A mishap caused me to leave my mat at home, and it was another class where I went in thinking that I’d struggle, not because I was tired or it was warm outside, but because I didn’t have my mat. First, I’d like to tell you a little about my mat. I met her (yes, a mat this beautiful could only be female) at the Lincoln Square Lululemon in 2009 after ruining two cheap Nike mats with sweat and excessive cleanings, and there were too many instances of sliding into a full split during “triangle” pose. My mat, a black (really dark graphite) version of Lululemon’s “The Mat,” was an ephiphany. It’s non-slip, made to absorb individual drops of sweat and at least manage major moisture. It’s also extra-wide and extra-long, and feels more like a stage than a yoga mat. After buying it, I instantly gained more confidence in all of my yoga practices and it became a direct influence in my seeking more from yoga. For two years, I didn’t attend a class without using my mat.
That was until this class. I will admit, I was incredibly nervous about practicing without my mat, as if the Bikram Series would somehow be different. My mat became a part of my routine, and I’m all about routine. Also, all of the rented mats I’d ever used smelled like a sewer. But as a testament to the sort of business Bikram Yoga Harlem is, renting a mat isn’t such a burden. First, mat rental is $2, something I’d never noticed in my over two years of attending classes there. If you’ve ever been to a Bikram studio, you’ll know that mats, towels, and water, all Bikram necessities, can get very expensive and tedious. I’m a person who doesn’t like to involve monetary stress and yoga, and this studio has never made me feel that way. Second, it may have been the first clean rented mat I’ve ever used, and it took some of the anxiety of possibly getting sick trying the third part of “full locust” pose. Third, it managed the sweat just fine. For the past eighteen classes I’d been using all sorts of creative tactics to move my sweat-drenched towels from the room. I’ve folded my mat and carried it out like a huge bowl of water to the lobby, I’ve folded up my wet towels and tried to carry them out in my shirt the way a kid would carry water balloons (this got quite a chuckle one day from the savassana crowd when a river of sweat from those wet towels made it through my shirt and splashed mercilessly on my mat), and lately I’ve been leaving my mat in the room to get a dry towel just to carry my wet towels, which has been working well. With the rented mat though, the sweat went straight through the towels, the mat, and the carpet, and it actually wasn’t such a challenge to transport everything out of the room.
Without all of the mat-drama, the class was easy, and I’m beginning to think that the teacher, Erik Cummings is looking for a certain level of intensity from regular practitioners. In each of the classes he’s taught during my streak, he’s found a way to either give me one correction, or encourage me to progress in a posture. He is the reason I’ll attempt hands in prayer during “eagle” pose. He is the reason “wind removing” pose actually feels like a posture now. In every class I find a new way to perfect my practice, and that’s what I think it should be. In Adam Roper’s classes I get a good idea of the pace of the yoga, in Caroline Icaza’s classes I learn the perfect form of postures, and in Erik Cummings classes I find things I’m doing wrong or that I’m doing to little or too much of. It’s not to say that other teachers are bad and these are good, it’s that some teachers simply teach the class and some teachers help individuals at different levels and really help regulars at the studio. That sort of teaching makes being a regular very easy.