Last week I attended a mandatory "Respectful Workplace" training session and one gentleman in the room boldly raised his hand after the introduction of the seminar and trainer and sarcastically asked, "Why are we doing this? Didn’t we all learn this in Kindergarden?" The trainer was very patient in her reply, "Yes, but sometimes we need a reminder and the idea or concept of "respect" has different meanings for different people in todays society." I confess, I had snickered and laughed when I saw I was required to go, but much to my surprise, this was a well conducted session.
Many of the items we discussed during the training apply to more than just a workplace - respect is applicable to every aspect of our lives, the groups we belong to, our families and our greater communities. I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss a bit of "yoga etiquette".
Attitude of Gratitude
I have been hearing this one for years and have always enjoyed it. Be thankful for the small and large things that come your way be they positive or negative. Be expressive and positive in words, acts, and feelings. Find contentment in all tasks.
Let the instructor know if you are new to class
Many classes are open sessions, which means there is usually a core group who comes regularly and then a spattering of people who come as schedules permit. This way you let the instructor know you are new to them and gives the instructor an opportunity to discuss the class with you.
Let the instructor know if you have any injuries
Even if you are a regular, the instructor doesn’t know what you are bringing to that days class. Maybe you fell over the weekend and strained a wrist. Perhaps you have a recurring injury that has manifested itself again. This way they know not to adjust you or can offer modifications that will assist you in your recovery.
Avoid stepping on other peoples mats
This seems an obvious thing, but it is surprising how many people walk willy-nilly over others mats. Your mat, be it your own or a borrowed one, is your sacred space for this session. Honor that space. If the room is especially crowded, try and walk the edges as best as possible.
Wipe down borrowed mats
If the studio offers mat wipes, wipe down your borrowed mat after your session. Doesn’t hurt to wipe it at the start either.
Let the instructor know if you need to leave early
It is disconcerting for the instructor to suddenly have a student roll up their mat an leave 15 minutes before class is finished. The instructor is left wondering, Did I offend? Did they hurt themselves? What happened? This way the student can leave without awkwardness and the instructor can facilitate final poses for that person.
Try to arrive on time
While work, family, and driving conditions do affect this, try to arrive on time. It is awkward when a person arrives late to a class who have already settled into pranayama and now the whole row must shift over disrupting the flow. If you are late, allow the instructor to help you find a space. It may not be where you want to sit, but they often see a spot that will offer the minimum amount of disturbance to the rest of the class.
Refrain from talking during class
It is distracting for the students and instructor when best friends are carrying on "coffee talk" or running commentary in the back corner. Please save friendly conversation for before or after class.
Some studios begin class with no talking to allow people to ground and center themselves before the session starts. If the roomful of people is quiet, honor that. If you are visiting a studio where people are quite chatty at the start of class, honor that too. Yoga is a community and for some talking before class strengthens that communal bond.
Stagger your mats
If you line up with the people around you, you will be swatting hands and limbs all through your session. If you alternate mats (one mat forward, one back, one forward) it gives everyone a bit of additional space to move freely. Plus by doing this ahead of time the whole row won’t have to adjust again at the start of class.
Let the instructor know immediately if an adjustment does not work for you OR if you DO NOT want to be adjusted
Everybody is different and has different personal space. A good instructor will stop and thank you for your feedback. This prevents injury and ill feelings on the students behalf and worry and anxiety on the instructors.
As with the list I was given during "Respectful Workplace Training", there are numerous others. I invite you to add comments about any positive experiences that you may have had or what you may consider to be respectful in a yoga session.