I think most of us call them “the dots.” They’re shaped more like teardrops though. They’re designed to represent sweat drops.
The recycled tire floor in the yoga room at Reno’s Bikram studio—Juice Box Yoga—is stamped with carefully-spaced teardrop shapes. There are four rows of the drops, and I’d say they’re about about six inches wider than mat width apart. They’re easy to overlook if you don’t know they’re there. But unless you’re on your first fifteen or so classes at that studio, you know they’re there. You have been told. If you’re a long-time student at Juice Box you’ve heard the teachers tell the class hundreds of times to please use the drops.
The drops are there to make space. I live my life generally convinced that I’m taking up too much space in the world and using the dots is one way to make sure that’s not happening. This is my space. That is yours. If every student places the left corner of their mat on a drop, 70+ students can fit in the room. I’ve seen it.
But, alas, people are assholes. Even yogis. They don’t use the damn drops. They know they’re supposed to. They know that using the drops means that everyone can fit and see at least a sliver of themselves in the mirror. But too many of them think only of themselves and just don’t give a shit.
Obviously I care about this. It makes me effing crazy.
I like rules. I’ve always liked rules. Admittedly I like them because I’m one who can be successful when operating within the rules. But whether or not we like the rules doesn’t matter. In the case of the yoga drops, we need to follow the rules because it’s courteous and no one of us yogis is more important than the other.
A couple days ago I got to class about fifteen minutes early, set up my mat, and then went to go change. When I came back into the room a few minutes before class, all tramped up in my skanky yoga gear, I discovered that a dude had set up in front of me. Fine, of course. If you put yourself in a middle row you should expect that someone is going to set up in front of you. It’s why the dots are staggered as they are; if we use them like we’re supposed to, no one mat will be directly in front of another and no one of us can get miffed that someone set up in front of us. But this dude didn’t just set up in front of me, he also ignored the dots and moved my mat toward the back of the room to make more space for himself.
I could still see myself in the mirror, but the guy behind me couldn’t. (To those unfamiliar with Bikram, know that in this yoga mirrors are a tool we use constantly throughout class. Being able to see yourself in the mirror matters.) The behind-me guy got to class early, set up in the back, used a dot, and was therefore gonna be fine no matter who set up in front of him. Then I came in, used a dot, and therefore didn’t block him. Then in-front-of-me guy came in, ignored the dots, and therefore blocked the guy who who did what he was supposed to.
(This whole dot-ignoring-mat-moving incident left me with an excellent opportunity to practice some of the more difficult principles within yoga, non attachment and clean thoughts most specifically.)
Why the hell can’t we respect other people’s desire to practice yoga like we ourselves like to practice? Why do so many of us think that other students should work around us? Don’t give me bullshit about being too tall or too claustrophobic to use the dots. Even if you’re in a hurry the speed limits apply to you. There isn’t a good reason not to use the dots. Whatever you’ve decided your special circumstances are aren’t actually special enough to exempt you from respecting our collective space.
On that, a great way to respect your fellow students is to quit drinking. Or please drink a hell of a lot less. I can smell it. We sweat a lot in the yoga room and I can smell last night’s or this afternoon’s booze seeping from your pores. It literally literally literally makes me gag. When we sweat together I can smell what you’ve smoked. I can smell the garlic you ate. I can smell what you drank. It’s disgusting. I know my nose is more sensitive than most, and perhaps I’m even more sensitive to that stuff because I don’t smoke, like garlic, or drink, but even then, I’m not the only one who can smell last night’s good time oozing out of your body. (What’s even a little worse is that I know which ones of you drink, like, a lot. Some of you are legitimately in need of intervention.) And when you walk in the room I kick myself for having set up my mat early. Why oh why didn’t I wait out in the lobby until the last minute so I could avoid practicing near you?
At the end of every yoga class the teacher closes things off by saying, “Namaste.” The students repeat it and then you’re done. Within that salutation there’s a message of respect, unity, and equality. And while I am not the best yogi out there or even necessarily one of the good ones, that word and what it signifies means a lot to me. Wanna see me get weepy? Ask me to explain to you what namaste means to me.
Too many of us hot yoga practitioners don’t give a damn about respecting other people. We don’t care about unity. We just want to sweat, get rid of stress, be skinny and get on with our day. It means that too many of us repeat that namaste out of habit; we don’t think about what we’re saying and we barely give its meaning lip service.
For my part, I really am looking for the divine in you, but when you’re the only person you’re aware of, it’s pretty hard to find any bright sparks at all.