On a recent evening, a teacher greeted a student, “in the front row now. Progress. Good for you.” The woman beamed.
The front row is for people able to do most of most of the poses, teachers explain, to demonstrate for people still trying to put them together. One studio even had a sign posted for a while, to the effect that: “The front row is reserved for the more disciplined and focussed students. Please observe etiquette.”
My first few years practicing, I never chose to put my mat in front. I even used to get to class early so I would not find spots only up in front. And if circumstances forced me there, I spent class looking at the floor or with my eyes closed.
Teachers will initiate a game of musical mats if a newcomers should happen to end up in front. One crowded day, the teacher asked for volunteers to vacate back-ros spots for newcomers. She asked and she cajoled–but no volunteers.
Then she looked right at me and asked me to be kind enough to move. She reframed promoting me as my helping her, but I could tell she was pleased to do it, to give me the compliment and tell me where I was supposed to be given my practice.
So these days, unless I am injured or very weak, that’s where I am. Close to the mirror, I concentrate better, with literally nothing between me and my yoga. It is easy to concentrate on my own eyes and tune out the room, but at the same time, I can choose to see the people behind me. My practice is far from perfect but it is slow and precise, and I feel good when I see a newcomer watching me and copying my every move. I feel like a giver, a helper, a teacher. It makes me feel a bit stronger for life.
One teacher exhorts us, “Come on, front row, show us how it’s done.” It’s an honor to be asked.