Adventures in Mysore India,  Ashtanga Adaptability,  Conference Notes,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Fidgeting on the Mat: Ill Fitting Yoga Clothes or Road to Enlightenment?

 ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.’” Albert Einstein…maybe


These days, everyone wants to be their own Guru. Being your own Guru can be much harder than finding a human one.  With a human one, you just do what they say. Done.  When you are your own Guru, to get to the essence of who you are, you have to weed through years of suffering, pain,memories, and knowledge.

I guess it is possible to have instant enlightenment. I would take a guess though, that if it does happen, it is super rare.  Even popular spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Adyashanti speak of  years of suffering leading up to their awakening experiences.  In Mysore, Sharath talked about spontaneous awakening in conference and he was definitely not on team instant enlightenment.

To be your own Guru, life has to be your teacher.  Even little things, like fidgeting with your clothes during Yoga, can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves.

What Your Clothes Fidgeting Can Reveal

Discomfort with Your Body 

When my shirt or my shorts ride up, I pull them down. Today in Guided, Johnna, the teacher said, and I paraphrase and possibly misquote,”unless your boobies are showing, and none of your boobies are showing, there is no need to touch your clothes”.  No, my boobies were not showing and my crotch was not showing. I pull on my clothes because, places that I am self conscious about, are showing.  This shows my level of attachment to how people feel about my body and the appearance of my impermanent meat suit.

The Guru within was telling me to let go of the need to please others. To let go of societies idea of perfection. The Guru was telling me to let go of the silent judge in my head because I bet you that 0% of the people in that class were even thinking about my belly.

Life Style Choices

You may be fidgeting with your clothes because, when they ride up or shift, it shows what you may feel to be fat. Carrying more weight then is needed can be unhealthy for our bodies. Our inner Guru may be trying to teach us about Ahimsa, non harming, or Aparigraha, non hoarding.  Our Guru could also be trying to teach us about two of the 6 poisons, desire and greed.


 A vital aspect of internal purification that Pattabhi Jois teaches relates to the six poisons that surround the spiritual heart. In the yoga shastra it is said that God dwells in our heart in the form of light, but this light is covered by six poisons: kama, krodha, moha, lobha, matsarya, and mada. These are desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy and sloth. When yoga practice is sustained with great diligence and dedication over a long period of time, the heat generated from it burns away these poisons, and the light of our inner nature shines forth. KPJAYI.Org

Self Love

After Johnna’s boobie comment, I immediately knew that I needed to embrace my body. That I needed to let it be what it was and find joy in all the things my body does for me. That all my lumps and bumps are a celebration of womanhood and their is nothing to be ashamed of.  I get so inspired when I see a beautiful, confident, curvy woman in class who is not trying to hide her body with over sized clothing and layers. It is glorious. This is my inner Guru teaching me about self love and how to shine.


Fidgeting with our clothes is a great stalling technique.  I love to retie my OmStars shorts right before Kapotasana. How about you? The inner Guru is showing us that we have samskaras or blocked thoughts, emotions  and energy around the asana. The Guru is showing that we are making an event around it. Creating a story. What emotions are we trying to repress when we stop to fix our sports bra before Marichyasana? Our inner Guru is inviting us to take a closer look.

Its Getting Hard

It is getting hard and we don’t know what to do with that uncomfortable feeling. We are at our edge and it sucks. Fidgeting with the clothes gives us a break from that uncomfortable feeling.  I particularly get this at backbends.  Its the end of the practice. I am worn out mentally and physically but backbends are coming and I am feeling some type of way about it.  Some days, especially when my life is topsy turvy, they make me anxious. Taking a few moments to fix my hair and pull down my pants is a great distraction. My inner Guru though is trying to teach me to be present with what I feel because the anxiety has nothing to do with my backbends. They have everything to do with how I am handling my life off the mat.

A Change is Coming

The practice is doing its job. Stuck energy is moving.  Something is building within us and we are scared. To dissipate the transformative energy of the practice, we fidget with our clothes.  Our inner Guru is telling us to take a look at our fear of change.

Fear of  Intensity 

Navasana is a great time for fidgeting with our clothes. It is super intense. Even more so if you have a teacher who counts incredibly slow.  Even though it feels like we are going to die, I have never seen anyone actually die from Navasana, Utplutihi, or Sun Salutes.  My core dies though.  Every time.  Especially if Sharath is counting.  He says “five” like this, “FFFFFF, oh, what are you doing, FFFFFF, uh, legs up, you back there, legs up, FFFFFFFFFFIIIIIIVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEE”.  The inner Guru wants to show us how we deal with tapas or intensity in our life.   Intensity is often a sign that we are about to break through. Our inner Guru is trying to show us that the fear of the feeling of intensity may be stopping our development.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail


  • Satinder

    Men are just as guilty of this, tucking in shirts before headstand, fixing shorts and whats in the shorts all the time, etc… I practice at home naked every morning by myself, so I have none of this. In Mysore I wear my little shorts and never bothered with them once, until this year when Sharath called us out for our short shorts, then when they would ride up and I noticed, I’d slide them back down. By no means am I perfect, so I’m not saying that. I studied with Nancy Gilgoff who is big on calling people out on their fidgeting,”you, what ARE you doing?” “well, I’m stretching my hip so I can get my leg behind my head…” (this had been for about ten minutes btw. “How about you just put your leg behind your head, that in itself is the stretch?!?” Love her, and it was more colorful than this… Thank you my dear!

  • Tina

    This article came at the right time! Just yesterday, right before backbends, I realized I have added in a new pose: “stall”asana. Checking to see if my heels are still there, looking at my toes, messing with my hair. I add these in everyday. Need to drop the drama and get to it!! Thank you for some great insight!

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