I truly believe going to a yoga class is a unique experience all on its own. Like going to a hair salon, a certain type of experience is expected whether it’s getting pampered or blissfully doused in the aroma of sandalwood incense. However, there are certain behaviors that seem to sabotage our yoga experience and often these etiquettes are rarely mentioned at studios. I have list below top 5 that I believe happen most often.
1. Slapping the mat down
I understand it’s the beginning of class and we haven’t warmed up those hip flexors yet. However the impending loud slam from dropping the mat waist high to the floor is just uncalled for. Quite possibly this action disturbs those nearby who are meditating. Yoga doesn’t start with sun salutation, it's a continuously practice around the clock. We can increase our self-awareness by attending to our smallest acts. A mundane action like gently rolling the mat out, we can practice being engaged in the present moment. If it helps, here’s a twist on Legally Blonde’s famous mantra “bent & roll.”
2. Leave the tea outside
Not sure why but I see many practitioners bring their tea to the mat. Some are the dainty teacups from the studio but I’ve even seen venti size Starbucks cups before. First and foremost, depending on what type of yoga you’re doing, it could be hazardous to you and others having cups lying around. Lo and behold, if you’re falling out of a headstand, the last thing you want is a little porcelain cup digs right into your spinal cord. Secondly, unless you’re in extreme heat or feeling unwell, your 90-minute yoga practice does not require rehydration throughout. In fact, it’s discouraged in Ashtanga yoga to drink water as it extinguishes the internal heat you so arduously work for. Thirdly, the works of yoga reside in the continuous flow of breath and concentration, taking mini water breaks defeats the purpose. The best solution is to hydrate 30 minutes before class and replenish as soon as you’re done practicing!
3. Stinky Mat
How do you tell someone they have a stinky mat? Well, in most sophisticated contexts, we rarely do. Our yoga mat picks up not only our sweat but also the dust, debris and yes- human skin off the floor. Soon enough, the mat starts to smell like a forgotten block of blue cheese in our fridge. Interestingly sweat itself does not stink, what smells is the lack of thorough wipe down and drying afterwards. There’s no need to invest in fancy yoga mat spray. My personal mat cleaner recipe is mix water with white vinegar and tea tree oil. You can sub vinegar with witch hazel and tea tree with eucalyptus oil. To save time on drying the mat, leave the mat out after wipe down and go change or shower. By the time you’re done, the mat would be dry and ready to roll up again.
4. Chit chat
This might not be an unspoken etiquette but it’s good to remind ourselves again. My girlfriends and I like to do yoga and brunch on the weekend. Sometimes we don’t see each other for weeks so we have a lot to catch up on. However, as much as we have lots to cover from the new Narcos drama series to the latest gluten-free vegan bliss ball recipes, we can’t bring the chitchat onto the mat. There are many people whom the only piece of quietude they get is the hour-long yoga class at lunch. It is a violation of Asteya (non-stealing) when we take peace/silence away from others. Also, the practice of yoga starts the moment we get into the studio.
‘Yoga is the settling of the mind in silence. When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded Consciousness. Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind’- Patajnali.
5. Practice close together
Energetic formation plays a crucial role in a yoga class. When the room is too spread out, it’s hard to bring the energy up. I know that some of us may be shy to practice in the front. However, by purposely placing yourself in the corner leaving empty spots around, you’re actually brining down the collective energy as a whole. Also realize that no one is judging you and the only person looking at you is the teacher. Even then it’s to make sure you’re in the correct alignment. So shed the insecurities and help increases the group energy! Dharma Mittra likes to say ‘you gotta get close to feel the heat.’ By being near the teacher, you can also pick up on verbal/visual cues easier too!
To be fair, all of us at some point have done it unconsciously, so hoping after reading this, we can all be more mindful of our actions.