Over the last ten or so years of teaching yoga, I can honestly say I think I've seen it all. People practicing in leather pants, people walking into the class drunk, people fighting with each other over where they placed their mat, people answering phones in the middle of class and having a full on conversation about their very personal medical issues.....you get the idea. While the above situations are rare, it makes me realize how often people are unaware of how their behaviors might affect others, especially in a yoga class setting. When a yoga student walks into my class, I want them to feel safe and cared for. I want the environment to be clean and peaceful so the students can really focus inward. And while I understand that I cannot control everything, I wanted to create this list of "requests" on how we as yogi's should behave when entering a yoga class. Please understand that these are my requests, however I am certain that many yoga teachers will agree with what I am about to say..........so here it goes.
1) ARRIVE FIVE MINUTES EARLY
I usually begin all my yoga classes with a minute or two of getting quiet and still, focusing on breathing deeply and setting intentions. These few minutes are very important because they give the students a moment to clear away the day and check in. When a student arrives late, it disrupts this special moment and distracts the students that showed up on time. I know life is hectic; I would rather you show up late than not at all. So I ask that you do your best to arrive a few minutes early. However if you know you are going to be late, take a moment and look inside the room before entering. If you see that the class has already started and everyone is quietly breathing, either wait outside for those few minutes or come in very quietly, sit where you are and join us. Once the class starts moving, then the teacher can help you find a space and get you set up with props, etc. In addition, warming up is very important in yoga and can help keep you safe when moving into deeper more challenging poses. So if you are really late (20 minutes or later), please take time to do your own warm up, or consider attending a class at a later time.
2) MAKE SPACE FOR EACH OTHER
As yoga becomes more popular, it's only fair to assume that classes are going to be more full. Creating space for each other is not just a nice thing to do, but it is our duty as yogi's to be kind to one another. If you see the room filling up, consider moving your mats closer to each other. As a yoga teacher, it is also my job to help manage the layout of the room, and it is always helpful when students take the initiative and make space for each other. One of the wonderful things about practicing in a large class is the group energy. Everyone breathing together and moving together is really inspiring.
3) STAY THROUGH SAVASANA
Imagine if you spent an hour and a half baking the perfect souffle, only to take it out of the oven five minutes too early and it deflates. This is how I feel about leaving before Savasana, aka. corpse pose. By giving yourself those few minutes of rest at the end of class, the practice has a chance to really soak in. Without it, the practice is simply incomplete, and you will most likely feel jittery and depleted. But like I said earlier, life happens. Sometimes obligations require that we need to leave early. If this is the case, let the teacher know ahead of time.....AND PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE DURING SAVASANA. Leaving during Savasana is equally as disruptive as arriving during the quiet moment at the start of class. I usually ask my students to let me know if they have to leave early, that way I can give them a five or ten minute heads up. I also recommend that if you need to leave early, please take a couple of minutes on your own lying down in Savasana before gathering up your belongings and leaving. If you don't understand or care much for Savasana, then chances are you need to take Savasana! In addition, after Savasana, I like to guide my students out of it slowly and have everyone sit quietly and just take a moment to observe how they feel and honor their yoga practice. Please do not start packing up your things during this time either.......I think by now you understand why. It is my job to start and especially end class on time, so if you know the end time does not work for you, then please consider finding a different class at a time that does work.
Unless you are a doctor who's on call or have some emergency situation where you need to have the cell phone near by, please turn your cell phones off and put them away....better yet, don't even bring your phone into the studio. Your practice is your time to not think about work, family, responsibilities, emails, texts, etc. In addition, and this is just a suggestion, after class has ended, consider keeping your cellphones off for a little bit, even just 20 minutes. That yoga high you experience after class is a real thing. The focused breathing, the conscious movements and the deep relaxation during Savasana enhances your senses, creating a feeling of calm and deep awareness. So while this feeling is still fresh, try to just be in the world, seeing it and experiencing it. Instagram can wait.....
5) RESPECT YOUR TEACHER AND EACH OTHER
This is my job, this is my passion. I spend hours and hours at home creating sequences and themes to weave into my classes. I try not just to teach, but to provide a unique experience and feeling that you can take with you long after you've left the yoga mat. I give modifications and props for anyone who is working with injuries, tightness, is pregnant or newer to the class. I explain in detail how to properly align each pose so you can feel your best while in it. That being said, it is impossible as a yoga teacher to please everyone. I do my best to not get offended when someone doesn't like my teaching style. However, if you come to my class regularly, please do your best to listen. When I start the class, please pay attention to me, not because I crave being the center of attention, but because sometimes I will say things that might be important to your practice. I've had some students attend my class and do a completely different sequence. Not only is this disrespectful to me as the teacher, but it confuses the other students. So unless you are needing to do your own thing for a particular reason (ie: pregnancy), I ask that you follow the class as best you can, using props and modifying when needed. Most of my classes lead to a certain "peak pose", and I like to set students up by doing poses that help warm up and strengthen the areas in the body that are needed to successfully achieve whatever that peak pose is. Every pose in my class is there for a reason. If you come to my class, I assume that you trust me, so trust me enough not to go further than I ask during that moment. I promise that eventually you will get to go where you want to go. If there is a specific pose you are craving, let me know before the class starts and I will do my best to incorporate it into the class. When you attend a class, you are taking the opportunity to experience what the teacher has to offer, why not go with it. If you don't like it, then find a different teacher. Or better yet, at the end of class, when we ask you if you have any questions or comments, come up to us and talk with us. We'll survive, I promise.
6) RESPECT THE PRACTICE
Yoga has changed a lot, and it is still changing. So many yogi's are very upset about the "Westernization of Yoga" and are going so far as to writing really negative and nasty articles about teachers, studios and classes. We live in a free country, and we have the right to say what we want, however, I feel that all of this negativity is hurting the yoga community as a whole. I believe that yoga can benefit every single person on this planet, and as yogi's, it is our duty to share the practice that resonates with us in a kind and positive way. Not every style of yoga is for everyone. I wouldn't recommend that my grandmother attend a heated hour and half level 3 yoga class.....she would die! But I do think she would enjoy a gentle restorative yin class geared towards seniors with a chair and lots of props and an intelligent teacher who is really familiar with older people's bodies. I have attended classes that I did not like; we all have. However, I choose not go around bad mouthing the practice that I love because of these experiences. Any time someone asks me about yoga, I share with them how much I love the practice; how it has changed my life, made me more mindful, more compassionate. What the world needs is love, and yogi's have the tools to provide just that. So when you decide to embark in a yoga practice, understand that everything you do affects how the yoga community is seen by others. So next time you have a bad experience in a yoga class, remind yourself that this particular experience is not all-encompassing of yoga, and just because that style is not right for you does not mean it is not right for everyone. Also remember that as you age, your needs change, your views and opinions will change, and your practice will change. Everything we do and say effects someone else. We have a choice to do good, to be good, to be kind, and to share our love of yoga and life.