As a student of yoga, either new or returning, it can be a bit daunting and embarrassing the first time you mistakenly breach etiquette in your favorite yoga class. There is rarely a formal introduction for new students, and sometimes we think we've got it right only to realize much later we've missed the mark a little.
My intention with this post is to share some tips on ways to respect the teacher and other students when attending a yoga class. I see it as a way to continue our mindfulness practice before, during, and after class.
I hope you'll take the time to watch the amazing yoga etiquette videos I included at the end of this post. These were created by some friends and colleagues of mine at Tejas Yoga in Chicago. They are guaranteed to make you laugh, as I'm sure we've all seen most, if not all, of these scenarios first hand.
When late, please wait until after the AUM before entering the room.
If you are late to class and the door is closed, please wait outside until after the meditation and opening AUM. If you accidentally walk in, please sit quietly by the door and wait to put your mat down and grab your props. Once the meditation is finished and the opening movements have begun, you may walk across the room and get settled.
This keeps a silent and calm environment for the opening meditation, and allows you the opportunity to sit down and take a deep breath.
Please arrive on time.
I understand that sometimes we get stuck unexpectedly and wind up arriving to class late. When it happens consistently, you end up missing out on the important moments at the beginning of class that allow us to transition smoothly from work/life into the practice. In addition, it is disrespectful to the other students and teacher when it becomes a consistent pattern.
If you have to leave early, please let the teacher know. (And please take savasana before you leave)
As a teacher, its a little confusing/disconcerting when students leave a class early without warning. All sorts of what-ifs run through the teachers mind. When you let us know in advance, it helps us know that you are safe and that there is a reason for your early departure.
In addition, I ask that you please take a few minutes in savasana (corpse pose) before you leave. BUT, please don't leave when others are in savasana.
Please shut down your cell phone (even vibrate is disturbing).
Allow yourself to unplug from work, life, to-do lists, and reminders, and truly connect to your practice and to your self.
If you happen to be a midwife, doctor, or professional on call, please let the teacher know before class. Keep your phone on vibrate and step outside before answering.
Place personal items neatly in the studio.
Please place all shoes and personal belongings neatly on the shelves and spaces provided. Be respectful of shared space and avoid shoes tumbling into the lobby and large bags taking up room in the studio.
Leave shoes outside the practice space.
This represents leaving the world and its tasks, responsibilities, etc. outside as we practice an ever more inward journey of yoga and meditation.
Please wear appropriate attire.
There are more options for yoga attire than ever before. Please be sure you are comfortable, and that your clothing can withstand the twists, folds, bends and inversions likely in a yoga practice.
Also, be aware that stretchy fabric wears thin over time, and your favorite yoga pants may be revealing (a lot) more that you ever intended. Every so often, do the "butt check" to make sure your pants haven't become too sheer in the rear. Not all stretch pants are created equal, and even some new pants fail this test in the store.
Align the body, align the mind, align the props.
Please return all props neatly in the appropriate places. This shows respect for the tools of practice and all that share them with us.
Please do not walk on someone else’s mat.
Even in a crowded room, please step around other students mats.
Please practice mindful hygiene.
Smells of all kinds are magnified in a small or crowded room, especially when we start moving and the heat increases. Please practice mindful hygiene - this means avoiding strong odors such as body odor, perfume, and essential oils. Many people are sensitive to the many chemical perfumes in lotions and perfumes. In addition, some people may have allergies to natural fragrances (such as essential oils).
When signing in for class, please print CLEARLY.
I think this one speaks for itself, and is so helpful!
Tell the teacher about injuries (and pregnancy) before class.
If you have particular needs, please tell the teacher before class. This allows them to serve you, and gives them an understanding of why you may do some things a little differently at certain times in practice. Which leads me to the next one...
Honor your body and other students.
As you become more intimate and knowledgeable of your body, you may find certain times in a group class that you need to do things a little differently due to injury or illness (which you have ideally already spoken to the teacher about). In these situations, please take care of your body by modifying the practice to accommodate your needs. At the same time honor other students in the room and their practice by staying with the general flow and pace of the group. One extreme example: if the class is in a forward fold or supported posture, it would be distracting for other students if you practice scorpion handstand.
Please welcome a sub and be respectful of their teaching and experience.
Each teacher has their own perspective and insight to offer to the practice. Please be open and welcoming to a sub, as they are probably pretty nervous. They are doing your teacher a big favor and helping out in the case of illness, travel, or perhaps the good fortune of your teacher being a student learning new things to share with you! It's ok to be disappointed, but please cultivate an open mind and be opening to learning something new.
Please welcome new students and make space in the room by shifting your mat and props aside.
Sometimes we see a new student feeling lost and unsure - please feel free to welcome and guide them. Let them know what props the teacher usually uses, slide your mat aside to make space, or just smile warmly. A little bit can go a long way in making them feel welcome.
If it happens to be a full class and space is limited, please more your mat closer to your neighbor and make a little more space for someone new to join the class. Feel free to introduce yourself to your neighbor, it also might be nice to say hi and know their name if you cross paths later that day at the local market or out to dinner. (Thanks Erika Abrahamian for suggesting these)
Please share your own recommendations.
I realize there are many things I've not included, but I wanted to focus on the ones I think will serve my students and communities the most. If you feel inspired, please share your own recommendations in the comments below.
For your entertainment:
I love these funny (but helpful) videos about yoga etiquette. Created by friends from Tejas Yoga in Chicago.