Yoga Mats Falling Out of Favor

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Nothing brings out the territorial animal in us faster than attaching ourselves to a place in the yoga room that we then refer to as “my spot.” I’ve heard people refer to this spot with the same tone they use for their apartment or home, as if they’ve signed a lease or mortgage and are considering renovations. They camp out early, to ensure they don’t have to endure the class from some slightly different vantage point—even a matter of a few feet can be the difference between a “good” or “bad” class.

I’ve actually watched people leave a class because they didn’t get their spot.

The prime real estate is usually in the back row and/or next to a wall. These coveted spaces give a false sense of privacy and even exclusivity—my wall, as if it were a gated community that separates it from the ghetto that is the middle of the room. And those who live in this gated community tend to have a bit of a neighborhood watch.

“Hey, is so-and-so coming today? That’s their spot,” they tell some unknowing sucker, new to the system. Towels and bags are thrown down to mark territory, and keep it from non-entitled vultures.

Oh, it doesn’t stop there. It’s not enough that you have your corner of the sky secured—now it’s time to clean up the block.

I hear them complain about the people near their sacred spot. The offending students are accused of sweating, stinking, sighing too much. Aspects of their practice are discussed as if they were personal affronts designed simply to irritate, and bring down the neighborhood. The back row/wall militia rumbles with righteousness as they carefully arrange their Yogitoes Skidless and eco friendly water containers like fences…so much for non-attachment.

So when I saw this article in the New York Times Their Lotus Cant’ Take Root on a Yoga Mat it wasn’t just how hard those wood floors can be, it was how hard other things are that spoke to me. Giving up our stuff, our comforts and our space is harder than those floors could ever be for most of us. Our need for a certain kind of order feeds our need to acquire more to maintain that order and in return that order gives us a false sense of security. What if we not only didn’t have our “spot”, we didn’t even have our mat to tell us where we end and the person next to us begins. What if we stopped using material boundaries to determine where and who we are—would that inspire harmony or chaos? The utopian idea of us all sharing and getting along is a sweet one, but would it really play out that way? Have we become too rigid and accessorized or are these tools that help us coexist?

I would guess there is a middle ground. We don’t all have to go out and burn (pardon me, recycle) our yoga mats—but we can all learn to loosen our grip on what is “mine” and “required” and see what happens when the lines blur into “ours”.

written by Andrea Marcum

Andrea Marcum is the founder of U Studio Yoga in Los Angeles, California. You can read more about her teachings and her studio by visiting their website at

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