by: Michelle Fondin
A space that normally caters to quiet time and personal reflection, now also acts as a social venue. While it’s nice to have a community space for practitioners to gather, there are some best practices that can help maintain a sacred atmosphere that caters to your personal practice.
1. Dress Appropriately
As the popularity of yoga has increased, so have the clothing options—some brands focusing more on fashion than function. While some yoga clothing is fun, it may not be practical or appropriate for class. The low-rise yoga pants may be adorable in the store but pay attention to how they’ll feel in child’s pose, down dog, or while doing inversions. Test your yoga clothes at home with a mirror and make sure they are as functional as they are fashionable.
2. Show Up on Time
Yoga is a time to honor your mind, body, soul, and spirit. It’s the one time in the day or week where you can let the demands of everyday life fall away while you get lost in practice. Don’t shortchange yourself by showing up late. Out of respect for your instructor and your fellow students, arrive on time or a few minutes early. The same rule applies to leaving class early. Unless if you have an emergency, stay until the end of class. Savasana or relaxation at the end is, after all, the best part of yoga.
3. Mind Your Scent
While yoga is about being your authentic self, your au natural scent may not be welcome in a crowded yoga room. For the sake of your fellow practitioners, please wear deodorant and/or antiperspirant. On the flip side, also be aware of wearing strong perfume. Many people are sensitive to or may be allergic to certain scents.
4. Share the Space
While yoga is a very personal practice, it’s also a group activity. Make room for your fellow yogis and move over your mat if a student needs a spot, and show compassion if someone comes in late. If someone else disrupts the class, use it as an opportunity to practice staying centered in the midst of commotion.
5. Go for the Right Reasons
Yoga classes can be a great place to make new friends and meet new people, but that shouldn’t be your primary reason for going. If you stay rooted in your practice and find the peacefulness within, authentic relationships will follow.
6. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Everyone comes into yoga practice at a different level and each person progresses at his or her own pace. You might never achieve a full lotus but can do a perfect boat pose. Your neighbor might be able to balance in crane but can’t do boat. Try to steer clear of comparisons or judgments—of yourself and other. If you need help turning your attention inward, try closing your eyes.
7. Spread Good Karma
Help keep the yoga studio tidy by performing selfless acts before and after class. You might clean up the yoga props, smile at the new student or give him words of encouragement, or ask your instructor if she needs help setting up. Make sure your belongings are in a locker or cubby space so someone else has space to set out their mat. Believe it or not, all of these kind gestures can help you advance in your practice.
8. Let Your Body Completely Relax
Believe it or not, releasing a little wind is completely normal in yoga. In fact, there’s a pose called “the wind-relieving pose.” Yoga poses are designed to keep every part of your body healthy and vibrant. So if you pass a little gas from time to time, there’s no need to be embarrassed. If it happens, just move on with your practice. It’s not as if it’s never been done before.
9. Leave Your Cell Phone Outside the Room
You can’t truly devote yourself to practice if you have texts, tweets, and Facebook comments popping up on your screen. Think back to the days before cell phones and go old school. If you want your spouse or children to be able to reach you in case of emergency, give them the number of the studio where you will be.
10. Keep an Open Mind
Every yogi has a favorite teacher. You might be used to the way she conducts class or maybe you like his soothing voice. But don’t close yourself off to new or substitute teachers. A yoga practice is about expanding your mind and increasing your awareness. Even if you’re disappointed when you don’t see your favorite teacher, keep an open mind and heart. Tell yourself you will learn at least one thing from this new teacher. You may find that, at the end of the class, you have learned much more.
Michelle is a contributor for the Chopra Center. She is a Vedic Master, certified to teach Primordial Sound Meditation, Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, and Perfect Health: Ayurvedic Lifestyle. She is the owner of The Ayurvedic Path in Herndon, Virgina, where she practices as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor and yoga and meditation teacher. She also authored The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda: An Easy Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle.
Michelle is a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, The Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America, and the Yoga Alliance.