Awareness and Presence in Yoga Classes - What is appropriate and what isn't?

Awareness and Presence in Yoga Classes - What is appropriate and what isn't?

As students and practitioners of yoga, there are many things that we can and should think about whenever we enter into a class setting in a yoga studio, gym/fitness center, ashram, or any other location where a yoga class is being held. After teaching for over 15 years, I have seen just about anything you can imagine go down in classes... and I have a lot of funny stories to tell. There will be different expectations depending on who is teaching and where you are practicing... but below are a few key things that I think are important... and these are things I love to see in my classes. As students, we have a responsibility to do our best to create a harmonious connection with our fellow students and teachers when we enter a yoga class. For those of us who are teachers, we have a responsibility to hold a sacred space for our students, and to encourage and "teach" our students what protocol we expect from them when they enter our class. As teachers, we hold the same responsibility as the students when we step into other teachers' classes. I may add more to this list as I think of it... but for starters, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Practice healthy hygiene... if you can smell your own body odor, so can the teacher and the other students. It is common to sweat during practice, and when in an enclosed space with other sweaty bodies, things can get stinky. Refrain from wearing any cologne, perfume, after shave, chemical scented deodorant or any other artificial scents. Mild essential oils can be ok, but many people are sensitive to chemical scents.

2. Turn off/power down your cell phone. If you have an emergency, silence your phone and have it near your mat under a towel, so you can check it if needed. If you have to take an emergency call, don't answer it in class. Quietly leave the studio and answer it outside (not right outside the door where the students inside can still hear your conversation). If it isn't an emergency, the call can wait. Don't text message in class either.

3. Take your shoes off before entering the yoga studio. If you have a specific reason why you must leave shoes on for practice, talk to your instructor about it before class and change out of street shoes and into a pair for indoor use only.

4. Try to arrive 10-15min. early for class. Enter class slowly and as quietly as possible... especially if you are late. Put your mat down in an open space near the door, rather than walking past many people to the other side of the room if the class has already started.

5. If the class has just begun, sit and wait right by the door until any centering/introduction/chanting has been completed. Don't walk in and roll out your mat until the teacher has begun moving the students into poses.

6. Practice the poses your teacher is teaching. Modify as needed, of course... but don't do advanced variations or completely different poses. Yoga teachers tend to be very guilty of this... it can be distracting and disruptive. If you know the teacher well and are in the back of the room and they are ok with you taking poses a step or two deeper, then this can be ok... just keep in mind that the other students may be watching you.

7. If specific questions come up for you during your practice, try to wait until after class to ask your teacher... rather than flagging them down and asking them for help in the middle of class. If the teacher sees you struggling with something, they will most likely approach you and help you out. If it cannot wait, wait until they approach you and whisper the question, rather than talking loudly where all of the other students can hear you.

8. If you have specific injuries or limitations in your body, talk to your teacher about your situation before class. If you feel like you injure yourself while practicing, talk to your teacher about it after class. They may have some suggestions to help you to feel better. If you ever feel like you receive an adjustment from the instructor that injures you, definitely let the teacher know after class.

9. If you need to leave class early for any reason, let your teacher know why if at all possible. If you know you will need to leave a little early, leave before the final relaxation at the end of class (Savasana), not during it. Feel free to take your own Savasana a few minutes before you need to leave to help balance your practice experience.

10. For Savasana, position yourself on your mat with your feet facing away from the teacher. When sitting up from Savasana, sit quietly with your eyes closed and don't start packing up your belongings until after the class is completely over. Try to avoid loud conversations immediately following class while still in the studio.

11. Acknowledge your teacher after class with a thank you, a smile, or some gesture of gratitude before leaving. It takes a lot of energy to hold space for a group of people and if you feel like you receive a lot from a class experience, it is kind and appropriate to share this with your teacher.

And just for a quick funny... check out my sister Stephanie in this silly video about unprofessional yoga teachers... ;-)

See video