By Rachel Holmes
If a yoga teacher has taught classes for any length of time, he or she will have at least one story about a student who struggles with in-class etiquette. Fortunately, most practitioners have no problem catching on to the generally unspoken rules of a studio that other students' behavior makes apparent. On the other hand, it not uncommon to come across that one student who seems oblivious to the codes of conduct others are following.
So what are these unspoken rules? The following is a list of basic guidelines that teachers wish all of their students would abide by:
Follow the instructor's lead.
Some teachers prefer their students arrive focused and ready to meditate while others enjoy chitchatting with students. If the instructor actively facilitates a social environment, participate and get to know your fellow students. If, however, the teacher has set a quieter mood, pay attention and take advantage of that pre-class time to mentally prepare.
Turn off or put away technology.
To me, this is a no-brainer, but many students struggle with the idea of detaching themselves from their smart phones. To these students, I want to stress that one of the benefits yoga offers is the opportunity to unplug and tune out the external trappings of a busy life. This is very difficult to do with a phone next to your mat, constantly drawing your attention back to the outer world, and the even the most occasional text or email notification remains very distracting to those around you.
Be considerate of others.
Practitioners should think of others with regard to personal hygiene. One easy guideline is to avoid putting off strong smells. A student who follows this recommendation will be sure to wear a mild deodorant, even if that is not a normal part of the morning routine. He or she will also avoid wearing heavy cologne or strongly scented body lotions and will similarly be sure to brush teeth or use mouthwash if halitosis or the lunch menu might make bad breath a problem.
Avoid leaving before class is over.
I understand that some students simply do not value Shavasana or have to leave a class early, and that is just fine. However, it distracts those that do value this time of relaxation and meditation when students get up to leave as the class transitions to relaxation and meditation.
My question is: Why bother to come to class if all you want is asana practice. My feeling is go to a Pilates class and do the physical exercises. Meditation, relaxation and pranayama are part of Yogic methodology and if you don’t like it - go to Pilates. Yoga instructors, like me, feel disrespected by students who do not stay for the whole class. If you must leave for some reason, make arrangements in advance with the instructor and prepare your things so as to make the least noise as you depart.
Most yoga schools have a place to put shoes close to the entrance, and most yoga instructors prefer their students practice shoeless. Similarly, students should wear comfortable, breathable clothes, keeping in mind that some poses require movement or other forms of twists. Students should avoid clothing that may be too revealing during poses like these.