As a yoga teacher in Los Angeles, I’ve seen and heard it all. While I pride myself on being laid back and creating a casual, welcoming atmosphere, there are some common rules of etiquette that go a long way. Abide by the 10 rules below to make your yoga experience a lot more pleasant for you, your teacher and everyone else in the room.
1. SHOW UP EARLY
The opening moments of class are reserved for creating quiet space on your mat and to ground and center yourself while tuning into your breath. It’s incredibly distracting to have someone loudly enter the room and have to shift everyone over to make space for their mat.
2. PRACTICE PROPER HYGIENE
In other words, make sure you don’t smell. Nothing ruins a yoga class faster than offensive odors. On the flip side, avoid strong perfumes and cologne, which can make it equally hard for your fellow yogis to breathe deeply. The yogic word for “cleanliness” or “purity” is saucha. Practice saucha every time you step onto your mat. This includes wiping down your mat, using a fresh towel each time you practice and washing your clothes. Those dirty gym shorts that have been baking in the back seat of your car? If they’re stiff enough to stand on their own, toss them.
3. LEAVE YOUR SHOES OUTSIDE
Don’t track mud, dirt and street grime into the studio. Yoga is practiced barefoot and in many poses, your face is only inches away from the floor. Enough said.
4. STICK TO THE SEQUENCE
In my classes, I offer a lot of room for creativity and flexibility. I encourage students to add poses and take poses out depending on what their body needs on any given day. I also encourage students to rest any time they need to, no matter what the rest of the class is doing. It would be appropriate for someone who is adept at handstands to hop into one while everyone else is doing a standing split, or to take an upward dog instead of cobra. But doing something drastically different from what is being taught at any given moment is highly distracting and can be hazardous for yourself and your neighbors if your body isn’t properly warmed up.
5. TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE
Yoga is a place to completely unwind and unplug. Your emails and social media feeds can wait an hour. Turning off your phone will also eliminate the risk of it ringing during savasana.
6. WEAR APPROPRIATE YOGA ATTIRE
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with showing skin. I love when people feel comfortable and confident enough in their bodies to practice without layers. But please make sure that you aren’t exposing any of your private parts publicly. It sounds like common knowledge, but I have been flashed on more than one occasion, and there’s only one way to describe the experience: awkward.
7. ALERT YOUR TEACHER OF ANY INJURIES OR HEALTH ISSUES
While most teachers ask if there are any injuries, health issues or pregnancies in the room, it’s always a good idea to alert your teacher before class of anything they should be aware of to help keep you safe.
READ MORE > 3 WAYS TO PREVENT INJURIES IN YOGA
8. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
Yoga is for every body, and every body is different. Don’t judge your weaknesses against someone else’s strengths. Let go of labels. Keep your focus on your own mat and your own experience, and practice patience and compassion along the way.
9. SHARE YOUR SPACE
The beautiful thing about yoga is you don’t need much space to do it — just the width and length of a standard yoga mat. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how unwilling people can be to share space or how attached people get to a certain spot in the room. I’ve seen fights almost break out over someone taking someone else’s “spot.” There are no reserved seats in yoga. Make room for others and they will gladly make room for you.
10. RESIST THE URGE TO TEACH TO OTHERS IN THE ROOM
This is one of my personal pet peeves. I’ve had girlfriends start coaching their boyfriends and husbands start correcting their wives during class. I’ve also had other teachers start assisting and teaching to other students when it’s not their own class. Be respectful. If it’s not your class, don’t start teaching or offering unsolicited advice, unless you’re specifically asked.