Without getting too serious about ourselves, I wanted to discuss some common, perhaps amusing, bits of etiquette to watch out for in yoga classes. Hopefully, you’ll know when I’m intending to humor rather than dictate.
1. Make a controlled effort to get there on time. When I say “controlled,” it’s because I don’t want people stressing themselves out just to get to class. I can get past people walking in while I’m taking people into opening meditation, but I know that it can be distracting for the other students. Late or not, we all have the same intention – let’s relax.
2. Cut down on the mat slapping. I’m actually one of the guiltiest on this one. I try to carefully unravel my mat onto the wood floor, but sometimes I can’t control the “kaabam!”.
3. Tell your instructor if you’re going to leave early. I know this one can’t be helped sometimes. Cheekily, I’ll admit that this one is especially difficult to achieve if you were late getting there, too.
4. Breathe instead of grunt. Whenever I hear people grunting a flag goes up in my mind that tells me that they’re probably not breathing on a regular basis if they’re red-faced and groaning.
5. Turn off your cell phone. This one is almost too taboo to mention. Everyone knows they should, but we just forget sometimes. Let’s revise this one. If your cell phone does ring during class, then see this as the opportunity to stop it from doing so.
6. Modify poses if you need to. There’s no reason to stay in a full Plank (looks like a push-up starting position) if you’re shoulders are sagging and your belly is one inch off the floor. Our knees are there for a reason. Remember that we’re not competing in yoga!
7. Ask questions if you’re really unsure. I was happy to have a lady ask what she was supposed to be doing with her leg in a pose the other day. Half the class was probably wondering the same thing. I try to cover all the cues for poses, but good questions pop up anyway. If there are a lot of other students in the session, then you may be inclined to wait until after class, but other than that, an instructor should be willing to assist whenever they can.
8. Take off your socks. A surprising number of people refuse to do this one. Certainly, I can’t force them. I just know how weird it feels to practice yoga with my socks or shoes on. (This rarely ever occurs.) When I see a lot of sock people in class I always say, “We don’t care about smelly feet in yoga class.” I haven’t had this challenged yet. Keep your toes crossed.
9. Be patient. Asking people to sit quietly and listen to their breathing for a few minutes is a tall order. Their eyes stay open. They wiggle. Why is it so easy to sit still in front of the TV, but so hard when we only have the mind in front us?
10. Smile some. If you’ve ever held a Warrior pose for more than a couple of minutes, you’ll wonder how smiling can be part of the scenario. Smiling alleviates the tension and makes us let go of using unnecessary muscles. Give it a try.
We’re all students in a yoga class. Although, a little bit of mindful quiet is nice before practice starts and it’s wonderful to start and finish a class with the same amount of people, we wouldn’t be at the class at all if we were already perfect. Have fun. I try to avoid creating a culture of elitism in my classes by making a couple of light jokes here and there and asking my students to smile. Guidelines are great, but that’s all that they are – guidelines.