Sometimes there may be a space way up in the front, next to the teacher, but unless you're a regular front-of-the-room-yogi, you would never go there.
So, you pick a space that's almost wide enough for a mat, and then politely ask the person next to you to scoot over a bit so that you can fit. Depending on their mood, you may get a very kind "of course!," or you may get a dirty look and a very small shift, with a sigh and lots of dramatic movements. You just never know what to expect.
The other day, this happened to me at a studio here on the Cape. I asked my neighbor to move, not expecting a super smiley, warm reception (I'm in New England now, and have adjusted to the more reserved way of communicating here), but was surprised by a very talkative, very open, very southern-ish response from my neighbor. We began chatting it up, and our conversation ended up covering mat spacing, New England personalities, and the difference between social interactions in the South vs. the North.
After our interaction, I spent a bit of the first part of the class (I know, I know...) thinking about all of the various places that I've lived, and how the cultural differences in these places can become apparent in yoga classes.
As someone who spends most of my time in yoga studios, I think it's only natural that I pick up on the differences in this setting, and sometimes, I think that the yoga studio can be a microcosm of the place that surrounds it. So, I thought it would be fun to make a list of some of the differences that I've noticed in the four main places that I've lived and practiced, as shallow and silly as they might be...
Thus, here are some of the cultural differences (that I've noticed) in yoga classes up & down the east coast:
- NYC: Mats are all over each other because the studio is small, it's packed with too many people, and there's just no damn space in New York. People are used to cramming into tiny spaces so don't think much of it (Think: on the subway).
- Washington, DC: Everyone knows his or her spot, people place their mats in grids and straight lines, and everyone notices if someone's mat is in the "wrong" place. [Type-A central.]
- Atlanta: It doesn't matter where the mats are, and wherever they are, students will make conversation with the yogis around them. If they have to scoot closer together, no problem, they can make small talk more easily!
- New England: Personal space capitol of the world. Everyone likes about a foot of floor space around their mat on every side, but students are much more relaxed about where in the room their mat is spaced, what direction it's facing, and whether or not it is in a grid.
Community chit chat...
- NYC: Latest restaurant, film, or show opening.
- Washington, DC: Government happenings.
- Atlanta: Why not get personal with a stranger?
- New England: Weather (because it's crazy).
- NYC: Outfits worn to yoga--especially by teachers--are often more fashionable and avant-garde than the clothing that I would wear on a big night out.
- Washington, DC: Lululemon all the way.
- Atlanta: Whatever is coolest (temperature-wise).
- New England: Whatever is warmest--often this mean layers for days.
The way teachers talk/teach...
- NYC: It's not rare to have a teacher with a fabulously exotic accent, or whose OM sounds like the lead vocals in a Broadway musical.
- Washington, DC: Lots of type-A teachers who are clear, follow directions, may talk more quickly, or do more planning, or give all options possible to ensure that they're covering all of the bases.
- Atlanta: Hearing a "y'all" in class is totally normal.
- New England: Hearing a "wicked" in class is totally normal.
Reaction to touch/hands-on assists...
- NYC: Yes, please. Your thoughtful assist is way more therapeutic than the weirdly-placed hand of the person who I was smushed against in the elevator this morning.
- Washington, DC: Sure, you can assist me, but only if you know what you're doing and it helps me to better align my pose.
- Atlanta: Why not? We touch when we tell a story, make a joke, see a friend, or meet a stranger!
- New England: Um, okay...I do like my personal space, but I have to admit that once I received the assist, I was very grateful and it helped me to relax.
What do you think? Have anything to add? How does yoga differ on the West Coast? In the Midwest? Obviously these are gross generalizations, and there are many people who don't fit into these molds in every place, but I do find differences like these interesting and fun.
Now, um, could you scoot over a bit so that I can fit my mat, my bolster, my blanket, my two blocks, my purse, and my gigantic water bottle into this tiny space between you and your neighbor? Kthankx. ;)