Whether your yoga practice is full of mindful meditation or a more flowing, faster paced style, there are intrinsic elements of etiquette to follow which are usually expected. The whole basis of yoga practice is not about rules and telling people what to do, but far more about a personal journey. However, yoga is also about discipline, respect and following an internal code. To be at one and comfortable with a yoga class it’s important and helpful to understand these often unwritten concepts.
In Part 1 we revealed some common yoga etiquette, such as turning off technology during classes, not chatting too much, and respecting the practice of others. We also highlighted the non-competitive elements of yoga and how, while humor is welcomed, too much fooling around is not. To improve your practice further and make you feel sympatico with the class, here are some more etiquette guidelines:
Arrive early – It can be a rush going from your busy life straight into a yoga class but creating a stir by screeching into class last minute can disturb others. Not only that but it can take you longer to get yourself into the ‘zone’ of your yoga practice, as well as add an element of stress and anxiety into the general ether and class dynamics. Give yourself some breathing space to prepare for a class by arriving at least 10-15 minutes early. This is a useful transition period, both mentally in calming down your thoughts, but also for practical tasks such as going to the bathroom and getting changed.
Be a follower not a leader – Most classes have a fairly wide range of abilities and if you feel that the pace or level is too low for you then you may be tempted to rush ahead or reveal a ‘know-it-all’ attitude. Don’t! Remember, even the most experienced yoga practitioners take value from postures that they have been able to master for years. You might find your natural competitiveness or desire to shine propels you forward too. Yet, learn to go with the flow of the class as many movements take time for a reason, such as exploring breathing techniques or holding positions. You will get much more out of your practice if you work with and alongside your teacher and others in the class, rather than being out of sync.
Don’t rush off at the end – After a yoga class you might need a few minutes to readjust and come back to your everyday sense of self and reality. Quickly jumping up as soon as possible and running out the room can ruin the end of someone else’s practice and often it is the final moments of practice when you really savor the benefits and the feel-good factor. Rushing out the door shatters this feeling of peacefulness.
Be hygienic – While yoga is not necessarily about lotus flowers and incense, it’s definitely never about body odor either. Make sure you wash your mat with warm water regularly and let it dry so that there are no damp, grained in smells which are going to pervade the air once the room and your body heats up. The same goes for feet: when you take off your socks in front of others there should be no nasty whiffs of your own personal scent. Equally, don’t perfume yourself as a strong fragrance can be nauseating during exercise. A clean body and hair will make you feel relaxed in your practice and less self-conscious too.
Namaste! – This is a salutation and a way of honoring those around you. Place the palms of the hands together low and near to the chest and bow the head slightly as you say ‘namaste’. This is a great way to give thanks to the teacher and fellow practitioners for the shared experience. It instils a sense of togetherness, respect and kindness. If your teacher says this to you at the end of a class, it is polite that you repeat. Think of it as saying a quick ‘thanks’ if you feel awkward to begin with.
The important factor to remember in yoga is to be yourself and to go with the flow of each class. A good yoga class should welcome you and put you at your ease, so you don’t feel awkward at all. You don’t have to feel that there are lots of different rules to understand either. Yoga etiquette is more about centering yourself and bringing that focus to what you are doing. The rest will follow.