Years ago I remember reading an online article on Yoga Journal about yoga etiquette. On their Facebook page they promoted the article and asked people what annoyed them most in yoga class and the result was hundreds of people whinging about a variety of things. For example, I don’t like it when people sweat too much, I hate it when women wear too much perfume, I get annoyed when people breath too heavily…and so on. When I read the comments I had the overwhelming urge to add to the discussion. My pennies worth was along the lines of ‘aren’t we all practicing yoga? and isn’t part of yoga acceptance and compassion. We should really be more concerned with our reactions to these minor annoyances rather than criticising our fellow yogis’ Or something like that. To be honest I was kinda disgusted with the tirade of whinging and abuse from the yoga community. Live and let live people!
I have to say there isn’t much that bothers me in a yoga class. The grunters, the sweaters, the heavy breathers, the heavy footed, the owner of that phone that vibrates in savasana, the latecomers, the fidget bums, that person who does there own practice while I’m teaching something totally different…you are all welcome to share the space with me. I love your quirks, you crazy bunch.
But recently I got to discussing yoga etiquette with my partner, Buttons. Buttons is fairly new to yoga, he has practiced on and off for the last few years but he has a stiff and damaged body from years of football and although he loves it once he gets to class, his willpower doesn’t always drive him to the mat as much as he (read ‘I’) would like. However, we have started going to a hot yoga class together every Thursday as a bit of a healthy date night. We both feel good for it, the hot yoga suits him as he feels he gets a work out and his stiff body can move a little more freely and then we get takeaway on the way home to undo all our good work. It’s great.
I love sharing the mat next to Buttons. He sweats, he laughs, he groans, he gives everything his absolute best shot but doesn’t care if he falls or fails. He whispers little jokes at me during class which constantly entertain me. I look forward to Thursday as soon as we hit Friday.
What I also enjoy about this time is Button’s fresh perspective on everything yoga. He has no conditioning, judgements or preconceptions. He tells it like it is. So when we were driving home last week and he says to me ‘isn’t it ironic that everyone runs to grab the mat cleaning stuff after class but in doing so they all trampled my mat while I was at the other end of it trying to roll it up’. We laughed because it had been a funny sight. Buttons had been on his knees trying to pack up his mat and around half a dozen people were stood on the other end of it reaching for the spray bottles. A slight lack of consideration there hot yogis.
So what is good yoga etiquette? Everyone would have their opinion on this I’m sure and I’d love to hear yours in the comments but here’s my reflections.
Yoga is for everyone. So come all and share the space, share the teachings and share the fun. You can’t help it if you sweat, breath heavily or grunt now and then. You can’t help it if you get the giggles, forget to turn your phone off now and then or fall asleep and snore in savasana. But here’s what you can help. Look around the room, see the other 20 people on their mats? These are your comrades for the next 60 minutes, this is your posse. So treat them such. Don’t trample their mats to get a spray bottle, smile if you make eye contact, be welcoming to that girl that looks shit scared as she walks into a slightly intimidating room of glistening bodies making crazy shapes, move your mat in a crowded room when you see that guy standing, mat in hand, in the middle of the room desperately seeking a spot (and don’t pretend to sit meditating with your eyes closed to avoid moving, I know your game) and above all check yourself. If you start to get cranky with the other people in the room, get yourself together, come back to your own mat and ask yourself what’s really bothering you. Don’t take it out on us poor unsuspecting sweaters and groaners.
As my great friend Susan Stone would say…and OMmmmmmmmm