Yoga class can be a sacred space for a lot of people. But sacred spaces have a lot of unspoken rules that people are expected to follow. We all know the general rules of yoga: take off your shoes, remain quiet, respect people’s space, etc. But sometimes issues come up and we find ourselves facing some tough etiquette choices.
Test your decision making below and see how some of your actions in common scenarios could affect your next yoga class.
Scenario #1: Late to Class
Oh no! For some reason you’ve fallen behind schedule and have a yoga class in fifteen minutes. Your scrounge together your mat, slip on your yoga pants and rush out the door. Unfortunately, you hit every red light on your way to the studio, and forgot about the construction down the street. Though you’re usually on time you arrive to class a couple minutes late.
So what’s a yogi to do?
- Option 1: Don’t enter. Even if you’re only a couple minutes late you shouldn’t disturb the class.
- Option 2: Come in and apologize to the teacher.
- Option 3: Enter. A few minutes is nothing to worry about.
Let’s face it, sometimes we arrive late to things. Check with your teacher what their policy is on latecomers. Many out there would agree that if you arrive late, coming in quietly and respectfully is okay. Just try to arrive early next time!
While apologizing to the teacher is a great idea, make sure you wait until the end of class so you don’t disturb the teacher or others in the class. For the most part, teachers also have arrived late to things before and will be understanding and forgiving.
While this relaxed attitude to your practice is appreciated, you should still show respect for other people and the teachers in your class. Certainly, people can be understanding if you arrive a few minutes late, but yoga can be a spiritual and personal journey for a lot of people. Be respectful of the time, and aim to show up AT LEAST five minutes early to a class, if not earlier.
Scenario #2: The Job and Your Practice are Calling
Working in health care or other shift-work professions could require you to take on-call shifts during the week. However, this stresses you out and you feel you need to do some yoga. What would you do if you really felt the urge to go to class while on call?
So what’s a yogi to do?
- Option 1: I’d never bring my phone to a yoga class. I would just practice at home.
- Option 2: Have your phone on silent somewhere discreet in your yoga space. Sit near the back so you can slip out mostly unnoticed.
- Option 3: Leave the phone on in another room so you can respond to it and excuse yourself.
This is probably the most considerate option, but it’s not the only one. The only way you can assure your on-call phone won’t disturb people in your yoga class is to not go. However, if you regularly attend a class your teacher might be able to accommodate you with a compromise.
For the most part people can stay pretty focused on their own practice. However, if you do have to leave, try to do it before Savasana. Many teachers and students would prefer to have as little distraction or noise as possible during this pose.
This probably isn’t the best option. At least if you leave your phone on silent you can be more assured of disturbing fewer people. The concept of Ahimsa tells us to cause harm to the fewest number of people. A phone ringing in class is a surefire way to disappoint more than a few yogis.
Scenario #3: The Sweaty Neighbour
It’s the middle of your hot yoga class and you’re feeling the heat. And it’s clear you’re not the only one. The man beside you clearly hasn’t showered in a few days and that locker room smell is making it tough for you to breathe in. What’s worse is his forehead sweat is finding it’s way onto your mat. What would you do?
So what’s a yogi to do?
- Option 1: Tell the person your beef. Nobody should have to deal with that.
- Option 2: Quietly move your mat somewhere else if you can.
- Option 3: Your neighbour is just part of the experience this week. Take it all in!
If you’re good at tactfully addressing sensitive issues with people, feel free to give this a shot. However, bear in mind this conversation could be awkward and embarrassing for you and your neighbour. Chances are this person either doesn’t know they’re being offensive or is already sensitive about it.
If there’s space, it might be possible to shift over a couple of inches. It’s pretty unhygienic to have other people’s sweat on your mat and subtly changing your location can be a good way to help you focus on your own practice and spare your neighbour’s feelings.
Of course, some yogis might not mind at all and just breath in all your neighbour has to offer. Part of going to a yoga class is to share in the energy of other people. We wouldn’t blame you if you took either of the above options, but good for you for sticking it out.
As long as we are thinking about the actions of our consequences to others, we are moving toward a more enlightening practice. Hopefully you remain considerate of others above all else when faced with a dilemma in your next class.
Remember, at the end of the day all we yogis are in it together. Whether you’re a newcomer or an experienced practitioner, yoga should feel comfortable for everybody. If you see people wearing shoes, stepping on mats, talking through class or other yoga faux pas, don’t simply shoot them a dirty glance. Try to help or be understanding instead. Part of respecting the practice might mean helping unaware people learn the rules.
Have you ever seen someone disturb a class in yoga? Did you do anything to address it? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.