All in all, we yoga teachers are a pretty relaxed group of folks. Being able to keep your cool when things aren’t going your way is one of the many benefits of keeping up a healthy yoga practice, along with glowing skin and better digestion. (Besides, if we wanted to be high-strung we would do Crossfit, right?) But just because we're fans of chilling out doesn't mean the yoga space is a complete free-for-all. You can’t achieve peace without abiding by a few rules of yoga etiquette first — visit a Buddhist temple to see this firsthand.
I’ve taught in all kinds of yoga studios around the world. Some of them were in pristine condition, others boasted vibrant communities, and the rest were not as, um, put together. My favorite places were full of practitioners who were aware of their environment and the people around them. The mutual respect they had for each other made it all the more fun to bend together on a regular basis. We don’t want to make you feel like scolded schoolchildren, but there are some specific guidelines you could follow to make the studio a happier place — and your instructor a happier yoga teacher.
Here are nine easy rules to follow that make a huge difference.
1. Please, Please Follow Our Sequences
I’ve had folks in my class who like to make up their own sequences in the front row while everyone else is moving in solidarity. Not cool. Sure, some modifications are always ok if you need them. But even if you're more advanced, try your best to stay with the rest of the class, or you're going to confuse your neighbors. One of the most important principles of yoga is union.
2. Leave Your Shoes At The Door
It's one Eastern tradition we like to preserve and it helps us keep a clean space. If you're not comfortable with parting ways with your shoes at the front, toss them in your bag and bring them into the locker room. I just beg of you, do not place them beside your mat so that your neighbor gets a massive whiff of them during downward facing dog.
3. Try Not To Flash People
You laugh, but you'd be shocked at how many slip-ups I've witnessed. If you feel like you wouldn’t wear that little number comfortably while upside down in front of President Obama and your granny, go digging in your closet for something else. It’s better to be comfortable than look hot and then be the embarrassed victim of a wardrobe malfunction.
4. Tell Us Beforehand If You Have Any Health Issues
I once had a girl fail to tell me that she had some thyroid issues and was on a six-day fast. Within the first few minutes of class, I had to catch her as she fainted.
This is a serious one. Even if you don’t think it's a big deal, tell us about that shoulder injury or the shortness of breath you experienced this morning. No need to announce it in front of everyone — simply take us to the side and let us know.
5. Don't Gossip During Class (Or Preferably, Before It)
I don't want to hear about Jane's dating life and the fact that she's missed a week of yoga because her boyfriend is a runner. The yoga and meditation space should be a positive one rather than riddled with rumors. There are enough places out there in the world where women tear each other down. Don't bring that spirit into the studio.
6. If You Have To Sign In, Print Your Name Legibly
Sometimes I could swear I have a class full of left-handed doctors. Whether you're filling out your registration form or jotting down your name on the sign-in sheet, write out your information as if you actually want us to read it. That way, we don't start class 15 minutes late because we're running around trying to find someone who can decipher secret codes.
7. Resist From Trying To Teach The Other Students
Once, I overheard a woman tell a first-timer to hold her breath in Triangle Pose. Eek!
Unless you are a certified, experienced instructor, don't offer private sessions in the changing rooms or during class. It's not that we’re afraid our job will go to you; it could be potentially dangerous to give someone incorrect advice, and they could seriously injure themselves.
8. Don't Bring Your Cell Phone Inside The Room
This includes iPhones, iPads, laptops, and pagers (yes, apparently people still use them). Nothing is more frustrating than the ringtone "Wrecking Ball" blasting when we're in Savasana. Don't try to be sneaky about it either: I once had a student who insisted on hiding her phone under the mat, which I had to constantly confiscate. What is this, middle school?
9. Be Mindful Of Personal Space
If you’re doing the kind of yoga that requires view of the mirrors, restrain from setting up your mat directly in front of someone else’s. Spread out so that you and your neighbor have plenty of room to stretch. I know class can get crowded, especially on the weekend mornings, but try to be patient. You’re not always going to get the exact spot you want — and that’s OK. You can do your yoga anywhere.
Images: Carolyn Coles/Flickr; Giphy