I scanned the room and noticed the class was almost full and saw that one of the only spaces available was near the open door. I prefer my yoga on the warmer side, but thankfully the day wasn’t too cold and as I rolled out my mat I wondered how I was going to do with the breeze. Someone had placed their mat in the open doorway which made me think it wasn’t closing anytime soon.
There was the empty mat in the doorway, another person and then me. We were all settling in, beginning to “show up” for the class and everyone was quietly beginning their breathing (or remembering to breathe at all if you’re like me).
This woman came through the open door, placing first a bag down in the corner, then disappearing and then returning. She had an arm band of some sort (for circulation I think), shorts and a sports-bra-type-tank and she began setting up. My neighbor in between us looked at me and said, “This is quite the production.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to gossip but I glanced over to see what all was happening because I was so curious! She was setting up for the Olympics, I think, with all her props and items. Then she actually plugged a fan into the wall. A fan!
Now the fan wasn’t super noisy but I will say that this particular class is a quiet class. So quiet in fact that when I first started taking it halfway through my mind would start screaming for me to grab my mat and run as fast I could out of there! It was so hard for me to be in that quiet space and my mind didn’t know how to handle it. I stuck with it because at the end of class I would feel so good and I began to love the quiet. In fact, with two small boys who talk nonstop, frequently about different subjects and at the same time, that quiet is like gold to me now.
So here was this woman with a fan, disrupting that sense of quiet and almost every other class she could have taken would have had music and she probably would’ve gone unnoticed.
Now as a woman I’m always concerned about hot flashes and menopause being in my future so I hate to judge too harshly for fear I will be in that situation one day. What if she was going through the change? What if someday I too have to carry a fan????!!!!
But my yoga neighbor clearly was not on board with this fan. She told the lady, “Um… that’s really loud.” The fan owner replied “I’m sorry but I will pass out if I don’t have it.” Part of me wondered if you need a fan to get through the class, are you in the right class? The other part of me who thinks yoga is great for everyone thought, “Well, we all need to be here.”
The class was packed at this point so there was nowhere to move to. I decided to be like Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother thinking, “You’re going to add noise and expect me to enjoy the quiet?” Well, “challenge accepted.” I decided I wouldn’t let it ruin my class.
My neighbor expressed her annoyance through her overly audible breathing and by doing the full extension of every pose she could. I could feel her pushing and pushing herself and felt like she was going to wring out all her stress—No matter what!
I made it through class, enjoyed it and found myself only slightly annoyed at times from the noise disruption and the breeze from having the door open, but overall got what I needed from the class and thankfully the fan was turned off for savasana.
At the end of class, the fan owner and my yoga neighbor exchanged words. I could not hear their whole exchange but it went something like this:
Fan owner: “I’m sorry if the fan disrupted you but I………..”
Upset neighbor: “Well (short laugh) you may as well have brought your CPAP machine with you.”
Fan owner: mumble, mumble, mumble.
Upset neighbor rolling up her mat: “Just don’t let it define you.”
Fan Owner: “What?”
Yoga neighbor, louder this time: “Just don’t let it define you” (as she walked off clearly annoyed).
As the constant observer that I am, I found this situation interesting. Yes the fan was a disturbance and I do feel maybe she would do better with it in almost any other class, but I also remember back to when my mind couldn’t handle and certainly did not crave the quiet. So this person bringing the fan probably has no idea how it could affect someone else if she is a beginner.
I also respect that the yoga neighbor has a right to enjoy her class and have the quiet she expects from it and thought the instructor could have addressed it.
But what was most interesting to me, is that much of yoga is learning to breathe through the discomfort in life. It’s holding a pose until your legs start shaking and trying to maintain the quality of your breath at the same time. And while you are holding the pose, breathing, you are trying to keep your mind from saying things like, “Shouldn’t we just go do our grocery shopping instead?” “Don’t you remember you have 20 other things to do and taking this time to stretch, strengthen and relax, is that really so important?”
It’s getting what your body needs no matter what the circumstances. In fact, that class had initially been a vinyasa flow class with the loud, inspiring music and moving much more quickly from pose to pose. I had learned to accept that I was uncomfortable when it changed styles but there may be something there that I could get out of it because the time worked best with my schedule.
Seeing my neighbor give her practice her all and still walk away saying something negative to her neighbor seemed just as wrong to me as the person plugging a fan into the wall. There are ways to say that you really enjoy the quiet and you would have preferred not to have a fan blowing next to you, but she made this woman feel bad. I could see it in her face that in her mind she really needed the fan, and she looked hurt as she packed it up.
I’m thinking next week I’ll get there a little early to get a spot on the other side of the room, just in case… but this week the image of her plugging in a fan has me cracking up. I mean almost everyone is a doing hot yoga or heated yoga, and here we are talking about a fan!
But as much as it makes me laugh, the image of her at the end of class makes me feel a little sad for her too. Because no matter who you are words can hurt. And “Just don’t let it define you” seems like one of those that will stick with you.
So what do you think?
Is bringing a fan to yoga crossing the line?
How would you have responded?