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Yoga Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts When Attending A Yoga Class

by Elaine Clara Mah

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Over the past week, I witnessed an influx of students at my teacher’s yoga classes. It was a lovely sight to see so many people from all walks of life being drawn to practice yoga. These newcomers, I happily noted, came back day after day to class, motivated and pumped to learn more.

A surge of newcomers also brought in a myriad of new characters and quirks. Some students on my right spent the entire class chatting about their day. Others behind me had their phones ringing incessantly. The person to my left constantly dripped sweat on my mat.

Firstly, it is important for me to stress that there are no strict rules in yoga. It is not an elitist practice meant only for the enlightened and flexible. It is not a closed group with a need for a membership to enter. Yoga is for everyone. It is non-discriminatory and always welcoming. But when practicing in a class setting, there are certain unspoken etiquettes that need to be observed, or at the very least, respected. Here are the 5 most important ones:


Turn off your phones

I was holding a variation of Visvamitrasana when the phone rang. The loud ringtone jerked me out of my focus and, as a result, had me wobbling and struggling to regain balance. Yoga is a practice of concentration and focus. When you’re deep in it, you are extremely focused on your breath or your asana. Rude awakenings such as the phone ringing may cause you to lose focus and fall out of your pose. In a class setting, ringing phones may cause disturbances to not only the practitioner, but also the teacher who is trying to guide their students.

To avoid disrupting a class, keep your phone on silent mode or turn it off. If you are waiting for an important call, set an automatic message to let the caller know that you will get back to them later. Think of your yoga class as an hour to detox from technology. Be fully present in what you are doing instead of constantly thinking about who might be calling.


Keep Chatter to A Minimum

Catching up or getting to know your classmates before class is a great way to socialize and be more comfortable especially if the class is your first. However, do try to refrain from talking unless absolutely necessary, when the class in ongoing. Remember that yoga is not a competition. Nor is it a team sport. Yoga is an individual practice that is between you, your mind and your mat. There is no need to engage in conversation with your fellow classmates. By chatting, you will only disrupt the flow of the class. Our monkey mind is difficult to quiet as it is. Let’s not add external noise to the challenge.

If you have a question about the class, deliberate first on whether it is a question that can wait until after class or not. If not, approach the teacher and ask in a softer voice. If your question can wait, ask it after class, as this is when teachers generally allocate time for questions from students.


Bring A Towel

I had the unfortunate experience of standing next to a yogi who sweat profusely, and had his sweat drip onto my mat and me on numerous occasions. Needless to say, it was not an enjoyable class for me.

Whether or not you tend to sweat during physical exercise, a towel by your side during yoga may come in handy. The size constraints in a yoga class may mean that sometimes you may a little too close for comfort to your neighbor. Be respectful to your neighbor by always ensuring that your personal hygiene is well taken care of. Other than wiping your sweat off or keeping yourself clean, a towel can also act as a yoga prop in place of a belt, so it really is a handy item to have!


Know Your Limits

In the numerous classes that I’ve attended, both as a student and as a teacher, there are always practitioners who attempt poses that they are not ready for. This often ends in them falling or injuring themselves in ways that could have been avoided in the first place. I too, have injured myself attempting Mayurasana, a pose I had not mastered at the time, falling flat on my face. It was a lesson to remember for me and I stopped pushing my limits ever since. 

Always work within your limits. Honor your body and its capabilities while respecting its limitations. Yoga is about progress. Not fast results. It is not about successfully kicking your legs up into a headstand, because in one way or another, everyone can do that. The challenge lies in leaving your ego at the door and knowing when to stop pushing.


Don’t Leave Before Savasana

There is a common misconception that Savasana is an optional part of a yoga class that many tend to leave before it. Contrary to popular belief, Savasana is not a post workout rest time. Savasana is an asana in and of itself and essential to revitalize the body and calm the mind.

I can’t stress enough the importance of Savasana. It soothes the nervous system, relaxes the body and stills the mind. Savasana is also the most difficult pose in yoga. As you lie flat on your back, Savasana requires you to focus wholly on your breath. Savasana is similar to meditation, and therefore reaps the same benefits. Ending your practice with Savasana means that you don’t leave your yoga class exhausted and worn out. Instead, you leave refreshed and rejuvenated.

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