Life on the Mat as a Busy Student in a Busy City
Written By Madison Jaeger
For me, yoga has always been a search for myself, but when I moved to Columbus for school it became a search for yoga. Where do you go in a city that practically has a studio on every street corner? It’s like being a kid in a candy store, except the candy is expensive and may judge you for your chipped toenail polish. The easiest place to start for me was at my student rec center, because it is free, and frankly, free is all I could realistically afford. The classes were usually okay, but I would lay on my back in shavasana longing for the feel of my home studio and wishing I couldn’t hear the clank of metal bars from the weight room just outside. I missed the scent of palo santo and the spiritual energy floating through the room, but mostly I missed the feeling of belonging. In a room full of seventy people it is hard not to feel like just another body in a crowd, especially when I was so used to intimate class sizes where the instructor knew almost everyone. Yoga in the rec center didn’t give me the feeling I wanted, it didn’t fill that need to be part of something bigger, so I decided it was time to start trying out studios.
The process was very similar to that of Goldilocks’. Too hot. Too cold. Too far. Too cool. I dove headfirst into the Columbus yoga scene by choosing one of the most famous studios near campus. The only reason I could afford to do a drop-in was because they offered the first class for free. The moment I was through the door I could feel the intimidation whack me in the face. There was an obvious cool vibe that emanated from every other student, and not to dog on anyone for being cool, but I am extremely not cool. I was already feeling out of place when I began to roll my mat out- but I kept repeating to myself that I had to give it a chance. I closed my eyes and focused on the whoosh of my breath entering and exiting my lungs. It’s fine. No one is here to judge you. Everyone is here on their own journey. I was telling myself that in my mind, but the message was sticking like an old post-it note that you found crammed into your desk drawer. I just felt odd. I felt like if you took a picture of the room I would stick out like a sore thumb, as if we were playing “Where’s Waldo?” but with weridos who can’t sit still. The class started as any other yoga class does, and the instructor led us through the movements just as any other instructor would, but I couldn’t get over this feeling of being out of place. The studio was absolutely gorgeous, and the people were beyond talented- but I was the wrong puzzle piece. So, it was on to the next studio.
The next studio didn’t end up happening for a few months because of my crazy class schedule and the crippling anxiety I felt about even going to a new space. After feeling so uncomfortable in the last new studio, I had very little motivation to try again. I had forgotten that part of the practice of yoga is being uncomfortable, so I fell into the familiarity of my every day routine. I would periodically venture out to new studios with my friends, but only if I had the safety blanket of someone else being with me. In a way, it was to protect myself from the judgement of others. I couldn’t be the odd one out if I had someone there with me. However, it was keeping me from actually experiencing the studios and their communities. After a few months, I realized that it was finally time to dive back into strange waters and go to a studio by myself. I made the conscious decision to choose a smaller studio that was closer to campus, hoping for a more student friendly vibe. I was relieved when I found that my assumption was right. The studio was way less busy, had a younger cliental, and a much more relaxed energy. The layout of the lobby was much simpler and more rustic, with touches of interesting antics placed carefully to add interest to the room. I was probably one of six people in the studio, so the instructor made it a point to come up to each of us and ask our names as we chose our spots on the hardwood floor. She had a warmness to her that made me feel at ease as I relaxed back onto my mat and thanked the universe that this was not another “cool” mishap. Class flowed by at a much quicker pace than I expected, partially because of how jovial the energy in the room felt. None of the other patrons seemed to fear falling out of a pose or letting out a tiger’s breath when they needed it. As we flowed together I could feel the energy in the room coalescing and intertwining all of our movements. As we landed into shavasana, I could faintly smell palo santo wafting around the room and I smiled. I had found the puzzle that I belonged to in Columbus.
The discomfort I felt in this search led me to a very important point: no space is wrong, but sometimes you are wrong for a space. There is no shame in not feeling like you belong somewhere, because it is probably your own energy speaking to you and telling you that you need to seek something different. That also doesn’t mean a studio is inherently bad, it just isn’t for you. I have returned to that first studio since my discovery of my new home, and I am now able to appreciate it’s different vibes, but I recognize that it is not what I need. There is no shame in claiming yourself wherever you may need it, and it isn’t insulting to need something different.