, as we bent to the sides, forward, and back.
Like many practitioners, I've been to lots of crowded classes and it's not always such an awesome experience. Here are some lessons learned - for both teachers and students:
- Always make room for one more. This really might mean the world to them, so think of it as a gift you're offering. My friends Charlotte, Justin and I repositioned our mats to the point of overlapping so that a latecomer could have a spot up front. After spending the weekend in close quarters, this was no big deal to us, but this woman was unbelievably appreciative. She even stopped us after class to thank us again for making room. It reminded me of how intimidating it can be to come into a large class and what a difference a friendly classmate can make.
- Be mindful of space. When the room is that jam-packed, we all have to be careful when extending our legs back for three-legged dog and other poses. As the student we can be as careful as possible, but a responsive teacher is careful not to sequence poses that can't be performed without students karate-chopping each other.
- Embrace the squish. Some of the most fun classes I've ever been to were super crowded - and tonight was definitely one of those nights. I can't remember the last time I laughed and smiled so much in a yoga class, and it's because we all embraced an "in this together" attitude. It didn't hurt that we were vibing to Beyonce and Whitney on Valentine's Day, but this is an atmosphere I want to remember and try to infuse into my future classes.
Did you do the Heart Opening Challenge? What was your experience?