1. “The warrior” – The fellow to the left of you begins to take ujjayi breathing to the next level. You know how teachers will say, “Make your breath sound like the ocean at the back of your throat”? Well, now you feel like you’re at the beach…in the middle of a typhoon.
2. “The invader” – The person to the right of you places their mat directly beside yours, with not even an inch of room. Your hands are constantly brushing against one another awkwardly as you move through Sun Salutations. You take a step forward, hoping to stagger yourself against them. They take a step forward. You take a step back. They take a step back. You give up and resign yourself to whispering “sorry” throughout class as various body parts continue to make contact.
3. “The grunter” – The fellow behind you with very tight hips and hamstrings will grunt and moan loudly as he moves from one position to another. “Unhhhhh,” he cries. “Ahhhh,” he moans. You feel uncomfortable as you splay into a wide-legged forward bend.
4. “The show-off” – The girl in front of you, a former gymast and ballerina, springs deftly into full splits with ease and grace. She gazes around the room, smiling sympathetically at those who can barely spread their legs at all (also ensuring that everyone has noticed her and her perky bun). You stare at her coldly as your sweaty hands fumble to support yourself with blocks.
5. “The freestyler” – The woman in the corner pays no mind to the teacher’s instruction. She hangs passively in a forward bend as the rest of you suckers struggle through a core series. She deftly moves into headstand as everyone else swivels into Trikonasana. You can’t help but stare.
6. “The hoarder” – This man waits by the practice room door 20 minutes before class begins to make sure that he can dart in and grab his goodies. He immediately snags a bolster, four blocks, two straps, and three blankets and stockpiles them – fortress-style – around his mat, leaving limited supply for the rest of the class. You stare sadly at your one, “well-worn” block.
7. “The au-naturale” – This boy has committed himself to an eco-friendly lifestyle, meaning he shaves once every two weeks and refuses to use deodorant. His hands are stained with soil from planting trees before class and he emits a natural, “earthy” scent. Sweat begins to dampen his hemp shirt. You hold your breath and vow to submit an anonymous submission to the suggestion box after class.
8. “The talker” – This woman turns to you in Downward Dog and begins to tell you about the day she’s had. Can you believe she was late for work in the morning because her kids didn’t want to eat breakfast? She sneaks in a few words every chance she gets, leaving you feeling like the bad kid in high school who passed notes behind the teacher’s back.
9. “The latecomer” – The door opens halfway through class and in comes the latecomer. She saunters to the front of the room and asks you to move over so she can have some space. She then proceeds to slap her mat down loudly and let out a loud sigh as she settles onto her back. The teacher smiles at her graciously as she joins the rest of you. You feel anything but gracious inside.
10. “The mat man” - This man needs to place his mat in the exact same spot every single time. Much like the hoarder, he will hover anxiously outside the door to ensure that he can rush into the room and place his mat directly in front of the door, for the “best ventilation”. You have become accustomed to stepping around him as you enter class.
Maybe you’ve encountered one, or two, or all ten of these “characters” in your yoga class. Perhaps you even fit one of the descriptions yourself. But however annoying these people may seem, they do more for our practice than we may realize. The people that we resist, the people we judge and love to hate, they’re the ones we should be the most grateful for, because they are our mirrors. They show us sides of ourselves we have been unable to recognize. Yet it is for this very reason that we step onto the mat – to explore these feelings, to come to terms with them, and finally, to accept that even though we might not be there yet, we’re doing the yoga, which brings us one step closer than we were before.