Where You Place Your Yoga Mat May Say More Than You Think

colorful yoga mats

September 13, 2010

I recently wrote a blog about yoga mat fêng shui and the fact that where you place your yoga mat can have a big impact on your yoga class experience. It got me thinking that maybe where you place your mat in class says something about your yoga personality. So, after extensive scientific research*, here’s what I came up with.

Front row: There are two types of people who willingly pick the front row in class. The first group comes from the experienced yogini camp. They are givers, ready to share their well-honed yoga technique with the class. They possess no fear, are totally comfortable in their own skin and their great-fitting black stretchy pants. The second group is made up of teacher’s pets and needy people jockeying for the yoga instructor’s attention and sucking up all the chi the instructor is sending off.

Midcenter: These yoginis are fully present, centered, and ready for the yoga instructor to bring it on. The center of the classroom really is the sweet spot as far as I’m concerned, and if you are lucky to get a spot in center stage, you are going to rock that class. These people are organized, disciplined, never late, and the kind who are willing to show up four hours early to get in line to nab the best seats for a show.

Against the wall: These folks just need a little extra support to help them through class. They are sensitive, conservative, and actually very wise to put themselves in a place where they’ll get the support they need.

Back row: Again, there are generally two types of people who pick the back row. The back row is a refuge for the beginner yoga students. There’s no pressure that anyone is looking at you, and they’ve got plenty of other people to look to for guidance during class. I think there should be a rule that the back row is always reserved for beginners. If you are an experienced yogini and pick the back row, you enjoy people watching, are a tad shy on the leadership skills, are too cool for school, and may be having a bad black-stretchy-pant day. If you’re an experienced yogini taking up prime real estate in the back row, please think twice before settling down your mat, and give us beginners our safe haven.

Near exit: These yoga students have either not fully committed to their yoga practice or just can’t let it all go and leave their troubles off the yoga mat. The door serves as a reminder that they can make a quick exit back to reality.

The desert island: Finally, we have the situation where a class is not full and one student decides that placing his or her mat in Siberia is a good thing. These people are afraid of cooties, sweat, and, in general, are germaphobics. A few heart-opening poses and a little love is all they need to bring them back into the fold.

So, where do I put my yoga mat? Well, I forgot to mention that there are a few other people up there in the front row. They are the ones who did not choose to be there, but have placed their mats there as a last resort because they got to class late. I am a charter member of this group. We have great intentions but just can’t our act together to make it to class on time.

I have to admit that I’m still fond of that back row, but I’m building up my mojo, and you’ll be seeing me in that rock-star center row position very soon.

*I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that absolutely no scientific research went into this—it’s just my own funky freudian observations. Let me know where you put your yoga mat and what you think it says about your yoga personality.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin OBryan September 13, 2010 at 7:36 AM

:) Funny and true, for us the room is so small we are basically dog eat dog for positions. I have a standing reservation against the wall for my balance issues. I think we’re all within inches of our teacher so we all leave with extra chi.

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Victoria Klein September 13, 2010 at 8:50 AM

I’m a mid-center type of yogi, though I don’t particularly enjoy being surrounded by other people.

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Blissful Girl September 13, 2010 at 4:33 PM

Unfortunately lately I’ve only been in the front because I’ve been teaching way more than attending as a student. But, when I was a beginner, I always wanted the front row so I could see everything my amazing teacher was doing. As I got more experienced, I dropped back to the rear. I didn’t want to block a new yogi’s view. But I’ll take any open spot now!

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Jen @ Brilliant Well-being September 14, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Interesting! I’m a mix of all. I will sit in the front. I’m always against a wall. I’ve been in the back. It all depends on what time I arrive, who’s in the class & how comfortable I am with the teacher…

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Y is for Yogini September 15, 2010 at 1:53 PM

Ooooh, guilty as charged. I’m an advanced back-row student. We’re the non-show offs! LoL. I like to be in the back because it makes me feel quieter, more calm, and I can get deep and focused. :) I’m a Type A and a Vata/Pitta mind, so I need all the help I can get!

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April September 17, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Your yoga mat observations are pretty spot on for the most part I think. When I was in teacher training we were even taught where to look for “fires” based on where people put their mats. It’s totally true. Except when I was a beginner I loved dead center in class – I could see what was going on, but I wasn’t right up front.

Nowadays I’m a total center of the front row geek ♥
I like to give the people behind me a good view of what to do (because when people get lost they just look around for someone that doesn’t look confused) and I do thrive on a little external validation from teachers. Even though – I rarely get it. When you get advanced enough they just kinda leave you alone – then you’re left feeling a little ignored if you CRAVE attention like I do.

Lastly (sorry for the long comment) -
I find that as a front row-er – when I’m in downdog I look back at the entire room and mentally assess who needs an adjustment, who’s new, who got dragged here by the person next to them… That may be the teacher in me coming out.

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Maria Santoferraro September 17, 2010 at 2:42 PM

April – We love a good long comment at the DDD – you rock!

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lissabliss September 21, 2010 at 8:05 PM

great post! really interesting. my favorite spot is the middle row next to the wall. since i’ve started doing karma yoga at a studio and have to be in the back row because i have to leave class early to monitor the front desk, i’ve really found a nice comfort in the freedom of being in the back. i don’t find myself people watching but just enjoying not having any attention my way.

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Becky October 14, 2010 at 1:26 AM

I’m a middle row/right of center mat dweller. The funny thing is, this reminded me how after many different classes and different studios, I realized one day that I ALWAYS go to the same spot in a room, no matter where I’m practicing, because it felt ‘safe’. So I make a conscious effort now to change up my position in a room, so I don’t get in a rut. It kinda feels like part of my yoga, to make myself change habits that are not necessarily good ones.

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Beth @ To the Fullest January 6, 2011 at 9:18 AM

I usually put my mat toward the front because I take my glasses off to practice and am SO blind. I need to be close so I can squint at the teacher for clarification when I’m confused! :)

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akn January 14, 2011 at 8:21 PM

so funny! i’m definitely a mid-center girl, though that description is quite flattering for a beginner (6ish months?) like me. my studio has a pole right in the middle of the room, so maybe i have a bit of that wallflower mixed in! ;)

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Jenn February 28, 2011 at 11:06 PM

I know I’m weighing in late on this blog entry, but I have to comment! I enjoyed and laughed at your descriptions and I’m sure there’s some truth to it. I feel pretty committed to my yoga practice and have been practicing off and on for years and pretty much daily for about 8 months … and I place my yoga mat in the back near the door. It’s completely psychological, but not for the reasons you might guess. I’m not trying to make a quick getting away, I’m trying to breathe and being near the door gives me the illusion that there’s more air. I think the yoga studio is too warm (it is set for 75). There’s something about yoga that makes me heat up from the inside and I am sensitive to heat. I think I must be building a tolerance up to it, though, because last week I didn’t get to be in my usual spot and I managed just fine. Maybe one of these days I’ll graduate to a new spot.

I still wouldn’t mind a slightly lower temperature.

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John D. April 3, 2011 at 6:17 PM

What a fun post. You obviously put a lot of thought into it. I think yoga mat placement is similar to choosing spots in any group setting. Personally, I’m a wall yogi. I like having the wall to one side of me. Just like I like aisle seats in movie theatres, airplanes, busses, etc.

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Kara Kubarych May 29, 2011 at 12:44 AM

New to the yoga blogging community, I’m loving learning about all the awesome yoga blogs out there and LOVE yours. Your posts, this one is a perfect example!, are perceptive, witty and creative. Look forward to reading more posts like it!

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Tina January 18, 2012 at 4:03 AM

I think there is much Truth in this yoga mat placement…..i try to be in a different spot each class…but! this can be tricky too ….esp when the place you choose has a invisible name plate ooops!

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Amanda Barstow May 17, 2012 at 11:43 PM

Enjoyed your thoughts on mat position and there is – as many others have said – a lot that is both true and funny in there! I used to love front row as a beginner – to get to see what was happening – then graduated to the middle as I felt I could go inward more easily and now often go at the back especially if it is a class I know well so that any newbies present can both see the teacher and also don’t get put off by trying to emulate more challenging versions of poses which I am often not ‘demonstrating’ in a way I would want anyone to follow! I think beginners should be encouraged to be first row so the teacher can see them and vice versa.

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Monica September 11, 2012 at 2:36 PM

Hi… I always try to put my mat in the front row… I am a begginer since one year ago, but put my mat in the front row, just to see better!!!

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Lauren January 8, 2013 at 5:50 AM

This is so true! I prefer the middle row, on the end, or the back corner. However, my teacher (I do Bikram) has recently told me I’m only allowed to be in the front row, preferably next to her podium so she can easily see me. It’s great to get 1 on 1 feedback as often as possible for the best practice (I’m really flexible so some of the postures seem a little too easy, so she likes to modify a bit to challenge me), but it makes me so nervous always being in the front!

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Maria @dailydownwarddog January 8, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Lauren – hope you get over that nervousness and just let go, breathe, and enjoy! Have you read my post about my experience at Bikram yoga? Here’s the link: http://dailydownwarddog.com/confessions-of-a-bikram-virgin/ and Part 2 http://dailydownwarddog.com/confessions-of-a-bikram-virgin-part-2/

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G Law January 22, 2013 at 11:16 PM

Though I’ve practiced for a while, I still like to be in the back and if there is a mirror, preferably near there so that I can see if I’m in alignment.

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Gethsemane February 20, 2013 at 6:47 PM

Well, I’m a front row one, in as much as it means anything in a class of 6 people max. ;) And in a large room at that, I’ve never had to worry about blocking someone’s view since we have so much room (oh and the teacher is the one laying out the mats too).

How many people are there in your classes?

Truth is, as a beginner (I’ve only been practising since september) and being short sighted, it is way easier for me to see what the teacher is doing while I’m being in the front (I started the first couple classes in the back and couldn’t follow, it has been much easier for me since I’m in the front).

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