jvanhouten

Dealing With Crowded Classrooms

68 posts in this topic

Hi everyone! Jessica here.

 

I have an anecdote to share that some of you guys might also be able to relate to.

 

We were going to practise a straddle split in a crowded room, as part of our routine. Everyone was trying to stagger with their neighbours. I looked at my neighbours and I noticed they were moving away, so I stayed put. I stood in a wide leg forward bend and started sliding down and pressing into my feet. At this point I wasn't paying attention to my neighbours anymore, but I noticed that as my split almost finished, I felt something rubbing against my foot.

 

I took a quick look and the girl at my right apparently had not staggered or she had moved back for some reason (I didn't notice this) and as you can probably guess by now, my right leg wasn't entirely stretched, and her left leg wasn't entirely stretched because our soles were pressing into each other. And I don't mean they were simply touching, there was some pressure because we both tried to stretch out.

 

I don't know if I can justify why I didn't just move away, but in the moment I really felt like I just needed to go with whatever I had and not get distracted. This, however, resulted in the two of us interrupting each other's flow. Also, she didn't move away either, so in a way we had a small clash over the foot space, pressing into each other's soles to pull off the full straddle.

 

Fortunately for us, we didn't have to stay in the straddle for too long and we didn't have any further physical contact during that class.

 

What I learned from this experience is that I need to be more aware of the people around me, or avoid big crowds altogether.

What do you guys think? What would you have done? How do you deal with crowded classes?

MrBalloonHands and Claire like this

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I had similar last night, we were kind of doing this but with knees bent and I could barely even move my feet out. It was so crowded!! Sometimes it can be funny because you'll feel the people in front accidentally touch your feet and both giggle, or the people next to you touch your hands but you're right it's not very zen!! I tend to try to go at odd times so there's more space (really early in the morning etc) but sometimes I like the energy of a packed class and just put up with the accidental touching.

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Ah I see, Jasmine, I usually don't mind brushing against someone or somebody accidentally bumping into me either. And I know yoga is about being zen and accepting everything that happens, but sadly I'm still training haha!

 

The thing is though that I thought my neighbour had moved, but for some reason she moved back. I don't know if she did it by accident or not, but even though our soles were clearly touching (it would seem hard NOT to notice it) she stubbornly stayed. As I said I don't mind accidental contact, but I believed that it wasn't my task to move in that situation and it felt very awkward (not only the physical contact of touching soles, but the entire scenario in general).

 

I'm sure that a lot of yoga practitioners have had the experience of going sole to sole with somebody else, but in that situation it was unnecessary and unexpected. By having this little clash over the foot space was my attempt to peacefully tell to my neighbour that she was intruding my personal space, but in the end it seemed to have backfired since we both were basically fighting with our feet for a few minutes.

 

But I'm glad that I'm not alone!

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I wonder if she was avoiding the person on the other side and she felt more comfortable going foot-to-foot with you as opposed to them? It really is a shame when it happens, I often can't stretch out even half as much as I feel I need because it's just too crowded. 

 

Oh when I said it's not very zen I mean when you're relaxed and stretching out and all of a sudden you feel a foreign foot on you  :lol:  I find it terribly distracting and I really look forward to getting back to postures where we stay on our own mats. I even hate my arms or legs touching someone else's mat or towel!!

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I wonder too haha, but if she wanted to avoid the person on the other side, she could have moved back or forth a bit. I can't help but feel that she did it on purpose, but I don't know what purpose. I didn't want to go into detail too much, but to be honest there is absolutely NOTHING comfortable or enjoyable about going sole to sole with another person if it's unexpected. I'm very certain that she found it awkward as well.

 

But then again, the room was very crowded. I don't mind if people accidentally use my mat (it's not like it's my protected territory) or brush against me. It sure is startling if you're really focused but most of the time I don't care. I also prefer the postures that take less space so I can stay in my comfort zone and I also tend to stay away from other people's mats. But I guess I'm gonna have to find some other times to join classes!

 

I know I'm overreacting about this whole thing haha, but I felt really annoyed (we had a foot fight, for heaven's sake!)...

EricaKaye likes this

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Welcome to the forum!

 

It does seem like an overreaction when you could have readjusted instead of waiting for her to move, even though it would have interrupted your practice.  But I see how this is annoying because it sounded like an intentional invasion of space with no apology - you already saw her move out of your way before, and then she came back.

 

I can see it both ways - pushing without moving is a subtle hint for the other person to move, so it's infuriating to feel like each side is trying to intimidate the other into moving, but neither side is giving.  Or, perhaps not moving signifies that you are so inwardly focused, you don't mind pushing against someone else, and can use the other person as a prop to fully extend while you stretch (for example, my teacher holds out her hand for me to press my knee or foot against in some poses).  

 

Being inwardly focused can seem selfish - she may have been doing the latter, and she was unaware that she made you uncomfortable. I wonder if this is related to how different cultures vary on the distance they speak face-to-face, so maybe she's from a culture where her personal space is smaller than others, so physical contact with a stranger is no big deal.

 

A suggestion for not letting it bother you - I've learned recently I get upset if I have high expectations for something to happen, and once I let go of the expectation, I let go of the anger or stress associated with it.  In this situation, if you don't want to get distracted and continue with your own practice, you can let go of any expectations for her to move away, and then it might be easier to accept personal space intrusion in a crowded class.

 

As for my own experience, I usually touch fingers and whack my neighbors by accident when doing sun salutations , so I modify by keeping my arms close together - it doesn't feel the same of course. I suppose some compromises just need to happen when it's crowded - I don't think you need to avoid crowded classes unless those compromises interrupt your practice too much.

 

I don't think you need to be more aware of people - you saw her move already first.  She probably needs to be more aware of others, but you can't control her, so instead, don't hold such high expectations for her to be as aware as you are - she might not be that evolved in her practice just yet.

KristiSmithYoga likes this

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Yogafire, thanks for the reply! I do understand that I could've adjusted my position but in my mind "I was there first so I got to stay" so I didn't really want to  ;)

The cultural difference isn't really applicable in our situation, as far as I know she's also from Belgium and it doesn't seem like she was raised to have a smaller personal space or anything. On top of that, when I wiggled my toes to let her know that she had to move, she just returned me an aggressive toe wiggle as well. That's why I'm sure that she was aware of the situation. In fact the whole time we were touching, although it wasn't very long, we were wiggling our toes to get some kind of advantage over the other foot. I'm being very descriptive here but I just wanted to make the point that she was definitely aware...

 

I might have to let my expectations go, as you said. A couple of days have passed since I made the post and instead of joining crowded classes I waited for the next one. I was watching the yogi during the crowded class and I noticed indeed that people don't always do what you would expect them to do, like moving a few centimeters (or inches, whichever you use) for someone who got a bit late, or people who don't move when the instructor is trying to move them, et cetera.

 

Fortunately I have never slapped (or been slapped) by anyone in between postures so I'm afraid I can't relate to that, but I'm sure I would also move away a bit.

Lastly, I'm fairly sure she's not a very new yogi. I've been practising for about 4 or 5 months and even though I don't actively observe everyone ever present during classes, I remember seeing her fairly often. We never got acquainted though (obviously). And after the incident it wasn't an appropriate time to get acquainted either.

yogafire likes this

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I'm a bit late joining the discussion, but here goes!

 

I understand how you feel about crowded classes, one of my biggest pet peeves is that sometimes some yogi face different directions for certain postures! This one time everyone went into halasana (plow pose) and as I gently kick my legs over me, I straight high five the person behind me. It was very blunt because our legs were entirely straight and we bumped into each other heels first. It really disturbs the flow! I wasn't on her mat and she wasn't on mine, but since the room was so crowded we still somehow managed to fill the short space between our mats with our feet...

 

And I agree, touching soles with another person can be uncomfortable but maneuvering during plow pose is not easy. I apologised to her even though I she was facing the other way relatively to most other persons in the room.

 

I'm not sure about yoga in Belgium, but here in Japan we have partner yoga classes and sometimes partner yoga segments during regular yoga classes. It's not uncommon to do a partner assisted boat pose or a partner assisted hand to toe pose (for very flexible people) where you and your partner raise the same leg as high as possible and lean into each other's feet, then proceed to pull closer towards your partner and have your legs press upwards against each other. In those cases you also touch each other in places that you wouldn't expect, but it's more acceptable because it's a practice for both of you!

 

I also agree with yogafire, if you expect too much you will be let down too if things don't happen as you think. But the best of luck to you!

yogafire likes this

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Thanks for the reply, Jessica! (my name is Jessica too, haha)

 

I haven't really paid attention to whether or not people face the other direction for certain postures, but I can imagine how uncomfortable you must've felt during that incident! Didn't the bumping with the straight legs hurt a bit? It sounds painful to me! At least when I bumped into my neighbour, we pressed into each other but it wasn't painful. I would also be annoyed by that person who just needed to face the other direction if that had happened to me :P

 

I'm not sure if there's partner yoga as a real class where I practise, but it sounds like something I would avoid. The partner assisted boat pose sounds awkward if you do it with someone who isn't very flexible, and the second thing you described there seems very strange, although I'm curious. How does it work? Do you both lift your right legs and then try to hug your partner with your feet are in the air? Where do you leave your left feet then? I have a very strange image in my head right now...

xJessicax likes this

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Cool name, Jessica  ;)

 

The bumping was quite blunt but not really painful, our feet just clapped together a bit.

 

Also, you really shouldn't avoid partner yoga! It's really fun with a good friend or somebody you know well at your yoga club. Often when my friends aren't in the same class I just partner up with a neighbor and it's just as useful for both of us! Even if your partner isn't flexible, as long as you are it doesn't make a difference. You can always find a more flexible partner too  :P For the partner assisted boat pose I noticed that it's most comfortable when your partner has about the same shoe size as you. This way you can stay balanced and adjust more accurately!

 

The partner assisted leg raise is something I only do with flexible people (I used to be a gymnast for a couple of years) and it's just as you described. You lean into your partner's foot or leg (both use the same leg) and you just walk your other foot closer to your partner as you close the distance. Let's say you're both flexible and you raise your right leg while standing on your left. At the very end when you both walk as close to each other as possible, the inner ankle of your left foot should be touching your partner's left ankle (alternatively you can move your foot even further and try to stand heel to heel), and you're wrapping your arms around your partner's lower back and bending forward into your right leg as if you try to push your bellies together. Your right leg should be in the air and either your right heel or your right calf should be pressing into your partner's heel or calf!

 

If you really trust your partner, you can then proceed to hold hands or hold onto her forearm, and lean back. This way you are both in a vertical split! I hope this cleared up your weird image  :D

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On top of that, when I wiggled my toes to let her know that she had to move, she just returned me an aggressive toe wiggle as well. That's why I'm sure that she was aware of the situation. In fact the whole time we were touching, although it wasn't very long, we were wiggling our toes to get some kind of advantage over the other foot. I'm being very descriptive here but I just wanted to make the point that she was definitely aware...

 

Thanks for sharing those details - I realize it can feel counterproductive in trying to let it go, but that was helpful to know the situation and now I see I was pretty naive trying to give the other party the benefit of doubt.  

 

I did change to a studio with smaller classes to avoid that kind of crowd in which some people are just not as considerate as others. Unfortunately smaller means more expensive, but, I think it helps filter out people who are there on coupon deals.

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@Yogafire The details probably made the whole incident sound more dramatic but that's the way it went. I'm sorry that you had to switch to a smaller studio because of that. But I too make a big deal out of respecting your neighbours and what not. Even though I'm taking classes, I'm also trying to practise on my own at home by watching videos. The main reason I keep taking classes is to make sure that my postures are executed correctly. Which brings me to another disadvantage of crowded classes, because the instructors can't correct everyone at the same time, especially not when there are so many yogi! But in the end I primarily do yoga for fun and I nonetheless have a lot of fun doing so!

 

@Jessica I'm afraid the image in my head just got way worse. I'm not actually flexible enough to go that far I think, but I'm wondering what possibly happens between you and your partner's... business when you start hugging each other? It can't be, right?

xJessicax likes this

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Oh wow, I didn't mean to weird you out by that! I think you might be getting a strange image of the situation because you have a dislike for partner exercises, but don't worry. The last time I did this partner stretch with a flexible person, there was indeed some friction there. Even though it sounds scary, it's really not a big deal because after all you're wearing clothes and you're focusing on the stretch rather than the touch.

 

Though I have to admit you become more aware of the friction if you lean back and pull your partner's arms. But then again, I'm already used to the exercise so that's my opinion  ;) And of course there is more to partner yoga than that. There are a lot of things to do with a partner, you should really look it up!

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Jessica, I admire that you're so comfortable getting intimate like that, but I'm afraid it's not something I'm striving for, haha!  :P I'm feeling weird about the mere idea of that level of intimacy! But having a partner to train with might be a good way to bond with people so I'll definitely check into those OTHER exercises  ;)

xJessicax likes this

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You could argue that wiggling your toes against a stranger's foot is intimate too, especially if she answers you with a toe wiggle. If I were an unaware spectator, I might even think the both of you were playing footsies  ;)

 

But I understand your concern. I noticed once that some flexible people were trying to do the stretch and I know it's not an easy pose so I decided to help them together with my partner. When they got in the position right before the hugging, all we needed to do was push them towards each other. They were flexible enough to go for the hug and they went for it. Their reaction to the initial rendezvous down there was pretty funny I have to admit, but as I expected they focused on the stretch and not the touch.

 

Fun partner exercises that aren't awkward include a partner Tree Pose, an alternating seated forward bend and back bend where you sit back-to-back with your partner, and of course the double chair where you press your backs together and try to get your legs at a 90° angle!

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I can assure you, you would notice that we were NOT playing footsies! I don't think anyone was paying attention to what happened between my neighbour and I, but it was most definitely a clash for the foot space. Again, I know that getting too descriptive will dramatize the situation but it wasn't just a matter of tickling each other. I literally went toe-to-toe with her as we both curled our feet (we probably had the same shoe size). But it was definitely nothing intimate!

 
Also, I checked into partner yoga, and I do think that the partner supported exercises (forward bend, backward pull, and so forth) are a nice addition to a regular routine, but I'm not a big fan of the symmetrical poses.
 

Before anyone reacts, I would like to say that I know I have been rather descriptive about the incident, but I think this topic is a good opportunity for everyone to share their awkward moments without being ashamed to talk about them. Things like these happen and I know how annoying they are. I encourage everyone who has had these moments to vent about them (if you feel the need, I'm not forcing you) and release the negativity!

yogafire likes this

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Haha, sorry Jessica but I didn't mean to doubt your story! The footsies thing was a joke  ;)

 

I don't know about the others, but I don't mind if you're being descriptive, it makes it much easier for us to imagine how you both felt during the incident. Something an outsider would not understand! If you had the same shoe size, I can see why it was such a tough fight. I don't quite see how you can fight with your toes though  :P

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Don't worry about it Jessica! I understood but I wanted to make things clear haha!

 

The fight was pretty random, honestly. We were both just curling and spreading our toes to push the other foot away. Sometimes when we simultaneously curled our toes, they pressed into each other or got locked together. With a bit of wiggling and pulling we unlocked our toes but we kept pressuring with the soles of our feet... In the end it was just a matter of mind games but I was very glad we could change positions after that!

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It sounds like you put a lot of effort into such a short fight! I can't imagine the horror of interlocking toes for the first time, especially with a random stranger  :P I'm also glad for you that the incident was short, but at least you have a great story to tell now  ;) Good luck with future classes and let's hope they're not as awkward!

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Well yes, as I mentioned before, describing the fight always makes it sound more dramatic... Even though I was very annoyed and I could tolerate a lot of things, interlocking toes was another unnecessary thing. It did give me more control over my neighbour's foot  because we both clenched our toes and we had a really good grip on each other's feet. We were about to change positions, so I just clenched my toes for the last time before wiggling them out.

 

That being said, I want to make sure everyone here realises that she's no villain. I talked to her yesterday after class, but even though it wasn't exactly a casual fun conversation, we settled things. She obviously remembered the incident and apologised but she said she didn't feel comfortable apologising at the moment because we didn't really know each other. We also wear the same shoe size, because I asked her  :P End of the line, we both overreacted and got overly dramatic about the touch but we talked it out!

EricaKaye likes this

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Oh! It's super good to hear that you guys made up!

 

Now that you have interlocked toes and rubbed feet together, you might become sole (soul) mates ;) At least you can become friends (or rivals with some healthy competition  :P).

jvanhouten likes this

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I would definitely, at the very least, avoid sitting next to this particular student so it doesn't keep happening. I do think there was definitely some form of mild aggression on her behalf considering your foot was there first and she was hinting (and not very subtle) for you to move your foot. I always try to avoid touching other people because it really is distracting and I think if someone has a foot/hand/limb close it should be up to the second person to move around it. Of course, accidents happen, but that sounds like she was really acting deliberately. 

jvanhouten likes this

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Jasmine, I understand your concern. But I think the problem between us was that we both had the stubborn/competitive mindset of getting the other to move and it simply escalated into a disturbing confrontation, albeit a very short one. There was aggression on both sides but in the end I think it was just something that had to happen in order for both of us to understand that we're not alone in a crowded room.

 

I justified it by being there first, but she might have moved by accident and decided to return. I don't know, but we talked it out  :)

Jasmine likes this

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I can be competitive at times too, so I do understand why you fought. At least now if she's sitting next to you again you shouldn't be afraid to talk to her. If you know that you're going to be doing splits or something similar again, you'll just have to ask her to move because judging from both your stubborn attitudes, it's going to be up to the first person to speak. Because if neither of you ask the other to move, it seems to me that you might just end up having a rematch  :P

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