Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
Your true home is in the here and the now.
- Thich Nhat Hanh
As long-time practitioners, sometimes we take for granted the unspoken niceties and mores of taking a yoga class in a studio. I write this guide not as a way to shame anyone not aware of common points of yoga etiquette but to help those who, like me, feel anxious going into a new place for the first time. In this way, we can help both ourselves and others be present during class at a yoga studio.
I hope that these tips will help you feel empowered to enter any yoga studio with confidence.
TOP TEN TIPS FOR ATTENDING CLASS AT A YOGA STUDIO
1. Do Your Homework - Before heading for your first class in the yoga studio, it might put you at ease to do a little research. Most yoga studios have a robust online presence, including a website with basic information.
Our website has pages that explain basics for beginners (including a new student special!), the class schedule, pricing information, and a frequently asked questions page. Reading up on studio policies and expectations can help you get the most out of your experience before you even step in the door.
2. Give the Studio a Heads Up - Similarly, before going to the yoga studio in person, feel free to reach out. The staff member you speak with should be friendly and informative because isn’t that the kind of studio in which you want to practice?
If you feel prepared to attend without speaking to anyone in advance, know that this step is optional. But if you have questions or concerns, it’s totally appropriate to reach out.
This is particularly true if you have an injury or condition that would affect the way you practice. As yoga teachers, we’re used to adjusting our classes for various limitations but it is super helpful to know ahead of time, so we can have what you need on hand and prepare an appropriate class plan.
3. Arrive Early - It’s best practice to show up to your first class (and really, every class) a little early. Not only will this give you ample time to take off your shoes, check in, and roll out your mat, but it also provides a few minutes of transition between the outside world and your yoga practice. A little moment of respite for yourself.
Of course, life happens, and sometimes people run late to class. It is usually okay to show up a few minutes late to class, though check the specific policy of the individual yoga studio you’re attending. 5KY has a 10 minute rule and after that, our doors are locked.
However, if you notice yourself chronically running late to class, would giving yourself an extra ten minutes make the experience that much more peaceful and restorative for you? After all, no one wants to feel stressed coming to yoga!
For your first class especially, it’s important to arrive with a few minutes to spare because we’ll need to get your information into our system, explain some information about the studio, and ask about any injuries or conditions that would impact your practice.
However, keep in mind that some smaller yoga studios like ours are essentially just one big practice room. So show up super early (more than 15 minutes), and you might run into the tail end of another class and you’ll find the doors locked. Other studios have a dedicated reception space, so showing up super early wouldn’t be problematic at all.
4. Be Mindful of Other Students - One of the biggest differences between practicing yoga at home and practicing yoga at a studio is that there are other people there. Truly, it is a blessing to be practicing with others. At a yoga studio, you will get to be in the presence of like-minded people and enjoy a sense of community.
But this also means we need to be mindful of others’ experience at the studio as well. That is why it is generally frowned upon to leave class during the final relaxation. Not only are you shortchanging your own experience, you’re disrupting the precious final moments most students look forward to the most.
Another consideration to take into account is to give other students space. In practice, this means spacing out your yoga mat in a way that gives everyone as much space as possible, not stepping on other people’s mats, and not staring at people as they practice.
Don’t feel offended if a student doesn’t want to chat or interact before or after class. Yoga is an inward practice and it can feel distracting to enter into a conversation. If you and the other student want to talk, by all means (softly) have a discussion. Just know that not everyone feels the same and that’s okay.
5. Dress for Less Distraction - There is a time and a place for everything. Jumping off this last point, the way we dress can also distract others. I mean no disrespect to anyone and generally feel that a person should wear whatever makes them feel comfortable. Your time in a yoga studio may require a slightly different approach.
In fact, in yoga ashrams, students are generally required to dress modestly and not wear strong scents or loud jewelry. This is because these can be a distraction to others. Since we don’t know what other students are working on, to me, it seems most respectful to wear clothes that cover me appropriately, take off jewelry that might clink or clank disruptively and to wear a light scent, if any at all. Save the sexy clothes, that glorious Le Labo fragrance, and gold bangles for a more appropriate time.
Similarly, though a good “mmm” or “ahh” can be right at home during a particularly delicious yoga pose, keep your volume in mind and remember that others are trying to focus on their practice too. Generally, the quieter, the better for developing concentration in your own practice as well, so chatting during class is frowned upon.
6. Treat Staff with Respect - This should go without saying but you’d be surprised. Treat everyone you encounter at the yoga studio with respect, including the teachers and staff.
People working at a yoga studio delight in giving you the experience you crave but also deserve to be treated respectfully. We are not here to be your date, therapist, or punching bag. Please maintain the student-teacher relationship boundary.
This doesn’t mean that the relationship between students and teachers can’t evolve. I have met many new friends as a teacher and count my own teacher as a dear friend. But be aware that during class, your new friend is still your teacher (and the teacher of everyone else at class too).
By the way, this respectful boundary goes both ways. Recently, many students have called out inappropriate behavior by their teachers. You should never feel coerced, unheard, or disrespected by your teacher. The issue of respect goes to the heart of the community guidelines we’ve adopted.
I happen to believe that in general, yoga teachers should not date their students. It’s a personal choice that I think maintains the boundary between the teacher and student. Sometimes, people have made the transition work but in this case, the student usually moves their yoga practice to a new teacher’s class.
7. Treat the Space with Respect - In addition to treating staff with respect, it’s also expected that you treat the yoga studio with respect. This is because when people make the effort to show up to a yoga studio in person, they are usually looking for a physical, emotional, and spiritual retreat. This is called creating a sattvic environment.
Practically, this means that not only are you not trashing the place physically, but energetically as well. It’s usually not copacetic to yell, curse, or argue at a yoga studio. Though if you find a yoga studio where that is encouraged, I’d be interested to hear about it!
Just like you wouldn’t show up to a yoga class in a mini skirt, doused in cologne, there is a time and place for everything. Yelling and cursing might be appropriate at the ballgame or bar, but remember that people come to practice at a yoga studio for another kind of experience. Be respectful of your teachers and fellow students by respecting the sattvic environment.
8. Feel Free to Opt Out - Know that at any point, you are free to opt out. Yoga classes are like pathways that the teacher has cleared ahead for their students. You are welcome to stay on the path, or divert. You are in charge of your own body and practice, and it's essential that you listen to your own body to guide you in practicing in a way that is safe and productive for you.
Keep in mind that doing something drastically different than what’s being suggested (jumping jacks, for example) can be distracting to others. However, modifying the pose to fit your body and your practice is welcome and completely appropriate.
If you know that you’ll be modifying quite a bit of the class - perhaps you’re an advanced yogin/yogini in a beginner’s class and want to add in a little spice to the basic poses, or maybe you’re feeling depleted the day of your regular class and want to hang out in child’s pose a lot - in that case, it’s considered polite to stick to the back of the room, so others aren’t distracted.
Additionally, though you need not lie down during final relaxation, it’s respectful to not leave class during the final relaxation. If you must leave early, sneak out before people are settled into savasana and ideally, let your teacher know you’ll be leaving before class begins.
9. Clean Up After Yourself - Just like in kindergarten, whatever we play with, we put away. If you’ve borrowed props or a mat from the studio, make sure to put them away when you’re done.
Now that we’re all a bit more hygiene conscious, it’s also a good idea to clean your shared props (or at the very least, your mat) with a spray cleaner after you’re done with them. That’s not required at every studio, since some studio have mat rental programs.
But in a space that lets you use their mats for free, it’s considered polite (and less icky) to clean yours before you leave. At 5KY, we ask people to clean their borrowed mats and blocks after using them. We'll take care of cleaning the soft props (blankets, props, straps, etc.)
10. Exit Quietly - It’s a good practice to be totally silent for a few minutes after yoga class. This helps your body assimilate all the peaceful feelings you’ve worked so hard to create during the last 60-90 minutes. It develops presence.
I understand though, that it can feel really unnatural to not say anything while you’re leaving. It is totally okay to say goodbye and even to have a little conversation before you leave the yoga studio. But consider the type of conversation you have and the energy behind it.
I’ll never forget observing a student leaving a yoga studio (which will remain nameless), while yelling at someone on the phone. I thought it was a pity to spend all that time and money getting into a good headspace and then going right back into the stressed state the student came with when they entered the studio. Keep those good vibes going when you leave!
Again, I don’t mean to shame anyone or imply that coming into a yoga studio in person is like a straight jacket. I do hope that these ten tips can give the beginner taking yoga classes in a studio a good point of reference for what to expect on their first visit.
For those of us who have been practicing yoga in a studio for a while, perhaps this can be a good refresher on studio etiquette. Or maybe you’ve learned a few tips you didn’t even know.
It’s all about having a relaxing experience: for both you and other students. The more we know what to expect, the better we can accommodate each other and develop our presence both in and out of the yoga studio.
Did I miss any common points of yoga studio etiquette? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments.
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Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
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