A few general guidelines for on-the-mat etiquette. Please pardon the glittering obviousnesses—you’d be surprised how many people don’t think these are, in fact, obvious. So on behalf of the rest of us…
1 & 2: Arrive on time and don’t leave early.
Arriving: If you absolutely can’t be on time, be as polite as humanly possible when tiptoeing into the class a few minutes late. Catch your teacher’s eye and gesture/ask if it’s OK. If your class starts with a meditation, sit down immediately and wait until the meditation is complete, THEN set up your mat.
Departing: It’s disruptive to the rest of the class if, as they melt into a delicious, restful savasana, tired but satisfied after practicing, slowly thoughts still and bodies unwind…and then: Crash! You drop your water bottle. Jangle! You shuffle your keys. Ssssshhhhhllllpppp! You peel your mat up. Thump, thump, thump! You walk across the floor. Crrrreeeeaaaakkkk! You open the door. SLAM! It closes behind you. (Ditto on this as students come in late). How often does this happen in class? Too much.
If you absolutely must leave early, alert the teacher ahead of time. If you want to be really awesome, ask her if it’s OK to leave early. Some studios/teachers do not allow this except in the case of injury or emergency. If you’re sneaking out for food/coffee/a hot date, there is no need to lead her to believe that you are injured/having a heart attack/freaking out. She WILL wonder and worry, so just try to be as cool and considerate as possible, OK?
3. Don’t plop your mat on top of someone else’s.
Personal space, people. We all know that classes can get crowded. However, if others have taken the time and care to be early and stake out their favorite spot, don’t be the jerk who plops down on top of them. Think about how you’d feel about that.
4. Clean up after yourself.
Mom was right on this one. Similar to above, live your yoga by putting your mat/props/stainless steel water bottle away. Guess what? Yo mama doesn’t live here and nobody wants to do her work for you.
5. If someone has no space/props, be generous.
Ever heard the expression, “Live Your Yoga”? Yeah, it means don’t come to class and bang out your practice and then mow over a little old lady, a dog, and a kid on the way home. Similarly, if one of your fellow yogis is looking for a place to plop their mat, be the person you’d want them to be: move your mat over and make room. That’s an example of living your yoga.
6. If you are a moaner, don’t make eye contact with others as you do.
It scares the other students. If you are a hairy male moaner, this goes double for you.
7. If you are a sweat-er/excess sweat-er, don’t sweat on your neighbors.
Yes, this has happened to me. Yes, I’ve recovered. Did I like it? No. Would you? Exactly. Keep your sweat to yourself.
8. Shower before you practice.
Or at least, shower on the same day. Or at the very least, the night before. At the risk of stating the obvious, nobody wants to smell you. My friend Jessica once told me that her favorite studio in Maine has signs that mandate showering. Wow. I never thought we’d have to regulate bathing, but apparently….
9. Say “thank you!”
You thank your barista. You thank the girl at the deli counter. You thank the cab driver.* So, why wouldn’t you thank the teacher who carefully watches, assists, coaches, encourages, and guides your practice? It takes so little and it means so much.
(*Or at least I hope you thank all these folks! If you don’t currently, time to get with the program!)
10. Do your best.
If you take the trouble to show up, take the trouble to try. This NEVER means working beyond your level, ability, or energy on any given day. This DOES mean tuning in to your body and giving it what it needs. It means really working your practice. And it means checking the entitled ‘tude at the door (you’re not doing me a favor by showing up), leaving your ego outside with your shoes (or better yet, at home), and simply being present on the mat. This means showing up and staying there, mentally and physically, for the duration of your practice. Listen, I give my students my very, very best effort, my most careful attention, and my highest level of care every single class. If I can do that for you, you can do that for you.