Yoga is supposed to help still your mind from all its chatter, but have you ever felt that a class did anything but that? Sometimes little things happen before, during or after class that can literally throw your zen out the window. To help make your class a little more peaceful for all, here are some suggestions for yoga ettiquette I've picked up as a longtime yoga practitioner and newer certified teacher:
1. Keep your cellphone off and stored away.
A yoga class is not the time to text message, check Instagram or have an actual phone conversation. Yes, I've seen it all happen. If possible, don't even have your phone on vibrate since that also can be distracting, especially in savasana, or the "corpse" pose that usually ends class. You should be able to disconnect from the outside world for at least 60 minutes. Oh, and if you forget to turn off your phone and it rings during class, just get up and turn it off. Owning your actions is part of yoga, right?
2. Be flexible with where you put your mat.
Sometimes, a yoga class can get quite crowded and it's necessary to move your mat rather close to your neighbor. So please try not to step on anyone else's mat. Also, there's absolutely no need to roll your eyes at fellow yogis while making space; even better, make space without even being asked. Remember: The only space you really need is that of your mat. I also know many of us are creatures of habit and like to place our mats in the same place every time. But there is no purchasing of real estate in a yoga class – anyone is free to take any spot he or she likes.
3. Arrive on time.
This piece of advice can actually be one of the hardest to follow since so many of us are always running late. But nothing can be more annoying than settling into a comfortable seat at the beginning of class only to have a bunch of latecomers storm into the room. If you are late, look for cues from your teacher to find out how he or she wants to handle it. Many teachers appreciate if you simply take a seat at the back of the room and wait until their dharma talk – the theme-setting part of the class – is over. It's at this point he or she can now help you find a spot.
4. Leave early with consideration.
If you have to leave early, be courteous and let your teacher know before it starts. Never leave in the middle of the class's savasana; leave before it begins. And I strongly suggest you take your own five to 10 minute savasana before you leave. Simply laying still on your mat shouldn't be a distraction to others and helps solidify the benefits of your practice.
5. Tidy up your props.
I love props and suggest yogis always have two blocks and at least one blanket by their mats, but I can't stand it when those props are placed haphazardly. Props just thrown anywhere by your mat can be dangerous for both your teacher, who is walking around the room, and other yogis – especially if the class is crowded. So please keep them neatly by your mat and return them to exactly where you found them after class. As yogis, we shouldn't have to be told to pick up after ourselves.
6. Stay on sequence.
Your typical yoga class is not a dance club where anything goes. Part of a teacher's sequencing is crafted to help you move safely from one pose to another. When you steer too far from that instruction, you are putting yourself and possibly others at risk, and should question the reason you are in a group class to begin with. I'm not talking about going deeper into a pose, but if everyone else in the class is in warrior two and you think it's a great time to work on your handstands, think again. If the sequencing becomes too tough, on the other hand, you can courteously break from sequencing by resting in child's pose.
7. Keep the chit-chat before class to a minimum.
I get it: Sometimes I'm so tempted to chat with my yogi friends before class that I wish we were just having coffee or cocktails and forgetting class altogether. However, chatter isn't necessarily cool at all times. Look around the room and if anyone is in a restorative pose or sitting in a meditative seat before class begins, respect that and try to keep your voice to a very low whisper. The same advice applies after class, since some students like to stay in savasana longer if the studio allows. Also, when the teacher takes his or her place in the front of the room, it's time to be completely silent. Namaste!