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Yoga Studio Etiquette: What to Do and What Not to Do in the New Year

January is upon us and it's going to be crazy. It should be nicknamed "Health & Wellness Month" as people tend to start the new year strong on their resolutions to get in shape, lose weight, build muscle, or find habits to help them deal with stress. All of these are reasons why people try yoga asana, otherwise known as Western Yoga.

Many new students will read every page of the studio's website to prepare, while others will call and ask a million questions (all typically found on the website). Some will do neither of these and just wing it, while others will ask a friend. What this leads to is pandemonium because the truth is, many "old-timers" are doing it wrong, too!

In my eight years teaching experience, I have found that there are two main reasons why yoga students disrupt yoga classes:

  1. They don't know that their habits are disruptive. Maybe they started practicing at home on YouTube or their first class was in a gym where the culture is different. Maybe because it's "Western Yoga", they don't think it matters. Also, perhaps they didn't know and did it once, and then the studio failed to help them see it differently. (Jump to the end if you're a studio owner and you are ready to fix this.)

  2. They don't care that their habits are disruptive. I cringe to think that this is true, but this is true. We are leaving in a society of "Me First" and some people only think about themselves when they go to class.

It's not too late to change your behaviors, however! Let's set a resolution to do better in the new year so that everyone can enjoy the yoga class as much as you do.

The following Do's & Don'ts are for new students and regular practitioners alike. If you know someone who checks off a lot of the "Don'ts", share this blog with them!

6 Rules of Etiquette to Follow at a Yoga Studio:

1.Arrive early for class by at least 15 minutes. If it is your first time practicing at this studio, you didn't sign up online, or you have questions, arrive 30 minutes early, before the rush. This will give you 1:1 attention with the studio staff, taking the pressure off of them and off of you. You don't want to be the reason why the class didn't start on time.

2. Bring your own mat, towel, and water bottle. Yes, sometimes you can borrow or rent these things from a studio, and yes, sometimes we forget, or we are traveling away from home without our mats. I'm talking about the majority of the time. Why?

Due to the pandemic, many studios changed their policies on sharing equipment in order to keep everyone safe. If you wait to borrow a mat, and you are forced to buy, you will spend about 2000% more on a cheap mat that you could've bought for $5 from Five Below. You can thank me later for the heads up.

3. Enter the studio quietly, like it's a library. Unroll your mat quietly, and set up quietly. Some students enjoy the peace of a quiet studio. If you visit with friends, speak quietly. Are you seeing the pattern here?

4. Stay for the whole class. Savasana is part of the class. Yes, we know, sometimes you don't want to sit with your thoughts for 3-5 minutes. That's why you are doing yoga! It's not going to kill you. In fact, if you can't sit still for that long, you need it more than anyone else in the room!

5. Leave a good review on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Mindbody...wherever you can! If you don't feel like you can leave a good review, discuss it with management before leaving a nasty one. Despite popular belief, yoga studios are not huge money-making enterprises. Many studio owners are still recovering from forced closures during the pandemic. Your review helps them grow their business. Be kind. After all, that's why you're practicing yoga --to practice kindness to yourself, to others, and to the planet. Take the extra step to leave the 5-star review.

6. This should go without saying, but it must be said --shower before class when possible and wash your yoga clothes regularly especially when you practice hot yoga! If you had a heavy night of drinking the night before or ate a ton of garlic, this is even more important. Yoga clothes do have an expiration date. If you are not sure if yours smell, ask a friend. If no one practices next to you, your clothes are likely the culprit. There's no nice way to tell someone they smell. One of the principles of yoga is saucha or purity, sometimes called cleanliness. Heed this principle!

7 Things to Never Do at a Yoga Studio:

  1. Never arrive late to a 6 am class. There are rarely staff working that early, which means that the yoga teacher has to wait for you to arrive to start her class. Which means she's probably going to run over at the end. Which means that everyone is going to be late to work because you didn't set your alarm early enough. If you are not going to make it on time, skip that day.

  2. Never slam your mat when you enter the studio, particularly when you enter late. Take the extra 10 seconds to roll it out quietly. It's just rude to be noisy when everyone else is chill. Don't be a bull in a china shop.

  3. Never bring your phone into the studio. There's typically a place to leave it outside of the inner sanctum. If you have a pressing need, such as you are on call for work or your wife might go into labor, then ask permission to bring it in and set your mat up in an inconspicuous spot so not everyone will see you checking your phone.

4. Never step on someone else's mat while you are moving around the studio. No one wants your smelly feet where their face will go. Also, please do not wear your shoes inside a studio. This is another way to look at saucha. We like to keep the outside world outside.

5. Never set up your mat in a misaligned way (unless the teacher tells you to). Typically, we keep everyone in rows so that no one gets kicked in the face during certain postures!

"Just because no one addressed this with you at the studio, don't think that is a free pass to do whatever you want. It's not."

6. Never have your own practice in the front of a fully packed room. I know this one will come across as "Hey, wait a minute!" from other yoga teachers. But hear me out. When you are noisily kicking up to a handstand while the entire class is in child's pose, why did you even come to class? If you want to practice your own class, do it on your own. Alone. Or at the very least, at the back of the room. It is distracting to the teacher and the other students. Now, this is not to say that you can't add in a handstand from a standing split if it moves you, or take an extended savasana while the class is still in Warrior II. It's less distracting for a singular student to do less than the rest of the class, quietly, than it is for that student to do more, noisily. In either case, however, it's still better to set up your mat in a space where you won't be the center of attention, which can confuse beginners.

7. Never arrive late and leave early in the same class, every single time you come to class. You know who you are. If this is your M.O., just stop. Now. This is rude, rude, rude. It disrespects everyone in the class. Just because no one addressed this with you at the studio, don't think that is a free pass to do whatever you want. It's not. I polled dozens of yoga teachers and students for this blog and "leaving early" was their number one pet peeve. I'm not talking about once in awhile. I'm talking about the repeat offenders. I used to be one before I started teaching full time, so I feel like I can tell you honestly - DO NOT DO THIS.

If you do have to leave early once in a blue moon, or maybe you like the 6 am, but you have to be at work by 8 so you must leave by 6:45 to make it on time, set your mat up near the door. When you leave, leave quietly. Do not start a loud conversation or take a phone call just outside the door. It depends on the studio, of course, but chances are, everyone can hear you being disruptive.

Correcting Bad Habits

When you know better, do better. I've been the culprit on all of the items from the Don't list at one time or another, so I promise you, you can change these habits!

If you are a studio owner, it may be on you to help guide your students to make better choices in the future. I know a lot of bad behaviors went unchecked in the last two years, as most business owners didn't want to potentially lose a client when times were tough. Maybe you, like so many of us, have been trying to support everyone's mental and emotional health by offering some more leeway on yoga studio policies. If things have gotten out of control at your studio, as a result, here are the steps you can take to get back on track.

  1. Set a new policy to not allow anyone into class after a certain number of minutes late. No more than 5 minutes is best. Then, never break this policy. Do not give special favors to friends, family, or your best clients. Everyone must follow the same rules!

  2. Send out an email to your entire customer base informing them of any new policies and existing policies. Send this email quarterly so new students are aware of the policies. Put up signs in your studio reinforcing any changes.

  3. Address issues as soon as they happen, preferably face-to-face, in the kindest, firmest way possible. If you have a few students who always break all of the rules, you may need to put it in writing. You may also need to get okay with losing the relationship. Your other students shouldn't have to suffer because Mary Jane cannot get her shit together.

I had a teacher put her foot down with me. I had driven 45 minutes to take her class and paid tolls to get there, but I was late and it was the third time. I texted her to say I was going to be late, and she said, "Angelique, I love you, but if you are not here within 5 minutes of class starting, the door will be locked." I didn't make it and I wasn't mad. I understood that she couldn't keep making exceptions for me. I also was never late to her class again.

Now, having said that, I am of the particular belief that if you are running late for a yoga class, you probably need a yoga class more than anyone else in the world at that moment. Every once in awhile, things can slide. Maybe you institute an unwritten policy among your staff that every student gets a few freebies, and you only address chronic rule-breaking. Just know that it is harder to break bad habits once everyone is doing it and getting away with it!

Part of running an excellent yoga studio is following tapas, self-discipline and self-restraint. Let's commit to following the yamas and niyamas in our business and in our yoga community, for the good of all!

Yoga is for everyone

Part of our yoga practice is practicing acceptance. As a yoga teacher, I do my best to accept that everyone is in a different place when they come to their mat, and hold space for each of you equally.

As a yoga student, I hope that you will do your best to accept that the policies at your yoga studio are in place to provide a safe space for everyone to enjoy equally. Make any changes you need to make going forward, and enjoy the process! Yoga asana is practiced with steadiness and ease. Without the effort for something more and the joy for what is, is it even yoga?

Share with me in the comments your biggest pet peeves in the yoga studio, as well as things you love that are being done super well! We can all learn from each other.



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