When it comes to yoga classes, different things bother different people. Different teaching style work for different people. Different communities work for… you get it. That means that there are thing you can do to ensure you find a class that makes you feel safe and comfortable and things you can do to help maintain that comfort.
Everyone is going to classes for different reasons and with different intentions, but being in a public space like a studio can come with some concerns. Practicing something that is so much about silence and vulnerability means that we all need to be extra respectful. It isn’t so hard, but let me just give you the run down on how you can find and create a safe and comfortable place for everyone involved!
- Finding the studio
First off, you should be searching for an instructor and a studio, which make you comfortable. Walking into your studio should be a positive experiences, so this could even mean not going to a studio because the drive there sucks.
Don’t be afraid to go to a different studio or to see different instructors either. We all understand that you need to find your perfect fit, plus seeing multiple instructors is a really good idea. As an instructor, we get it and we do it too! We also understand that even if we don’t agree with other teachers, you might be getting a better class from them for whatever reason.
On top of that, you want to make sure your instructor isn’t a really bad and unethical instructor. They should be respectful of you and your space and ask before touching you. (Often instructors forget, or think only asking once is enough, so feel free to remind us if you wish we would ask more or tell us if you’re uncomfortable with what we do. It’s all good.)
If an instructor is particularly creepy or doing anything super illegal, tell the studio owner! That studio surely has potential, but a bad instructor is the last thing they want. Owners need to know who is having trouble with instructors and they should take it very seriously. (You can also always tell other instructors, or if it’s REALLY bad, contact the authorities.)
Just because you found an awesome instructor, doesn’t mean they can read your mind! (Or maybe they can and haven’t told us yet.) Either way, don’t be afraid to approach them! They’re there for your health and safety. We want you to have a good time! Tell us what’s on your mind, say hi every time you walk in, anything. We may be busy before class and may not have time to chat, but if it’s very important you tell us something, then we will listen!
If you’re concerned about a pose, tell us.
If a student is making you uncomfortable, tell us.
If you have a medical condition, TELL US!
I cannot stress enough how important it is that you tell us if you have a medical condition. Even if you’re not sure if it’s related, or will impact anything, don’t be afraid to tell us. We also might not know much about the condition, so if you’re open to helping us understand and learn, we DEFINITELY want to know.
Your medical conditions, if you have any, should be the first thing out of your mouth after, “Hi, my name is ___” when you are joining a class for the first time. Take the time to help the teacher get to know you if this is your first class with them. Like I said, we may be busy, but this is important information for us. We will listen
Note: If you are taking a class at a community college, your instructor may not expect an introduction with just your name. Often they do a roll call or something along those lines. They DO still need to know if you have a medical condition though.
- Complaints about you
I know this sucks to think about, but it’s possible there will be complaints about you. Not likely at all, BARELY likely. Let’s just start with the worse case scenario and work our way up.
If you get kicked out, stay out. Yeah, it really sucks, but they’ll probably tell you while, and it’s best to just accept it and leave. There are tons of studios and instructors out there, you can find a new one where you fit in better.
That being said, before you even get kicked out, someone will approach you with the concern or problem (unless you do something heinous…) Listen to those concerns. Usually they’re easy fixes. The most common complaint I’ve heard is about people wearing perfumes. You don’t need to stop buying scented soaps and deodorants, but avoid cologne, perfume, scented lotions, and things like that. If your deodorant is super scented, perhaps put it on well before going to class, so that it has time to wear off a little bit.
I’ve also heard complaints about the opposite, people not wearing deodorant. Sometimes you can’t help your natural smell, but please try to shower at least the night before class.
- What you can do
Yoga etiquette is a real thing, it’s also very easy and most of it you probably could have figured it out. I’ll go over a few here in a moment, but here’s a really basic list of what to expect from ABC of Yoga.
Next up, check out studio rules. They may have them posted on their website, or in their studio. There’s a good chance they’re 90% basic yoga etiquette, but you never know if they need to make a new addition for any reason.
Lastly, your instructor might have their own rules too, though usually those are exactly the same as the aforementioned.
Some rules I want to emphasize are:
1) Respect other’s space.
This could also be written as respecting another’s mat. Unless invited, you should avoid walking, standing, or using another person’s mat. Once I was sitting on my mat before class and two ladies stopped to stand on my mat and talk to each other. I wasn’t even part of the conversation. RUDE!
2) Avoid talking during class.
Easy peasy. Don’t talk to your neighbors. Though some teachers are find with speaking out of turn, and the occasional comment to your friend MIGHT be okay. 9/10, don’t. People are there to learn from the instructor, so you should be too.
If you need the instructor’s attention, you can speak to them or say “excuse me” or whatever, or raise your hand if they’re like 5 miles away on the other side of the room and you don’t want to yell.
3) Avoid looking at other students.
It happens, you glance at each other, you’re across from each other, what can you do. But you can often avert your eyes down a little or close your eyes. You don’t want a student to feel like you’re staring at them. If you need to look at someone for help with a pose, try to look at the instructor.
It’s especially rude to take over the instructor…
Also, you should do what the instructor says, it’s distracting if you start doing your own poses/workout in the middle of a class. Don’t. Just… don’t…
If you can’t do what the instructor says, you can tell them, or quietly take a child’s pose or any other resting pose the instructor has advised for the class.
One thing I forgot to mention in the video, is please do not act like an expert in a class. If you don’t like what the instructor is saying, you shouldn’t be in their class. Even if you are an instructor or have been to India, they probably have a good idea of their own teaching style. Unless you’re literally Indian, don’t correct a pronunciation of a word either. (As an Indian, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people try to correct an instructor with an equally wrong pronunciation. I often also accept mispronunciations because it can be hard to understand a teacher who can rattle off the names in perfect Sanskrit.)
- Take care of yourself
It’s really important you take care of yourself in all of this. So don’t feel pressured to do anything. Most instructors will strongly encourage you to try new poses, but they’ll never force you.
Finally, while you should be respectful to everyone, everyone should be respectful to you and each other as well.