Yoga etiquette is not about social nicety or because yoga is for kind and polite types. What it is about is making your practice and the yoga experience for those around you more enjoyable and also more productive and effective. While each yoga studio may have certain policies, there are some classic considerations that will help you avoid a fitness faux pas. These will also help inspire a feeling of being at ease and comfortable, which is an important element of a holistic practice that benefits the body and the mind.
If you’ve never stepped into a yoga class before then you may have certain preconceptions or perhaps feel at a loss as to what to expect. You may find that the atmosphere is far lighter and relaxed than you imagined, or you may realize that it’s not a case of rushing in to exercise but about taking the right approach even before you start a class. What’s a good idea, whichever class you take, is to follow some universal yoga etiquette:
Turn off technology – Yoga is an ancient practice and while the power of the practice translates into the modern day, it’s important to power down your 21st century devices. Some yogis may object to the interference of electromagnetic radiation through switched on smartphones and tablets, which goes against the more organic ideals of yoga practice. On a simple level, vibrating cells and annoying ring tones disturb the flow of a yoga class.
Don’t chit chat too much – More meditative yoga classes are about centering, and creating a quiet space for your whole being to relax and focus on mindfulness. While being friendly and open with others and creating a welcoming atmosphere is what yoga practice should be about, that’s not an open invitation to chat too much. Being aware of the general vibe of a class, especially before the start, is good practice.
Respect other people’s practice – Yoga really is about acceptance, not only of yourself but other people too. If somebody wants to sit quietly and totally lose themselves in their practice or if they see a class simply as a way to keep fit and meet friends, acknowledge that not everybody is coming from the same place in yoga or in life and accept this. Yoga is about kindness.
Don’t act competitive – If you want the excitement and bite of a good sporting challenge then go for it but you may find that a yoga class is not the place to set your competitive spirit alight. There will always be somebody in every yoga class you attend who seems more advanced. There will always be others who cannot do what you can do. Highlighting this fact in any way, both positively or negatively, is not polite in yoga and the personal journey aspect of the practice is what actually attracts people.
Humor is great but comedy is not – Have you ever been part of an exercise class where participants are constantly cracking up at their mistakes or their lack of ability. This self-deprecating attitude may help but you and others at ease in a traditional fitness environment but having a hoot and a howl doesn’t sit as comfortably in yoga. That’s not to say you have to be po-faced, overly serious and terribly well-behaved, but if your fitness approach is akin to a comedy act at times then you may want to reign it in for the sake of the overall class dynamics.
Yoga etiquette is not about strict rules and regulations, far from it. The whole philosophy of yoga is to be relaxed and be yourself. However, whenever people join together, coming from all types of experience and all walks of life, etiquette can create a positive atmosphere of reassurance, camaraderie and community.
We have some more great tips with Part 2 of our yoga etiquette guide.