I walked into what was about to be a super packed yoga class. Sometimes, the process of getting settled into class is so antithetical to the calm, grounded, compassionate practice into which we’re frantically trying to get settled. There’s a mad dash to get your yoga mat down in the exact spot you want it but just far enough from someone else’s mat that you’re not going to have a foot in your face. This mad dash happens right after the mad dash into the teeny tiny coat closet where you get to stuff your coat and scarf and sweater and boots and socks and bag and possibly groceries and right before the mad dash to the teeny tiny bathroom to pee out all that morning coffee and tea so as not to disturb class later. The hurricane of women (dotted with a few men) is almost half settled before the teacher comes in to announce you have 10 more students coming in who need a spot so please everyone move your mats so you’re directly on top of one another, thank you.
Today was one of those days. One of those 10 extra students comes to snuggle in beside me asking me to shift my mat even further to the left than I already have. I give an indifferent, “Sure,” and begin to shift my mat back first as I see there’s another student trying to roll out a 6 foot mat in a 3 foot space in front of me. The first student impatiently repeats, “Could you move over so I can fit my mat right here??” and before the last word leaves her lips I snap, “I’m getting there!” and shifted my mat to the left. What is buyer’s remorse for communication? Whatever it’s called, I immediately feel it. I berate myself for my rude and unnecessary tone and blame it on being jaded by too many years in the restaurant service industry.
Sukhasana, close your eyes, settle down and bring your awareness to the present moment. Ooommmmm. I forget all about it and enjoy a beautiful class. At the end of class as we begin the backwards flurry of madness back out of the studio, I’m rolling up my mat and the same student, the victim of my attitude, so kindly and without thought says, “I just want to apologize for snapping at you in the beginning of class, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
(As I’m writing this I realize her apology may not seem so significant. But I’d like to add to the perspective by noting that in New York City in particular, people tend not to apologize, and it’s not because they’re not sorry. Apology takes time and that’s a diminishing commodity here, so even if you’re sorry, you have somewhere else in your life those 10 seconds need to be allotted. Also, people here tend to have quite thick skin and apologies aren’t always necessary, more taken for granted sort of. You have to let things roll off your back and move on.)
So, the fact that she approached me in this way completely took me off guard, especially since I felt like the prime offender. I respond with an apology on my part as well and we agree on a mutual lapse in civility toward one another. And, just like that, in less than 10 seconds, my perspective on the day shifted.
We have literally hundreds of interactions with others per day, so many that we forget to acknowledge how significant each interaction actually is. The subtle energy, the gestures, the nuances of what we all say and do and the looks we offer with our eyes builds throughout the day and affects our moods and our performance. Yoga is a lifestyle of self awareness and mindfulness, so can we learn to be mindful of every interaction we have with another human being? Can we consciously slow down the channel between our thoughts and words so we have time to reflect on those thoughts before we expel them out our mouths? Can we consciously choose to soften our faces, calm our nerves, and understand that the smallest changes in how we present ourselves to others have the most profound effects on our daily lives?