Etiquette is an accepted social behavior in a particular setting; it defines the proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or occasion. Etiquette is not a loud and explicit rule; it is soft and subtle and yet always carries you further when you observe appropriate etiquette in the right setting. Master the etiquette of the occasion and you will immediately draw favorable attention of the crowd. Yoga, which everyone can do, is no exception. A tradition as ancient and beautiful as yoga comes with a certain level of implied etiquette and it is the sincere hope of any devoted yoga practitioner to see all his or her fellow yoginis observe the same unwritten proprieties.
In all my posts, I ask myself who is my primary audience here? Surprisingly, the best answer came out: Everyone! Why you ask? See my logic below:
Love and practice yoga regularly? You either know the etiquette by heart, may see some new ones, may disagree and challenge me (always feel free!) or may wish to pass it on to friends.
New to yoga or thinking about starting yoga? Etiquette is at the heart of a yoga practice and best to know this earlier than later to gain respect of your fellow yoginis and teachers.
Never done yoga, have no intention, and “never will“? What?!!! Is it possible anyone falls here except my own husband (gasp!)? Ok, ok, just kidding! Read then my dear readers because these etiquette tips apply to life and you never know when the yoga bug will get you!
Most of us have good intention most of the time but it is also easy to shove etiquette under the rug for the sake of getting something done quickly and easily in this mad rush in which we live our lives. Resist the temptation! Yoga etiquette may not be important to you but observing etiquette in general should be when you engage in a particular activity. Imagine for instance that you find another social setting to be of deep interest to you, surely then respecting that social setting’s etiquette is all you would ask of your fellow friends.
With that beautiful mindset of learning and respecting the etiquette and proprieties of the occasion, indulge me please in these 14 Yoga Etiquette Tips which may initially make me appear as a yoga drill sergeant! Far from it, I assure you I have been guilty of some of these myself and they only stem from the desire to enhance etiquette not just in yoga but in all aspects of our lifestyle:
1 ~Be Punctual to Every Class
Punctuality is the same advice I gave in my 36 lessons to lasting friendship and the same in any communication and business meeting. Be not only on time to your yoga class, be early. Make it a habit to arrive early. Nothing disrupts a local class mood like the late comer! When it comes to being on time, you are either on time or you aren’t. Everything else is an excuse. Emergencies aside, rest assured that the punctual people do not charter planes to get from place to place so please never blame the traffic! Alas, if you must be late (which I sincerely hope you can alter!), do not let it be to a wedding, a funeral or a yoga class. Any yoga class. Get into a habit of leaving 5 to 10 minutes in advance. Let 10 o’clock mean 5 to 10 o’clock, not 5 after! Experience a new perspective by holding yourself accountable and by respecting everyone for never arriving after class has started.
2 ~ Mind your Personal Hygiene
Remember yoga class is often a very intimate setting and you may practice yoga closer to your fellow yoginis than you prefer due to lack of space or a crowded room. Please mind your personal hygiene. This one should be implied and I would let it go if I had never observed otherwise!! Use Deodorant. Use toothpaste or mouthwash. Brush your hair. Wear clean clothes. Bring a clean mat and clean towel in. These are the minimum requirements of appearing in public in general. Good personal hygiene shows respect to our own self and body first and foremost so it should never be compromised but especially not when others may be subject to your poor hygiene.
3 ~ Minimize Conversation
I must admit that Vickie’s yoga class is a pure social setting before class starts. It is the exceptional environment to every other yoga class I have attended and I am accustomed to engaging in some conversation. However, almost every other yoga class in my 8 year experience expects that you be quiet and focus inward as you arrive and set-up. The few minutes before class are ideal for a short meditation and for setting an intention so refraining from chit-chat is not just good etiquette but also really beneficial for your state of mind.
4 ~ Turn off your Electronics
Just imaging you are taking off for a flight. You really, really do not want to be the one who forgot this effortless necessity. Simply turn off your phones and pagers before class. Exit the world of constant communication which we all love and step into your mat fully liberated. Remember that others have done the same and interrupting the yoga zone with a ringtone (any ringtone!) is rather unforgiving, regardless of the calm reaction you may receive.
5 ~ Wear Decent Yoga Clothing
By decent, I really mean non-revealing. I am tempted to believe this happens more frequently in a hot Bikram yoga room but alas, the rest of us are not totally free of the incident or the insult so please wear clothing that will not reveal your private parts in full (or partial) glory to your fellow yogini when you are upside down or in some twisted pretzel or drenched in perspiration (think white without a sports bra or underwear!). Attracting this type of attention in yoga is most definitely frowned upon, no matter how attractive (or handsome) you may be!
6 ~ Remove Shoes Outside
Yoga classes are usually on a hardwood or parquet floor and every one does yoga with bare feet. That means one thing: No shoes inside the studio! I do not even allow shoes inside my house so taking shoes off at the door is a habit but one that you should always remember. Keeping the floors clean (at least from shoe goo if not from sweat!) is important to everyone including yourself. All studios have a place to “park” shoes or you can just follow the (expert!) crowd.
7 ~ Go Easy on Perfume and Cologne
First please note this does NOT mean skipping your deodorant. It means going easy on perfumes and colognes. You breathe heavy and deep breaths in yoga and are in proximity of others. These lovely smells, which are purely subjective, will come across very strongly during the session. Observe good general hygiene but save the perfume for your post-yoga after-shower celebration!
8 ~ Enter and Settle down Quietly
I am not of a quiet nature. I love noise and conversation and commotion in general but I leave that behind in a yoga class. When you enter, settle down quietly. Do not, please I beg of you, slam your mat down on the floor to announce your presence and jolt everyone meditating or relaxing. Do not fuss and move about a hundred times. Settle down quickly, greet your friends and relax until class starts.
9 ~ Bring well-behaved Children only
Yoga is hard for children. I do admit it is wonderful for them and a nice activity to do with their parents who are so good to encourage them at such an early age. I imagine every parent considers they have the most well-behaved child (and to my surprise, many do so bravissimo to you fabulous parents) and I risk this advice going unnoticed by all but I shall say it anyway. As lovely as your children may be, think about the length of the yoga class, their level of focus and attention, and whether it is realistic to expect your child to make it through the entire class. If you bring your children, please ask them not to talk, whisper, leave and enter class a dozen times, enter into discussions or stop their yoga to do other things.
10 ~ Respect the Teacher
Respecting your yoga teacher comes in many forms. The easiest one is following the poses or a modified version of them. I would not say this if I had not witnessed it many times. Do not do your own series in the middle of a guided class if you are bored or uninterested in the current pose. Finish the class and choose another teacher but during the class, respect the teacher enough to follow instructions and do so with an open mind. Believe me, I wanted so much to walk right out of John Friend’s sadly over-hyped workshops but out of respect for the man, I stayed with the oath that he shall never see me again in his class in the future!
11 ~ Observe silence during Savasana
This is one where you will know and love when you have made friends with your yoga but it will take time. Until then, consider it a dedication to the finish of practice. Practice silence during savasana and however tempted you may be to leave and skip out, resist it. This is where your practice assimilates and the results are infused with a repose so well-deserving and so necessary. This last pose seals your practice with good omen and prepares you for the next phase. If you must (really must!) leave before the end, leave before people settle into savasana and be as quiet as a church mouse!
12 ~Always Thank the teacher
I am guilty of over-thanking everyone who brings joy to my life. Such a quick, free and easy way to express gratitude. What surprises me then is how many seem to live without it. Make sure to thank your teacher before you leave. Always go even out of your way, find him or her, tap them on the shoulder, interrupt a conversation just to say thank you! Even when you know you are never returning to this instructor or the studio, take the time to thank them. Save other feedback for later if you must. Let the thank you be the last thing you do before you leave class.
13 ~ Clean your Immediate Area
If you borrowed a mat from the studio, wipe it down. You may or may not need to put it away depending on their policy. If you created a puddle of sweat, wipe it with your towel. If you used props, put them back. Take all your stuff with you. It takes all of 57 seconds at most but it shows you respect others who will come to use the space and that you have good manners and can be trusted! Practicing cleanliness in public will always leave the best impression about you with others. What a thing to savor at the end of a yoga class!
14 ~ Sign in or Pay without a Reminder
Yoga is not generally free. Remember your payment arrangement without a reminder from the teacher. I am baffled how people would walk into my old studio and set up without thinking twice about paying for the service they come to claim! Few things annoy me more than a teacher walking around with a sign-in sheet announcing half the class have yet to sign in. My dear friends, remember to do this without a reminder. Make it part of your must-do ritual and then forget about it to delve into your practice.
Share your Thoughts
Do you agree to the importance of etiquette and respect for general proprieties in the activities in which we partake? What instances of breach of etiquette do you wish to correct in your community? And of course I would love to hear all thoughts, good and strong(!!), on these tips and if I left any out, please add more tips to this list for us!
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