Yoga Etiquette

Anyone that is serious about developing a yoga practice - especially one that routinely involves going to a class in a studio should be aware of some basic etiquette standards that apply to most (if not all) public yoga classes.

#1) Respectful silence. It’s pretty much the norm for yoga classes to be carried out in silence, with the exception of the teachers instruction. There are lots of different reasons for it and each teacher will have their own but for the most part it’s out of respect for the other students who may want to focus on their poses, their breath, and their bodies. It also cultivates a sense of relaxation and peacefulness - both of which are very important for a yoga class.

#2) No perfume, loud jewelry, or distracting clothes. The reasons here are pretty obvious. The teacher may be using a certain scented oil or incense to set the mood for her class that day and wearing a very strong or distinct perfume can undo the effect. Loud jewelry, if not removed and set aside before class, can be very annoying for the other students and it can also be cumbersome and dangerous for the person wearing it. The exception to this is a wedding ring which usually doesn’t make any noise or cause a problem but there are many who still choose to remove those prior to the start of class. Distracting clothes can be anything from over the top immodest clothing, to clothing that makes a fair amount of noise, or encumbers other students in their practice. The goal here is simply to not be a distraction to any other students with your clothing or to get in the way of their practice.

#3) Take off your shoes. I’ve heard that there are a few people who prefer to practice with their shoes on but this is extremely uncommon and quite often can be dangerous. It’s also very unsanitary. No one appreciates dirt and grime being tracked all over the floor of a studio that they’re about to lay down on. Poses are meant to be done barefoot for safety and to achieve the desired effect but if you insist on wearing shoes there are specially made yoga shoes that most teachers will allow in their studio.

#4) Bring your own mat. Yes, I know, there are plenty of studios that offer to let you borrow a mat. Don’t. Just don’t. It’s extremely unsanitary - regardless of whether or not the studio claims otherwise. Typically these mats are just wiped down with some cleansing spray - usually not well, and usually not on both sides. This is especially important if you’re taking a more intense form of yoga such as Bikram (where the room is heated to high temperatures while you practice). If someone has been sweating on that mat for ninety minutes before you got there what are the odds that they really truly got it clean? Better safe than sorry - bring your own mat.  

#5) Stick to the poses. This one pretty much goes without saying - there are some guidelines to it though. If you’re in an advanced class and you find yourself struggling beyond your comfort zone it’s always ok to drop into Child’s Pose or Downward Facing Dog to give yourself a breather. It’s also ok to modify the poses (within reason), perhaps with the aided use of props, to where you are able to do them. However this doesn’t mean that every time a difficult pose comes up you get to lay on the mat and do nothing. It also doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to be any kind of a distraction to the other students.

#6) No showing off. Yoga is not a contest, or a competition in any way and shouldn’t be treated like one. It’s not an opportunity to show the guy next to you that you can go deeper into a stretch than he can. So like guideline #5 it’s also important to stick to the poses here. This means that you don’t jump ahead in your sun salutation and you don’t make a show of being “better” at a pose than anyone else in the class. This kind of behavior wont be tolerated for long and you may find yourself looking for a new yoga class pretty soon.

#7) Be on time. When attending a yoga class it’s absolutely essential that you be on time.  I cannot begin to describe how distracting it is to have students show up five, ten, fifteen, or even twenty minutes late. Yoga is meant to be peaceful and relaxing - it’s also designed to quiet the mind. This kind of atmosphere is almost impossible to achieve when students are coming and going at all times during the class. It’s very distracting to hear the door open and shut and it can really take the students out of their yoga.

#8) Be prepared. It’s so important that you come to your class ready and fully prepared to do your yoga. You shouldn’t have to change in and out of clothes in the room (thought it’s perfectly fine to do that in a locker room or changing room in advance) and you should be able to get ready pretty quickly to begin. The sooner you are able to have you mat unrolled and sit down the easier it is for the teacher and the other students to be able to get ready as well. This also means having everything you need with you before class. Have your mat, a bottle of water, a small towel, and any other routine items (a hair elastic, a small snack etc,) you might need at the ready.

#9) Be respectful. This means following basic etiquette and generally being aware of the other students. Simple things like turning your phone off, being on time for class, following the instructions of the teacher, and generally being mindful of others. Simply showing respect for other students in the class can go a long ways towards making it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

#10) Be present. Being aware of the class, kind and respectful to other students, and staying focused on your yoga can make a big difference towards how the class goes. A student that is distracted, or not fully presents can bring down the energy of the class and can make it difficult for other students to be present simply by their actions. Always be sure to tune into your yoga class so that you and the other students can have the very best experience possible.