Yoga Etiquette Questions, Answered

BY: Ashley Hamer |Jan 30, 2015
Yoga Etiquette Questions, Answered

There’s nothing quite like a yoga class for providing a physical, spiritual, and mental release at the end of a hard day. But the combination of a quiet atmosphere, close quarters, and challenging poses can be a recipe for social disaster.

To find out how to maintain the zen for yourself and your classmates, we talked to CorePower Yoga’s Ashley Kohler, who has been an experienced registered yoga teacher for more than 10 years.

Do I have to complete every pose?

Absolutely not. In fact, if you think any pose might be too challenging, it’s best to switch it out for something you know you can do. “Always know your practice level and be OK with dialing it back when you need to,” Ashley said. “It’s OK to take breaks, to take child’s pose, to just lie on your back and rest. You don’t have to compete with the person next to you.”

Then again, if you attempt a pose and fail, that’s all right, too. “Try to keep an upbeat vibe instead of having this super-serious, staring-in-the-mirror mindset. You know, like ‘I can’t fall out of this posture,’” she said. “Just let it happen and have fun with it.”

If I bring a friend, can we chat during class?

“For new students, we usually say [talking to others] is great, especially because it’s a community,” Ashley said. “But we want to keep the studio a peaceful, zen-like atmosphere. It might be the only quiet time somebody has in their entire day.”

If you really need to talk, keep it to a whisper. However, it’s best to consider the studio a no-talking zone.

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How often should I clean my mat?

Regularly, please. Luckily, most studios make this easy by having a mat spray or other tools available for wiping down mats. There are also products out there that make the cleanup process easier: “Some people are really into Yogitoes, the towels the size of a mat,” Ashley said. “[They] absorb the sweat almost like a huge body towel.”

If you’re taking hot yoga, you should take extra care to mop up the sweat that can pool around the mat by the end of class. At CorePower, cleaners come in between classes to wipe down the floor, but it’s still unpleasant to step in a sweat puddle as you leave.

“Sometimes we have to [tell people that] … if there’s anything around you, any puddles, please wipe them up,” Ashley said.

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What if I need to take a break? Can I step out during class?

If class gets too intense and you need a breather, Ashley advised slowing things down rather than walking out of the room. “That’s just a big distraction for the instructor and the students,” she said.

That also applies to leaving early. The final portion of most yoga classes is reserved for savasana, a period of relaxation and contemplation. It can be hard to relax when the person next to you is gathering their belongings. “That’s a big one,” Ashley said. “People always get up and walk out before savasana and you’re like, ‘Oh, thanks for disrupting the zen.’”

What if I don’t have fancy designer yoga attire? Can I just wear a T-shirt and shorts?

Proper yoga attire is less about fashion and more about function. “You want things that are tight-fitting and not necessarily loose, because you’ll go into down dog and the T-shirt will fall down and hit you in the head,” Ashley said. Make sure whatever you wear is breathable, even if it’s not a heated class.

You should also leave accessories in your bag. “It’s nice to remove the jewelry. Some people wear bangles on their wrists, and they’ll be moving their hands around and they’ll be clacking like crazy. That’s another distraction, for sure,” she said.

OK, we’re all friends here: if I fart, is it better to just let it slide or apologize and risk calling undue attention to myself?

“If it was super loud and they’re next to their neighbor … I would want that person to say ‘Hey, sorry this happened.’ Obviously you don’t want someone yelling out in class ‘I just exploded, sorry!’” said Ashley, laughing. “It does happen sometimes, so you just kind of roll with it.”

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