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Mind Your Manners: Yoga Etiquette 101

Posted by Taryn on 7/17/2013

Last week, I was eagerly awaiting the start of my favorite vinyasa class that I had been looking forward to for four days straight. As we moved from a seated position into our first sun salutation, I was alerted to an overwhelmingly pungent and obscene odor emanating from the guy in front of me. Presumably, from his feet that had been packed inside of socks inside of dirty shoes all day, and were just experiencing their first breath of fresh air in 10 hours. It was bad. Knock-me-down, Ďsomeone please help me!í bad. The class was packed with yogis; I couldnít simply move over. I was trapped! Every single time I moved into plank, I was repeatedly greeted by the same horrible smell. I never got used to it, and it never got any better. To be frank, this guyís feet totally ruined my class -- and my mood -- and I left class a little bit upset.

But how upset could I possibly be? I mean, you would think that someone would have enough self-awareness to wash up a little, but then again, maybe not? For now, I will grant this poor fellow the benefit of the doubt. Next time, I will be sure to keep my distance. Yes, yoga is relaxed and somewhat of a selfish practice: you practice at your own pace, listen to your body, and focus inward, taking the focus off of external surroundings and distractions. But this should not come at the expense to others around you who are looking for the same piece of mind and solitude. If you are new, or maybe you are simply interested in a little more information about yoga etiquette and hygiene protocol, check out our quick list of yoga doís and yoga donít!

DO!

  • Come early. Early arrival guarantees you a spot in class and it gives you the chance to stretch, fellowship, or both! Plus, showing up late is rude. If you are more than ten minutes late you should wait for the next class or come back the next day.
  • Become and remain silent. Fellowshipping is encouraged before and after class, but no matter how tempting it may be, random chatter during class is distracting to others around you and can break their concentration. Ladies, pay attention! I canít tell you how many times the yoga clique shows up to class acting like they own the place. You donít want to alienate people or keep them from coming back, so treat yoga as it should be treated: with love.
  • Wash up if you need to. While it may be convenient to you, skipping a shower in between the gym and yoga will likely upset others. Ditto on washing clothes. Mild body odor is expected at the end of class and you will become acclimated. Showing up to class smelling like a gym bag is not pleasant and not cool! Also, trimming your toenails might sound trivial, but in a packed class, there is nothing grosser than accidently being jabbed by someone elseís extra long toenails. Ew!
  • Stagger mats, if space allows for it. This will make poses where your arms or legs are spread out easier to achieve. It is also good manners not to block someoneís view of the mirror in classes (like Bikram) where self-adjustment is crucial.
  • Clean your mat (and props) before and after use. Even if the mat is yours, regular maintenance will not only keep that musty mildew odor off your mat, but will restore some of your matís stickiness! If itís the studioís mat, this is clearly the hygienic thing to do. Wipe it down before, because you donít know where that thingís been, and wipe it after, as common courtesy dictates. Itís also a good idea to bring an extra towel or two if you tend to perspire excessively.
  • Dress appropriately. Going commando is a bad idea and we all know about the too-thin yoga pant fiasco. If you are unsure about what to wear, call the studio or talk to the teacher. No one needs to look at or be the victim of a wardrobe malfunction. Layered clothing that fits appropriately (not too tight or too loose) and specifically designed for yoga is the safest bet.
  • Inform the instructor of any injuries or areas of discomfort. The instructor might prompt you on this, or not. So be sure to catch him/her before class. This will benefit you and when you emanate positive energy, you help others!

DON'T

  • Wear shoes inside the studio. Not even to drop off your mat. The floor is usually coated in a protective sealant that will become compromised when shoes are repeatedly scuffed along the surface.
  • Bring more than you need to inside the studio. There should be a little room with cubbies or lockers for all of your things. I just bring in the cash Iíll need, my mat, and leave my flip flops in a cubby. Respecting the studio space means there is very little clutter and personal belongings laying around. I donít even take my cell phone out of the car and there really isnít a need to have it inside. You might forget to turn the ringer off and cell phone noise is clearly disruptive. Everything Yoga sells specialty mat bags and backpacks with places for everything you might need: props, change, ID or credit cards, etc.
  • Wear perfume or cologne. Scent preference is not the same across the board, so you canít assume that just because it smells good to you it smells good to everyone.
  • Eat two to three hours prior to class. Two glaringly obvious reasons: gas and bloating. You donít want to be too full or too uncomfortable to practice. Some people think that ďgas is naturalĒ and that itís okay to expel gas whenever and wherever they please. If thatís your thing, thatís cool to do at home but donít bring it into the studio.
  • Leave early or get up to use the restroom. This is a hard one, I know! As a new yogi, I wanted to get up and bolt out every time the lights were dimmed and the class entered shavasana. After all, the workoutís done and I have people to see and places to go! Chill out. Yoga is all about slowing down, so take the time to meditate as it was intended. Moving around in shavasana is distracting to others and can keep them from meditating effectively! I get the bathroom thing, too. I am one to stay hydrated and am always getting up to use the bathroom. Unless you have some sort of medical condition, you have to suck it up. Drink less water next time or go RIGHT before class starts.
  • Step on other peopleís mat. Your yoga mat is your sacred space and extension of yourself. Therefore, stepping on someoneís mat is like stepping on someoneís arm, in a way!
  • Be creepy. I personally know men who attend yoga classes just to ogle the ladies. Men, this is not happy hour at TGI Friday's and please donít treat it as such.
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