Who took my spot? Why We Always Pick the Same Seat

yoga namaste

Dammit, someone took my spot! My Sunday yoga class is my holy hour and a half where I connect with myself, God, and my special yoga friends. Every Sunday I lay out my mat in the same spot, and I am at peace, ready to work my body through a series of poses and sweat my way to balance in preparation for the week to come. But someone hijacked my spot! How dare they? Since I try to practice the Yamas and Nyamas of yoga (in this case nonviolence and noncovetousness), I feel compelled to question my strong feelings about this situation. Should I try to steal it back? Why does it bother me so much? Is the universe sending me a message that I need to move my mat? Should I surrender and let it go?  Being the therapist that I am, I decided to look into the psychology behind where we choose to sit.

Humans are social animals.

Starting in childhood, we learn to pick up on social cues and group dynamics from our family. As children, we’ve learned to pick up on social cues to make sure we conform to the norms around us. The head of the table is what is called the “power seat.” That’s probably where mom or dad sat. We carry these messages influence where “sit” as we move into adulthood. We subconsciously or consciously assign meaning to our seating spots at weddings, work, and later within our families. The person at the head of the table sends another message, “I am in control; I am the leader.” When you sit in the middle, it sends another message, “I am relatable, part of the team, open to collaboration.”  Who hasn’t  been offended to be seated in “Siberia” or the “kid’s table” at an event?

The Sopranos
The power seat


Humans habitually stay in their comfort zone.

Another explanation is that we associate particular seat with a mind state, so we habitually choose the same seat in an effort to return to a particular mind state. It feels comfortable, so we resist changing it to avoid discomfort. This is like living in a sleep state, limiting the opportunity to have a different experience. So if you want freedom, if you want a happier life, then it’s a matter of getting a little distance from the state you habitually go to and practicing not going there.

“People exhibit territorial behavior when they take seats in public places, limiting themselves to small areas so they don’t have to “renegotiate” seating arrangements with other people, researchers say.”

kids in their seats at school

Humans are territorial.

In a research study carried out by Ralph B. Taylor, John Hopkins University, and Debra K. Brooks, University of Virginia Polytechnic and State University in which they looked at the cognitions and behavior of students in choosing their seats at tables and carrels in the library. The experiment used two methods:  questionnaires and having the experimenter occupy seats that subjects had temporarily vacated. The results indicated that students were more likely to become territorial about their spot depending on the perceived value of that spot.

” In a relatively short period of time people can become attached enough to an unassigned space to actively defend it.”

You can't have my spot
“This is MY spot.”

I decided to move my mat instead of getting there early to reclaim my usual place. I don’t know if it’s the new spot, but I’ve mustered the courage to work on my handstand!

Get out of your comfort zone- you never know what can happen.




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