12 Rules You Should Memorize Before Taking a Yoga Class
No, yoga teachers are not judging you, but they may be less excited to see you if you're not following these basic guidelines.
Wear the right bottoms
All leggings and yoga pants are not created equal, so do a spot check before you hit class. “Just because pants are black does not mean they are opaque,” says Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga. “Some leggings are meant to be worn under dresses or tunics, but not for working out. You’re bending, squatting and doing all sort of less-than-flattering movements in yoga so be aware of what you’re showing the person on the mat behind you or the teacher.”
Also, baggy clothes can be an equal opportunity offender, shares Calli De La Haye of Kalimukti Yoga. “I want to see the pose and help you get the best from it, so I need to see your body, that super fashionable scarf isn’t for the yoga class,” she said.
(Psst: Here’s how to find the best leggings for your body and your needs.)
Show up on time—and clean
Nothing is more distracting than having someone come in ten minutes late and look for a mat while you’re just getting into the groove of teaching, says Karen Nourizadeh, yogi and meditation guru at Pure Yoga. “We want you to start with the group, warm up properly, and get the most out of your yoga,” she says. Also, please remember to shower, or, at the very least, apply deodorant before class. “When there are lots of bodies in the room sweating and moving to the same flow, things get stinky all on their own,” she said. “If the teacher notices body odour, I guarantee the person next to you definitely will.”
Don’t apply scents before class
That means no perfume, even essential oils like patchouli. “In a yoga class, mats are generally pretty close together and scent is easily detected,” shares Kristina Dau, a yoga instructor. “Rule of thumb is to try to not smell like anything, deodorant obviously is an exception, that is encouraged.” And, for the love of yoga, don’t smoke, cigarettes or anything else. “I have been in a class next to a person who wreaked of cigarettes and it totally threw off my practise.”
Stop worrying about how your feet look
“No need to be shy about your feet! I don’t care, and probably won’t even notice, if you’ve had a recent pedicure or not,” says Kat Heagberg of Yoga International. “If you catch me staring at your tootsies, it probably means I’m checking to make sure your knees and toes are pointing in the same direction, not to judge your foot-grooming habits.”
Being uncomfortable and being in pain are two different things
There is a huge difference between being uncomfortable in a pose and being in pain, says Danielle Diamond, mind/body wellness expert and founder of Xen Strength Yoga. “If you’re holding warrior two for ten breaths and your thigh is on fire, that is an uncomfortable feeling and you can learn to breathe through that,” she says. “However, if you’re in the same pose and you feel a stabbing pain in your knee, then that is pain, she says, adding that yoga is not a no pain, no gain sport. “Yoga’s main focus is to stop the fluctuations of the mind, so don’t ever let a teacher tell you to breathe through pain,” she says. (Here’s a 10-minute yoga sequence you can squeeze in every day.)
Teachers get insecure, too
Yoga teachers might project confidence, but at times, it’s all an act. “Sometimes I feel really good and powerful, and sometimes I feel insecure, weak, and judged,” says Lisa Hughes, who teaches at Breathe Yoga in Rochester, New York. “I can see when you feel this way, too. We have all felt at some point or another, and you are not alone in your feeling. I will hold space for you if you feel amazing or feel deflated.”
Go at your own pace
“When we say, ‘go at your own pace,’ we really mean it!” says Chelsea Xeron, a Kundalini Yoga and Meditation teacher based in Washington, DC. “There is no competition in yoga. The focus is solely on you.” She continues, “I have seen many students come from other styles of yoga and try to compete with other yogis in the class. They end up pushing themselves too hard and have to lie down on their mats for the rest of class. Never compete with another student! You will lose the greatest opportunity for self-growth if you do.”
Don’t disregard the teacher
There is a fine line between modifying your practise and going completely rogue at the front of the room. “It can be distracting to other students, the teachers, and beginners,” says Nourizadeh. If you want to do your own sequence, practise at home,” she says.” Be open to whatever your teacher is presenting that day—it might actually be something you like or never knew before.”
You may pass gas
In the middle of a downward-facing dog, you may pass gas, even when you didn’t know it was coming. But know that it’s normal and everyone does it; there’s no need to cry, laugh, or get mad. “We will just ignore it and continue on,” says Kate Hamm, owner of AnamBliss. “Everyone else is glad it wasn’t them, but they won’t judge.” If you need a minute to compose yourself, take a child’s pose or leave the room, she suggests. (Find out what to do if you can’t stop passing gas.)
Be social after class
No doubt about it, yoga can be an awesome place to meet someone special or your new BFF. “There are very few places you can count on being surrounded by so many like-minded people with shared values and lifestyles. Enjoy it!” says Amy Baglan, CEO and founder of the dedicated yoga community MeetMindful. “Just don’t tap on someone’s shoulder and ask her out to dinner as she’s coming out of savasana. Wait until the practise is completely over.”
Don’t leave class early
“If you leave class early, I often secretly wonder if I said something to offend you, or if you really didn’t like my class,” says Heagberg. Not to mention you risk disturbing other class members and miss out on the benefits of savasana.
Now that you know the rules for yoga class, check out the best yoga mats to purchase on Amazon.