If you have ever stepped into a yoga studio you probably noticed a variety of props in a corner. You might even have used some of them in the class. Things like blankets, bolsters, blocks, belts and folding chairs. And most likely you were asked to put away these props by the end of the class. Which is what happens at the end of all my classes as well. There is not a single class that takes place without us using some of those props. They help support my students bodies in various ways.
When my students start putting away the props, once in a while someone will comment on the neatness with how the blankets are stacked in the shelf. Usually there is some frustration over figuring out how to replicate it, and sometimes there is a hint of the question: why on earth would someone need, or even want to, put away the blankets so neatly? When this happens, this is what I share with them.
About 24 years ago my first teacher in NYC pointed out that we are not just cleaning up after ourselves at the end of class, but more so, we are preparing the props for the next person to use them. I still remember hearing him say this, and how it completely changed my way of looking at the task. It doesn’t matter if it’s after participating in a class myself or if I am tidying up after teaching. I am not doing it for me, but for someone else. I take the time to roll up the belt, stack the blocks, and yes, fold that blanket. It’s an act based in compassion and care for my fellow yoga practitioner.
Now, when it comes to the blanket, this further means that however I fold it, is how that next person most likely will be using it. They might sit on it for seated poses, pranayama or meditation, place it under their shoulders for plow or shoulder stand, or under their torso lying down for breathing exercises. No matter how they use it, they will be placing parts of their body on top of it. And this is why it makes a difference how we fold it. Any wrinkle or unevenness in the blanket will create an uneven surface. And that unevenness will reverberate through every part of their skeleton. Remember the story about the princess and the pea? Then you get my point. You probably already know that Yoga is a practice towards gaining balance. Both in the physical body, emotionally and mentally, as well as in how we life our lives. So we obviously do not want to ad imbalance to our practice if we can help it. So, I take my time to see the blanket, fold it as evenly as I can, before I put it away for the next user.
On top of this there is yet another reason to why I choose to go about it this way. Putting away or rearranging the props is literally the first thing we do after we have finished our formal practice on the mat. This is when I have the choice and opportunity, to bring the practice into the rest of my day. So if I choose to throw them into the shelf, completely mindlessly, well, then I literally throw the baby out with the bath water. Why spend 90 minutes focusing on the experience of the present moment, just to switch back into a state of unawareness as soon as class is over? After all, the purpose of the formal practice on the mat or on the cushion, is to be able to bring in the same qualities into our everyday life. To be present and have as an immediate experience of life as possible. The moment we get up from our mats is literally pivotal. This is when we choose if we want to bring the same state of awake awareness to any task we take upon us that day, or not. Let’s remember, no matter what the task is, it is all practice, if we choose to make it.
So if you ever wondered why some of us take the time with those blankets, now you know.