As a yoga practitioner and teacher I am constantly amazed at the behaviors I have witnessed in yoga classes. The actions and attitudes that a student brings with them can have a profound effect on the overall vibe of a class. Disrespectful behavior can throw off a teacher’s focus, as well as shift the energy and safety of a yoga class. To make sure you are not negatively affecting your yoga class, follow a few simple reminders.
Bringing your cell phone into class
There are always extenuating circumstances and emergency situations that cannot be controlled, but as a rule, unless pre-approved by the teacher, cell phones should not be brought into a yoga class. Unless you’re on call for work (i.e. a nurse) and need to have your cell phone nearby, leave your cell phone outside of the room. Even if they are on silent, cell phones tend to bring a distractive element to any class. Not only will your yoga experience be better, it will also help others around you to relax more deeply into the practice and be more present.
Making fun of other people
We all come to yoga for different reasons, but I’m pretty sure that none of us come to be ridiculed or laughed at. Yoga is about inclusion, self-acceptance/love, and meeting ourselves where we are, not about judgement or comparison. As a teacher and student I have been thrilled to teach and practice alongside people of all ages and sizes. I love it when my classes are diverse, because for me, providing a welcoming and open space is what it’s all about. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed judgement and ridicule from one student to another. Usually this has occurred in slightly more “advanced” poses, such as Ardha Shirshasana (Headstand) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon). Ego can arise in any pose, but it is important to remember that the physical aspect of yoga is only part of the experience. Let go of judgement in all its forms, and welcome everyone’s experiences as worthy.
Contradicting or ignoring the teacher
It’s always a great idea to incorporate modifications and props into a pose as needed, but when someone completely ignores a teacher’s direction and/or does another pose entirely, it can really alter the flow of energy in a class. If the teacher is presenting a pose that you find boring or challenging, use this as an opportunity to go a bit deeper and explore the underlying subtleties. Try leaning in to the pose, rather than pushing it away.
Talking once class has started
It’s fine to chat quietly before class, as people are still entering the room and setting out their mats, but once the teacher has taken their place and begun talking, that is your cue to settle in and give them the floor. Sometimes there are informal moments when everyone is trying out a new pose, and in those situations it is fine to laugh and talk a bit, but for the most part it is a sign of respect to the teacher and your fellow students to keep talking to an absolute minimum.
Leaving during Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
There are many benefits to Shavasana (and not just that your teacher may give you some great adjustments) and by leaving class early students deny themselves a wonderful opportunity for deep relaxation and rejuvenation. Of course we all know that sometimes life events are out of our control, but staying until the completion of class really does solidify the commitment you made to yourself to show up and be present for the duration of a class. So next time you’re considering leaving early, take a breath and ask yourself, can I give myself ten minutes of relaxation?
What are some of the behaviors or challenges that you have faced in a yoga class? Are there solutions that you have found helpful in dealing with problems such as these?