Yoga Etiquette

No stress. First and foremost yoga is non-competitive. This wonderful quality often attracts people from many levels to the same classroom. Nobody is watching or judging you. Progress is personal and more about being mindful than doing the best pose.

What to wear. When practicing yoga, comfortable, form-fitting clothes are best—something that allows free movement of all joints without being too baggy. You can shop for yoga clothes. But a pair of athletic shorts and a fitted tank top or t-shirt will do fine.

Fragrance free, please. Many people are allergic or sensitive to scents, so it's not appropriate to wear body lotions, deodorants or hair products with a fragrance while practicing yoga in a class setting.

To eat or not to eat? It is said that yoga is intended to be done on an empty stomach. That's why many people practice first thing in the morning. If you practice later in the day, be sure to allow at least two hours digestion time before class. Many yogis eventually move to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Stay hydrated. Hydration is critical to cleansing the body, so drink plenty of water throughout the day and after class. Room temperature water is best as it does not shock the digestive system with heat or cold. Most students bring a reusable water bottle to class and sip water as needed.

Picking a class. Because yoga is non-competitive, you can theoretically take any class and just do what you can. However, the most encouraging experience comes from taking a yoga level that allows you to expand your practice without feeling overwhelmed. Most studios provide a description of each class with the level of students it will best serve.

Yoga mats. Many studios provide yoga mats (and blankets, blocks, straps, etc.) for their students. However, people who practice regularly often purchase their own yoga mats for reasons of size/color preference and hygiene. It is important that you purchase an environment-friendly mat that does not off-gas toxic chemicals. Stay away from the common plastic yoga mats and select one of good-quality that will offer proper thickness, traction and longevity. Yoga mats can be washed as needed using hot, soapy water and hung-drying in a shady location.

Arrive early. We suggest arriving 10-15 minutes before each class. This allows time to relax a little and prepare. Many yogis use this pre-class time to stretch or settle the mind. The studio is a peaceful place, so talking should be kept to a minimum and only in low voices.

Leave 'em at the door. Yoga is practiced with bare feet and proper etiquette asks that you remove your shoes at the studio door. Most people arrive in sandals, which keep their feet clean yet can be easily slipped off for class. All cell phones, pagers, beeping watches, etc. should also be left outside the studio.

Get in touch. Proper alignment is vital to enhancing your yoga practice and will keep you safe from injuries. For this reason, teachers often touch students while helping to adjust their posture. The best reaction is to relax, concentrate and try to feel the correct alignment. Changes suggested by teachers can bring significant improvements but if you do not want any hands-on adjustments, no worries, simply tell the instructor and they will offer verbal advice.

Be present. Be patient. Keep your focus on your own mat and try not to be self-critical. Your body may feel different from day to day. That's okay. You do not have to keep up with the class. Unlike aerobics and other exercise classes, nobody will blink an eye if you sit down on your mat and rest a bit. Again, yoga is non-competitive. Just listen to your body and respect that every step forward takes time.

Wear a smile. Yoga can simultaneously be serious and light-hearted. As you face small challenges, keep your energy in a positive place so the overall experience is fun and enriching.

Take it home. Yoga may soon become part of your daily philosophy of health and well-being. If you cannot attend a class, consider doing some pranas (yoga postures) in your home or office to promote strength, flexibility and peace of mind. Hold good posture while sitting at your desk or driving the car. Focus on deep, conscious breathing to alleviate stress and refresh your brain.