Anyone who's ever taken a yoga class knows that even the slightest distraction can ruin your experience. So we spoke with New York yoga teachers Rachel Krupa and Stephanie Pieczenik Marango for their advice on yoga etiquette. By keeping the following tips in mind, you can be sure to create the best possible environment for yourself and others in yoga class.
Come to class in a relaxed and open state of mind. "Check your ego at the door," Stephanie advises, and be ready to focus. Also, be prepared: Bring a water bottle if you'll need it, hair tie, proper attire, and your own mat if you don't want to use one of the studio's. If your yoga teacher prefers that you remove your shoes before entering class, be respectful of her wishes.
Though each teacher has her own style of teaching and attitude toward yoga, both Rachel and Stephanie agree that it is a major no-no to leave class during corpse pose. It's a crucial part of the mindfulness that should not be disturbed. If you do have to leave class for any reason, try to do it quietly and respectfully, and at a time when you won't be quite as disruptive. (Child's pose would be a good chance.) Electronics are also a distraction, and should be turned off or silenced before class. Lastly, we've just got to say it: Don't forget your hygiene. "Your instructor will be telling the students to breathe deeply," Rachel says. "And there's nothing worse than sitting next to someone who is wearing too much perfume." (Or, for that matter, someone with bad B.O.!)
But sometimes there isn't a way to prevent all distractions. Keep Stephanie's advice in mind: "Expect the unexpected, and then let it go." If someone in your class is distracting you in any way, try not to let it ruin your class and consider speaking to your teacher privately once class is over.
Now, what about those embarrassing moments which are simply inevitable in yoga? Rachel says the most common occurrences are farting and falling over during a position and, if this happens to you, try not to be too embarrassed. It happens to everyone at some point, and it's not a big deal.
End on a Good Note
As far as ending class, Stephanie says, "Put your props away neatly, perhaps even helping the student behind you. Yoga class is a great space in which to practice kula, which means 'community.'"
Just remember that you're taking a yoga class because you want to feel good and have a positive experience — but it doesn't have to be perfect for it to be rewarding. Just be courteous of others, brush off the stuff that bugs you, and enjoy getting your ohm on!
Originally published in FitnessMagazine.com, August 2011.