In many fitness disciplines, there are certain rules. They can be as structured as CrossFit, or more elusive like certain brands of elite spin studios where everyone shows up wearing branded clothes. The place with least amount of such rules has to be your average yoga class, where the feeling is “Come as you are.” Yoga is about embracing each practitioner individually, without judgment of what they’re wearing or where they are in their practice.
At the same time, yoga isn’t just about individual practice. Does your teacher ever ask you to become more aware of the room, the distance between you and the walls, the feeling of the floor, and the presence of others? Yoga isn’t about disappearing into your inner world but feeling your presence in the space and time, and that includes practicing in the midst of others. If you forget that, you miss out on a part of the practice, or even risk ruining the experience for others.
Since I’ve become a teacher, there are certain things I have picked up that I didn’t notice as a student. Things I myself have fallen victim to that I now look back on in distress. There is such a difference in perspective from student to teacher that some good practices may be overlooked. But that is why I’m here to provide you with my tips to make your yoga class a prime experience for yourself and others.
1. Limit excessive perfume, cologne, oils and the like before class. They are distracting and sometimes even a health concern for others to be inhaling. Please use them sparingly, if at all.
2. Punctuality is crucial. It is rude and disruptive to show up to class late or by the skin of your teeth–not just to me, but also to the other students who expect a full class and a peaceful environment. Extenuating circumstances aside, try to make a habit of showing up with plenty of time to check in and get settled.
3. Don’t wear your shoes in to the studio. Remove them in the lobby, even if you have to walk across to the bathroom before class. It is respectful of the space, and will help to keep it clean. You don’t want to come into your downward dog hands down on a pile of dirt tracks.
4. We don’t care how (in)flexible you are. Can’t do a forward fold? Great! That’s why you come to yoga. Don’t let your physical abilities hold you back from giving it a try. There is much more to it then the asanas themselves, and there are types to suit just about anyone.
On the flip side, we also don’t care if you are super bendy and/or strong. It’s not a contest, and no one is better or worse at yoga than someone else–especially not within the physical realm–so if you are looking for competition you have come to the wrong class.
5. Do whatever you have to in order to make the class work for you. That is, modify a pose if need be, or feel free to take it up a notch if you want to push yourself a bit more. I try to be accommodating of all levels in my classes, but there is always room for improvisation catered to your individual needs.
6. We’re just about as good at meditation as you are. That is to say, don’t beat yourself up for getting distracted, or not feeling like you understand this meditation thing in the way that everyone else seems to. We get distracted or question our experience or whatever else you’re thinking as well. Focus more on making the most of your time and less on making it “perfect.”
7. I am by no means an expert, but feel free to ask me any questions you have. I’d love to help you or provide suggestion however I can. And if I don’t have the answer, I will gladly guide you to someone why may.
Yoga teachers and students, do you have anything else to add to the list?
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Image: Megan Spencer