Asana Etiquette

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Readers, I want to be clear.  This is NOT a post to boss you around about a bunch of crazy rules on how to be a perfect yogi.  But I see a lot of new students walk into studio every day.  Brand new folks who show great courage into walking into this foreign situation which has a lot of distinctive culture surrounding it.  (I didn’t say CULT people ;)).  And a little knowledge can go a long way in making us feel more comfortable in a new place.  So here below, presented for your consideration, my thoughts on what first-time students, or even experienced yogis, might keep in mind when coming to a yoga studio.

1.            Arrival.  It serves YOU best to arrive at least 15 minutes early to any class.  You will almost always need to check in, often fill out paperwork as a new student, change your clothes, put your stuff away, use the restroom and then get inside the room.  When you don’t know where the locker room is or whether you need to rent a towel, this process can take a little time.  Teachers will end their classes on time as a courtesy to the students.  We recognize that your time is valuable and that we have made a commitment to you.  Teachers will start the class on time- if they can.  But if there is a line of 10 people at the door one minute before class begins, your practice is probably going to be a few minutes shy.  Plus, you owe it to yourself!  You are about to do something so good for you!  The mind tends to lag a little behind the body in arrival.  So get yourself to the space physically and give yourself a few minutes to arrive mentally as well.

2.            Stuff and Stuff.  Check in with the front desk first to make sure you get a spot inside the room.  Look around for a place near the front door to kick off your shoes.  Bring your own lock in case they are not available for rent if you want to ensure the safety of your valuables.  Typically cell phones and bags are not allowed inside the room, or at least not near your mat, as they only serve as tempting distractions from your practice.

3.            Inside the Room.  As mentioned above, bring yourself, your mat, your water, and maybe a towel.  That way the practice can really focus on you.  Also, keep in mind that studio space is usually considered a quiet if not silent space.  This is particularly important after class, as many yogis linger for a few minutes to meditate and enjoy some peace before running back out to the outside world.  During the class, definitely stay silent unless you are interacting with a teacher.  Talking to your friend about the heat or how hard the poses are means you are diverting energy from the class and the postures.  Debrief after class, absolutely.

4.            Stick with the Class.  It is important to commit to the class for the entire duration.  Even inside a hot room, which can feel particularly stressful for new students, choosing to stay helps maintain the focus for all the yogis who have chosen to practice together.  More importantly, staying inside a room helps keep YOU safe, particularly if your body is feeling overwhelmed.  If you are in the room, the teacher can interact with you, check in with you, and help you to stay calm.  We are here to help!  For how to manage yourself inside the room, see #5.  J

5.            Take a Break.  Any style of yoga will should accept you sitting still on your mat or even laying down on your back if you need a break.  Some practices may offer child’s pose where others prefer you to keep your head above your heart.  But if your body feels tired, your mind overwhelmed, or you have started to hold your breath- take a break!  This is your choice and always within your power during any yoga practice.  Part of yoga is learning how to listen to your body: you get to decide when to work hard and when to rest.

6.            Buy into the Yoga.  At least for that one hour, or even 90 minutes, commit to the exploration of this new style of yoga.  So many students walk into their first practice unsure of what to expect and feel overwhelmed halfway through.  But the way they feel in their final savasana is the big payoff.  If they had quit or given up, they would never have experienced that feeling that has made so many of us regular practitioners.  This is also a key idea for experienced yogis trying out a new studio or a new class.  There are tons of different variations on the practice of yoga, different schools of thought and different postures.  Listen to the postures being offered in this class, and try them out.  If you don’t like it, you never have to go back, and that’s always your choice.  But allow yourself to be open for the full length of the class before you pass judgment on it.  Don’t assume that you know better- it may just be a different, and equally valid, variation is being offered.

7.            Talk to Us!  Being a yoga teacher does not, in general, make you super famous or super rich.  We love yoga.  We love to talk about yoga, we love to do yoga, we love to help others love yoga too.  So after class, ask questions about the postures, talk to your teacher about experiences you had inside the room, discuss your favorite brand of mat spray.  You will find a beautiful, open community of people with big hearts who are more than happy to share their own experiences.

Any first time experiences you would care to share?  Thoughts about what other tips might be helpful for making first time students feel comfortable?

Be well.

*photo courtesy of cookedbooks.blogspot.com