Twenty-two blogs about one thing (minus the twenty) (and then minus one more)

Posted on: October 31, 2011

If anyone were to ask me what is my least favorite thing about yoga, my answer would have to be getting kicked in the face by strangers.Yoga is not a contact sport, so this doesn’t happen in every class; in fact, if I were to tally all the times it’s happened since I began practicing yoga 8 years ago, I would come up with the grand total of 5, including the time some lady hit me in the heel with her head*. 5 times spread across 8 years might seem paltry, until you consider that outside of yoga, in those same 8 years, I have been kicked in the face 0 times.

What is most irritating about this is not the actual point of contact between another’s foot and your face; as I said, this is not a contact sport. No one is trying to kick you in the face, and there is seldom any real force propelling their foot your face-ward. What is most irritating is that you can always see it coming.**

Clue number one is that the class is very crowded. This should be fairly obvious; if there is plenty of space in the studio, people are unlikely to set up their mat within kicking-distance in any direction of another class member.

Clue number two, and this is really the vital ingredient in the face-kicking stew, is that the person in front of you does nothing to acknowledge that there are any other people in the room. Which is, in some ways, the point of yoga; you are there to concentrate on your own practice, not to worry about what anyone else is doing.

However, it is possible to recognize that there are other people in the room even if you’re not concerned about what they’re doing. The face-kickers, unfortunately, don’t understand this. Which is what makes them so irritating. Because, yes, if the room is empty, take up all the space that you want. If you want to flail your legs high up into the air before doing a push-up, have at it. And if there’s a reason that you need to do half-moon pose:













at the very back of your mat, instead of at the front like every one else, certainly pose to the beat of your own drummer. But when there is someone directly behind you, with less than a foot – or sometimes 6 inches – between the back of your mat and the front of theirs, then, maybe, you should recognize that the space you have to occupy is limited only to your own mat.

Sadly, this goes unrecognized by the face-kickers (it is extremely obvious to the face-kickees). And so, as you attempt to practice behind them, you’re ability to concentrate on your own practice is compromised by your attempts to dodge those flailing feet in front of you which, like the Japanese Cedar Longhorned Beetle or that creepy walking fish, has left its native territory and invaded yours. So your own half-moon pose, not terribly steady to begin with, becomes even less so as you must constantly move your head from side to side, or up and down, whichever way will keep it out of the path of the wobbly foot that has encroached upon your air space.

And this, this inability to settle into your pose, is infuriating. Because, really, what the hell is their problem? Do they not know where the front of their mat is? Are they completely unaware that you’re behind them? Are they so self-absorbed that they think they’re all alone in the class? Is there anything at all that you can do to make your presence known? Do they not hear as you keep falling over? Can they not see the correlation between them swinging their foot to the left and you hitting the floor? Because it happens every single time they swing their foot. Are they idiots? Should you swat their foot out of the way? Should you bite them?

And then, gloriously, blessedly, the entire irritation train comes to a halt in that brief moment when their foot finally hits your face. Because, even though you avoided it like it was the plague covered in cooties and rolled in chocolatey sprinkles, it doesn’t actually hurt. At all. It’s like a co-worker tapping you on the shoulder, except that it’s a toe, on your face. And that toe jerks back suddenly as though your own face were a fiery cootie-covered plague. Because now, oh now; the person in front of you knows; they know, finally and definitively, they know that you’re back there. Even better, they can’t believe that they were so careless as to kick you in the face. So the rest of the practice is smooth sailing, at least for you, as they are now the ones contorting themselves (beyond the requirements of the pose) in an effort to remain out of your way.

So, I guess I’d have to change my answer; getting kicked in the face is not actually my least favorite part of yoga. It’s the build-up to being kicked that I don’t like.


*I know that sounds like I kicked her, but I was lying down at the time of impact; what she was doing and why it included overshooting the top of her mat so far that her face hit my feet, I couldn’t tell you.

**Obviously, I did not see it coming when the lady hit me with her head; in that instance, it was the contact that was most irritating.


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