Happy November! In this month’s blog post we’re going to cover something incredibly important that needs to be talked about more in the yoga community: yoga etiquette. Now, this can be very different for different teachers. No two teachers, no two styles and no two classes are necessarily alike. Different strokes for different folks, as they say! A recommendation I like to give to people is to just ask questions if they are uncertain. Yoga instructors don’t bite, on the contrary, we are often thrilled when a student wants to talk to us about something! That being said, here are some of my quick tips garnered from experience being a student for 8 years, and a teacher for 1.5. May it bring you some clarity, and maybe even a few laughs 😊
You can often get settled in to the class before it starts. In fact, you might want to show up 5-15 minutes early as some teacher’s don’t take latecomers, even only by a one minute margin. Some classes will have lots of people chatting, and some will be filled with students in savasana or child’s pose getting ready. If you arrive to find a silent classroom with introverted students, it’s probably best to follow their lead. If you’re the first one there, pick your favorite spot in the room (go on, sit in the front this time!) and wait to see what other students do, then imitate them. If you like, you can even start to stretch or meditate here. As teacher’s, we are here to hold space for you, so this is your time to do what’s needed.
However, before you get your zen on, there is one crucial thing which must be done, which someone forgets about almost every class. It’s so obvious, that sometimes we just forget about it. Ready? The one thing you MUST do before class is…TURN OFF YOUR CELLPHONE. Seriously. Turn it off, put it away. No, you can’t put your cellphone on your mat, no you can’t take a call or text halfway through class. Yes, we mentioned above that classes are a way for teachers to hold space for students and give them whatever they need. However, it is also a practice which is sacred to some, and hearing Britney Spears’ iconic chants of “hit me baby one more time” during savasana, is more than a little disruptive and disrespectful of everyone else in the class.
If you need to have your phone for an emergency, then I’m sorry to say you shouldn’t be in a public class at this time. Maybe practice at home this week. Plus, you might end up disturbing people or insulting the teacher if you get a phone call and leave early without warning. This may seem slightly dictatorial, but hear me out. You can’t show up to a work meeting with your boss and make him strop the meeting halfway through to scroll Instagram or text someone back. So, why would you do this in class? And one last thing: apple watches, pagers (if anyone still has one), iPads, laptops, flat screen TV’s, or ANYTHING electronic, should stay in your bag outside of class. But, if you leave your things in the locker room, don’t forget to turn any alarms or sound off, so as to not annoy anyone walking in the nearby vicinity as they frantically search for the source of the sound.
So, now that we’ve covered the no cellphone rule, we can move on to something that has happened to every student at least once before: farting. Yes, I said it. So many people fart in yoga classes, due to the loosening of muscles while stretching. It’s okay to accidentally let one rip, but this shouldn’t be a competition to see who can out-smell their partners. The great thing about accidental farts in a yoga class is that people will usually ignore them, and you can blame it on your neighbor when leaving class.
Needing to leave early
It’s normal to need to leave early, especially if dealing with a teacher known to always go past the scheduled time. This is something else that needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis, it’s probably a good idea to discuss it with the teacher before taking their class and seeing what they feel. As a general rule, needing to leave on time or 5 minutes early is fine, but leaving 30 minutes early can break the classes’ flow and be a bit of a nuisance to others.
We all need a helping hand sometimes. Yes, even us as yoga teachers. If you aren’t sure about a pose, need a prop, or are uncomfortable in a position, let us know! I always tell my students they can wave me down during class for some help. I would say most of us yoga teachers are incredibly eager to help, and love the opportunity to put our modification skills to work.
Needing to take a break
We have all had a moment where we think to ourselves “dear god, please take me out of this pose”. Sometimes a pose just doesn’t work for us. Something to keep in mind here is that instructors are closer to guides than they are teachers. Only you really know what feels right and what feels wrong. If you go into a pose and you hear the voice of Micheal Scott yelling “No, noooo”, then just get out of that and either ask the teacher for another option, or come to a child’s pose or savasana. Of course, if you have any injuries that limit you or can’t do certain poses, let the teacher know before class! This will help them know how to help you and may provide you with a more pleasant experience.
There’s not much to do once class is over. Sometimes a class might be happening right after and sometimes the studio may be free. If the studio is open, feel free to take your time going. Most teachers won’t mind if you take a bit of time to stretch or roll away your mat slowly. Just make sure to try and leave quietly if you are going to leave right away, as other students may still be in that savasana mind-fog and won’t enjoy a rude interruption. Afterwards, if there is tea outside, help yourself to some. Most studios encourage mingling and talking to the teacher, staff, or other students. Yoga is not like a gym where you run in and run out. Enjoy the whole experience and take advantage of the sense of community we get from being more than an exercise class.
Lastly, but certainly not least: feel free to ask the teacher questions and provide feedback!! We as teachers love to hear from you and are always thrilled to talk about yoga. If we went through 200 hours of training for this, it most likely means we’re incredibly passionate. We also always design our classes for you. One of my favourite yoga teachers (the A in MAP) once taught me that we are teaching classes for students, not for ourselves. If you want to provide feedback, this will make your next class with the teacher so much better. I even love to have my regulars give me their suggestions on what they want to learn next week, so I can plan a class that I know they want and enjoy.
At the end of the day, new and old students alike just need to keep in mind that a yoga class isn’t a fitness class. Although teachers might teach something that feels fitness based, there is a whole other dimension to yoga. It is about holding a safe and welcoming space for students to go through not only physical movements, but evaluate the beat of their mind, to go through some or many emotions, and sometimes it can even be a spiritual or cathartic experience. The aim for most of us as teachers is to provide an experience that goes beyond the poses, and to help yogis develop on their journey no matter what step they’re at. All this means there is a certain amount of respect allowed to yoga classes, however it doesn’t mean your class needs to be boring or stuffy. Some instructors can be quite interactive and even funny. My best advice to you, if you are a novice, is to explore. There are several different types of chocolates, if you don’t like dark chocolate you may still like white or milk. So, why only taste one? This is your opportunity to explore!
What do you think, did we miss anything? If so, drop a comment below!
Creator and Writer @ MAP Yoga
Yoga Alliance RYT-200 Certified Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga Teacher