Yoga is (or should be!) a tolerant world where diversity is celebrated, and your practice on the mat is tailored to your needs and capacity on the day. But while the eight arms of yoga are embracing, here are some basic yoga etiquette tips that will ensure that you keep a sattvic vibe when you hit the mat.
Yoga teachers and teachers in general in India are revered. Its an ancient tradition and those that carry the lineages are treated with respect. In western cultures, this can be lost in the hustle and bustle of getting your space sorted out before class starts. When you settle onto the mat, face your head, not your feet towards the instructor. In India the feet are considered a largely undesirable part of the body, and deeply disrespectful to point at the teacher.
While you are getting ready to start your class, lying or sitting on the mat, this is a time when the art of mouna or noble silence can be practiced. Preparation for your asana and pranayama is a time for reflection and setting a sankalpa or intention for the day, not chatting about your weekend, your epic hangover or your tedious coworkers. The distractions of the outside world will be waiting like a pack of hungry wolves to entertain you, and holding the pre yoga space for yourself and others is a gift to everyone.
Likewise, technology doesn’t need to come to class. Using yoga as a time to be cut off from the demands of technology and the anxiety of needing to be online all the time is part of letting go of attachment and connecting to a different type of channel for enlightenment. Phone on silent or left in the change room will mean you won’t be tempted to reach for it in the middle of eka pada rajakapotasana to see what people are having for dinner.
With summer and hot yoga classes, sweat often becomes a training partner on the floor. It’s fair to say that some gentleman yogi’s do have their sweat on when the class gets going and a towel nearby the mat for a quick dab between poses can assist to not shower your classmates when you pull off your best ever vibradhasana III.
While we are on bodily functions, there are always those poses that aid digestion and help to get everything moving in the morning. There is even a pose dedicated to releasing wind called Pawanmuktasana. It’s always better out than in, but have some consideration for your fellow travellers in the room, and if you are feeling like the night before’s dhal might be making an appearance, angle yourself towards the rear of the room if possible, or take some charcoal tablets.
Practicing some yoga etiquette is about caring for others in the space, and setting up an environment that gives everyone the best practice. Abiding by these elements also doesn’t require you to be the enforcer in the class, rather it asks you to model excellence in your own behaviour and hope that everyone will be the change you want them to be.