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The Seven Deadly Sins … of the Yoga Studio

Most of us come to a yoga studio with increased focus, strength, and agility as our main objectives. We respect the instructor and fellow classmates by staying quiet and cognizant of the limited space. And then there are those few but memorable practitioners whose principal aims seem to be having loud conversations, ignoring the teacher’s instructions, and displaying parts of the body nobody but one’s special somebody should see. Also included in this group are the ones who eat a hearty, fibrous meal right before extending their bodies into complicated, air-releasing poses. They’re in a class all their own. (Or the rest of us wish they were, anyway.)

It’s possible that the offending parties don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong—and hey, maybe they’re not. It’s equally possible that I’ve been splashed one too many times by an overly enthusiastic peer’s sweat and have simply grown too nitpicky as a result. But I’m willing to bet that my fellow yoga fans are just as frustrated over these common yoga-studio faux pas.

Arriving late or leaving early.
Ideally, everyone would arrive to class ten to fifteen minutes beforehand so there’s enough time to align mats properly and hydrate as needed. In reality, people often arrive several minutes after class has started, interrupting everyone’s flow by trying to squeeze into already tight spaces. If you do come late, try to enter the studio as inconspicuously as possible.

But even more distracting than late arrivals are early departures. After the last pose of the session, the instructor usually suggests that students stay in resting pose (otherwise known as “corpse pose” or savasana) and meditate for a bit before leaving. Some practitioners interpret this as “Run for the door as fast and noisily as possible.” The final savasana is essential for mind and body revitalization. You need that time to decompress and breathe out any tension in your muscles. And even if you don’t, your classmates do, so give it a minute or two before making a quiet exit.

Forgetting to turn off cell phones, iPods, and other noisy accessories.
The teacher reminds all of us at the beginning of class to turn off or silence portable electronics. Even so, there’s almost always at least one cell phone that rings or MP3 player that starts playing, causing its owner to scramble over to her bag and desperately search for the culprit. And then she’s mortified for the rest of class, ruining what could’ve been a great session. Don’t be her.

Wearing clothes that reveal too much.
This is more of a problem in Bikram yoga classes, where temperatures reach triple digits and people don’t like to wear much more than underwear. But I’ve also seen skimpy attire in regular classes, too, and there’s no excuse in that case. You know what I’m talking about: women going braless under thin T-shirts and men wearing short, baggy shorts that show off the “full monty” in certain asanas. How can anyone concentrate with that on display?

Not paying attention to the teacher.
Occasionally the advanced students, who are usually near the front, attempt more difficult poses and follow their own flows. While it’s great that they want to further their practice, doing that messes up the people behind them and can be insulting to the teacher. Those who need to deviate that much from instruction should probably just practice on their own.

Checking email or chatting loudly with a friend during class is disrespectful as well. The yoga studio is one of the few places in this crazy world in which we’re encouraged to focus solely on ourselves and our well-being. It’s not for getting caught up on work or talking about the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars.

Being stinky.
This can go one of two ways: either you haven’t showered or washed your mat and towel beforehand and you reek of BO, or you’ve doused yourself with half a bottle of cologne or perfume. In a small, crowded, increasingly hot room, these two scenarios are equally offensive. Be mindful of how you smell before entering the studio.

Glaring at others who get too close.
Studio spaces are crowded, which means mats are often closer together than we’d like. That makes it hard to do certain movements, and likely that you’ll accidentally brush someone with (or get brushed by) a hand or foot. Sometimes that’s just part of working out in a popular studio. Sighing heavily or rolling your eyes while making room for someone else doesn’t help matters. However, if that person constantly invades your mat territory and gets close enough to sweat on you, politely asking for space is totally reasonable.

Making your frustration known to all.
Yoga is an individual practice, but when it’s done among a group of people, you can’t help but feel affected by other people’s positive—and negative—energy. When someone grunts loudly, stumbles out of a pose, and punches the mat in anger, or looks discouraged and exhausted in the mirror, it can bring everyone down. My yoga teacher always tells us to smile during particularly tough poses, just to remind us that we’re doing something wonderful for ourselves. If you feel yourself giving off negative energy in an obvious way, try smiling just a little.

We’re all guilty of some of these offenses from time to time. (I got to my last Bikram class late; sorry, classmates!) Nobody’s perfect, which is why we should remind ourselves of etiquette tips like these. Because in a sweltering, bordering-on-claustrophobic yoga studio, even the gentlest of yogis and yoginis might just flip and try to twist your body into even more painful poses after class ends. Namaste.


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