Over the last few years, I’ve noticed some less than ideal behavior in yoga classes.
Examples include those students who show up 10-15 minutes late to class, who use their devices during practice and/or who completely ignore the guidance of the teacher upon arrival/departure or even throughout the practice. My fellow teachers are bothered and, frankly, exhausted by this lack of awareness. Other students are, either witness to it, or completely oblivious that problems such as these are even an issue.
As a way to honor the yoga tradition and celebrate my 13 years of service as a yoga teacher, I’ve curated a list of 10 rules of yoga class etiquette.
Please take a look and please be courteous enough to implement and follow these practices while in class. Teachers, please set the precedent and students, please honor the principles.
Feel free to share your feedback and let me know if I missed anything in the comments.
As always, may it be of benefit!
1. Be on Time.
There are several reasons why being on time is the #1 rule. Not only does it align with the beginning of class but it sets the stage for the next 45/60/90 minutes of your practice. This rule can probably be the topic of a separate blog post or opinion piece.
My belief is that punctuality* is of the utmost importance.
Back in the day, yoga studios used to lock their doors minutes before class even started so if you arrived at the start of class time, you were late and couldn’t attend class. We have become far more lenient these days but I still think it’s important to honor the start of class as you would any other meeting or engagement.
My rule is 5 minutes. Past that time, you may miss vital parts of the introduction or opening and inevitably disrupt the class and the teacher.
If you show up around 10-15 minutes late, you have likely missed the majority of the warm up and at that point, your safety becomes of utmost importance. Best to pause, take a deep breath and do your best to arrive promptly next time.
*Disclaimer: I jokingly admit that my area of opportunity is my punctuality. I do my best to maximize the time in my day so I tend to run a little late here and there. However, if I run late, I call ahead to inform the studio. If I’m too late (past 5 min), I acknowledge that it’s my duty to stay in integrity and not take class.
2. Place Your Mat (& Props) Down Gently.
Most students show up with yoga mat in tow or rent a mat upon arrival. There have been countless times that students come into the studio and quickly unroll their mats with a loud smack on the bare floor. That sound can be super jarring for a fellow student enjoying seated meditation or it simply messes with the vibe or tone that the teacher attempts to create in the room.
Fortunately, some studios now have mats already set up on your behalf and other studios rent folded mats instead but, still, it’s best to be mindful and courteous to others and place your mat and respective props down gently.
As the saying goes, “how you do anything is how you do everything!”
3. Turn Off Your Devices.
Much of the gift of the yoga discipline is the opportunity to unplug from the demands of the modernized world, to feel free of obligation from your daily to-do lists and to return to your Self!
What a gift!
This is your time; time to slow down, to pause, to tune inwards, to feel, to rest, to surrender and to simply be. Prioritize and honor this time as you do anything else!
There is absolutely no need for you to have your device(s) on or near you in class.
If you a data-oriented practitioner and can’t practice without knowing your stats, please turn your device on do not disturb before class begins.
No grocery deliveries. (yes, this actually happened to a peer yoga teacher)
Just say no!
Special Circumstances: If you are an on-call physician, I recommend you practice at another time when you are not on-call or practice at home so you don’t distract others. If you are a parent who believes it is absolutely crucial that you check on your child during a 45/60/90 minute block of time, I think it is best you take class at another time when you can be free of that obligation and inevitable distraction. Your children will thank you for coming back with more presence.
4. Honor the Space.
As a baseline commitment, please honor the space you’re in: the space inside you, the space you inhabit and the space that surrounds you.
More specifically, please be kind and respectful to your neighboring students.
Whether at a fitness club, a boutique studio or a yoga shala, you are in a shared space in a public setting. Make space for others to practice alongside you. See yourself in one another and create a welcoming environment for all to enjoy!
5. Follow the Practice.
Throughout the last decade, yoga for “all levels” has become more common in yoga studios across the globe. These classes host a varying degree of student ages, abilities and level of practice – hence, the qualifier, all levels!
An experienced yoga teacher is qualified to meet you where you are on your yoga journey but in all levels class setting, we have to address every body in the room.
Trust that the teacher holds space for you and the other students as we teach.
Best to follow the sequence as instructed and only slightly modify or enhance each pose as desired. Please do not show up to a public class and do your own practice. Going rogue can be a distraction to both the teacher and the students.
Please follow the practice and adjust to your own own ability as needed.
6. Be Kind to Yourself.
Be kind. To your mind and your body. Always and in all ways. Let it be that simple.
7. Take Rest in Savasana or Meditation.
B.K.S. Iyengar wrote that Savasana “is the most difficult of yogic asanas to perfect, but it is also the most refreshing and rewarding.”
Take 3, 5 or even 7 minutes at the end of an asana practice to rest and recover. Asana was designed to be practiced prior to seated meditation so we could shake off the excess stress in our physical bodies and find a comfortable seat to drop into a more mindful state of being.
Early in my teaching career, I advocated for yoga teachers to “bring back savasana” and many years later, I’m still a steward for stillness.
Rest. Because you are worthy and because it is always worth it.
8. End on Time.
Honor the completion of class. If you need to leave early, please inform the teacher before class begins, practice near an exit point, take an early savasana towards the end of class and prepare to leave before the guided savasana begins in order to avoid disrupting the other students at rest.
9. Put Your Mat (& Props) Away Neatly.
The first niyama, or act of living our yoga, is a term called sauca (pronounced sow-cha). This principle refers to cleanliness or purity and we can use this phrase as a guideline to keep our yoga mats and props clean, tidy and orderly.
In a post-pandemic yoga world, it is strongly advised that we wipe down our mats and props; especially when requested by the studio. Without a full maintenance staff to support us, it becomes our duty to take care of the props that prop us up!
10. Be Grateful.
Share that post-savasana bliss with a friendly nod, a gentle wave or a grateful bow to the teacher, front desk, maintenance teams and other studio staff.
A simple thank you or any token of gratitude goes a long way to offer the recipient AND the giver a much needed boost of happiness.
Most importantly, your time for yourself on the mat and/or meditation cushion makes the most impact in the world once you share that energy with others.