When I was a young girl I loved to read etiquette books. Really. I remember reading once that the purpose of etiquette is not to make judgements about people and their behavior, but rather to provide a set of guidelines so that everyone feels comfortable and confident that they know how to behave in any situation.
What does this have to do with yoga, you might ask? Well, remember the first time you walked into a yoga studio? I bet you had a lot of uncertainties... Am I wearing the right clothes? Why is everyone so quiet? Where do I put my stuff? What equipment do I need?
All this uncertainty is bound to make you feel uncomfortable and nervous, which is exactly the opposite of how I want people to feel when they come to The Yoga Room. So I'd like to share some thoughts about the etiquette of yoga, so that both new and experienced yogis will feel confident in their actions and completely at ease at The Yoga Room or any other studio they may visit.
(Please note this post was written when we were at our old studio location. Details about Arrival and Personal Belongings are a bit different in the new studio. Just give us a call if you have any questions - 512-318-2112.)
Arrival & Departure Time Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes before your class begins. This gives you enough time to put away your personal belongings, find a spot for your mat, collect any props you may want or need for class, fill out paperwork (if you're new to the studio) and pay for a class pass if you need to.
If you arrive a few minutes late due to an unforeseen circumstance, check through the window and enter quietly either before or after the silent centering practice. Minimize disruption as much as possible.
Stay with the practice until the end of final relaxation. People come to yoga to relax, and if you get up and leave in the middle of practice it causes disruption to the flow of class and stress for the teacher and students.
Occasionally a situation may arise where you'll need to leave class early. Maybe you are a health professional and you're on call or maybe you are having an unforeseen emergency. In any case, quietly communicate the situation to the teacher and exit with minimal disruption. You can even leave your props in place and the teacher will take care of them later.
Personal Belongings Remove your shoes upon entering the studio so that the floor stays as clean as possible for everyone. Since we sit and lay on the floor, it's especially important to keep it free of mud, dirt, and other debris that may have stuck to the soles of your shoes.
Personal belongings such as jackets, purses, wallets, glasses, etc., may be placed in the cubbies at the front of the studio.
Unless you are a health professional who is on call or a new mom leaving her baby with a sitter for the first time, leave your cell phone in your car, or make sure it is turned off. When a phone rings (or vibrates) during class, it is disruptive to the class and embarrassing to the phone's owner who has to stop their practice to silence it.
Clothing We explore the body's range of motion in every yoga class, so it's good to wear modest clothes that can move with you. Yoga or athletic pants, capris, and long or medium length shorts, paired with a t-shirt or tank top are appropriate.
A special note about yoga pants and tights: Many styles of tights are in fashion right now, and it's a good idea to know the differences between yoga pants and tights. Tights are often designed to be worn with a long top or a short dress because when they are stretched, they tend to become sheer. Thinner yoga pants can also become sheer when they are stretched.
A good test to check the opacity of your pants is to stretch them over your outstretched hand. If you can clearly see your hand through the pants, during your yoga practice those pants will likely reveal parts of your anatomy that you typically would want to keep private.
Chewing Gum Chewing Gum during yoga practice disrupts your breathing and creates distraction from your practice. It's a good idea to discard your gum in the waste bin before practice.
Perfumes and Body Odor Many people are sensitive or allergic to perfumes, colognes, and scented lotions. Out of respect for your fellow practitioners who will be breathing consciously, intentionally, and deeply, near you for an hour, please arrive at the studio clean and free of body odor and refrain from wearing strong scents.
If you are a smoker, please refrain from smoking for a few hours before attending yoga practice.
Respect for Others People who attend yoga practice often regard the yoga studio as a sanctuary, a place to get away from the stresses in their lives and to practice quiet relaxation. Before class begins, be conscious of others by speaking in quiet tones, arranging your space quietly, and being respectful of their space.
A person's yoga mat may be just a yoga mat, or they may regard it as a sacred space for their practice and relaxation. Be sure not to walk on another person's mat, especially if you are wearing shoes. We lay our faces on our mats, so we want to make sure to keep them clean.
Out of respect for the yoga practice of your fellow classmates, practice silence during class. Silence encourages mindfulness and awareness, which are important tools in one's yoga practice. Sometimes the teacher will pose a hypothetical question during class in an effort to help the students tune into sensations in the body. Answer these questions silently in your mind.
Sometimes the teacher will ask a direct question in order to gain feedback or encourage sharing about a particular pose or situation, in which case it is fine to respond.
If during the practice you wish to communicate something to the teacher, signal her to come to your mat so that you may speak with her privately.
In some situations, excessive talking during class can also be a distraction for the teacher, who is working to lead a cohesive, beneficial, safe and serene practice for all the practitioners.
Please keep in mind that these are not hard and fast rules, but rather guidelines to consider when deciding how little or how much is appropriate to share during the yoga practice.
Yoga Props and Equipment The Yoga Room provides bolsters, blankets, straps, blocks, sand bags, and eye pillows for everyone to use. We also have mats available to lend out to beginners or in case you forgot your own.
We clean all the props on a regular schedule. We appreciate when you take a minute to neatly fold your blanket and put your props back on the shelves as you found them.
If you borrow a mat, we appreciate when you take a minute after practice to sanitize the mat with the provided mat spray and towel. After you give the mat a few seconds to dry, please roll it up and replace it in the basket.
Your actions are a great help to the teachers who are busy answering questions and checking people in for the next class. And your actions are appreciated by the students in the next class, who find all the props neatly and lovingly arranged.
Yoga practice is all about being respectful of yourself and of others. The teachers and I all feel so blessed to be part of such a lovely community of yogis at The Yoga Room. We deeply appreciate you working together with us to maintain a space where everyone feels comfortable, welcome, nurtured, and respected in their life practice and their yoga practice.
I'd love to know what you think of this post. Please share your thoughts in the Comments below, or if you'd prefer to send me a private note you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
Lots of love, Zelinda