As Yoga Grows, Race for Space Stresses Devotees

BOSTON.  It’s 11:53 a.m., and Kirsten Dunster, a paralegal, has been watching the clock at the law firm where she works for the past eight minutes.  She’s about to make a break for the back door when Todd Nurdstrom, a fourth-year associate, approaches her desk.

“Todd, are you sure this can’t wait until like . . . forever?”


“Hi Kirsten,” he says pleasantly, oblivious to the look of urgency on her face.  “Say, I was wondering if you could re-do these packages in the Carbolic Wrecking Co. v. Little Sisters of the Meek case.”

“Your Praying Mantis is in the way of my Crouching Ocelot.”


“What’s wrong with them?” she asks, furtively stuffing a leotard into her oversized handbag.

“You used those big 5/8 inch binder clips,” he says with an ingratiating smile.  “I think Jim”–the partner he reports to–“prefers the 3/8 inch ones.”

“Great,” she says, putting him off by a sort of verbal jiu jitsu, “I’ll jump on it right after lunch.”

In a flash she’s out the door and pushing the down elevator button.  “C’mon, c’mon, C’MON!” she says under her breath, then jumps in as a car opens and punches the “CLOSE DOOR” button.

Two minutes later she’s crossed three streets and made her way past the desk at the Boston Fitness Club, where she flies down the stairs trying to make twelve o’clock yoga class.  “I really need that break in my day,” she says as she heads to the yoga studio.

“Your mat is touching my mat.”


But as Kirsten rounds the corner and looks through the glass walls she sees that every spot on the floor is taken.  “I can’t believe it,” she says, her face revealing her disappointment.  “When I get hold of that little dweeb Nurdstrom,” she says, “I’m going to commit mayhem”–legally, the removal of another person’s bodily member–“with a 5/8 inch binder clip.”

“Todd–look out!”


Kirsten’s problem is becoming more common as a sharp increase in demand for yoga classes has sparked conflicts between practitioners of the discipline, often erupting into low-impact violence as men and women vying for space hit each other with rolled-up rubber floor mats.

Yoga floor mat:  Lethal weapon


“I love the sense of calm that yoga gives me,” says Melville Jamison, an urban planner who rides his bike to work every day.  “And I’m willing to fight to the death for it.”

“I was here first!”


Instructors say that while they welcome the new popularity of yoga, they are not trained to handle altercations between angry students scrambling for available floor mats and would rather leave that sometimes dangerous task to trained security personnel.

“The 10:15 Kundalini class is closed!”


“I can’t provide students with the sense of inner peace they are seeking anymore,” says Georg Wilkins, a hatha yoga instructor who sports a black eye he received when he intervened between two students trying to make a popular Saturday morning class.  “I’m a yoga instructor, not a boxing referee.”

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