A Stinky Situation

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Read Dharma Mittra's response:

Dear Adrian,

An important teaching of the Yoga Sutra is to cultivate personal observances, or niyamas. One of these is saucha (purity), which encourages internal and external cleanliness. In addition to removing impurities of the mind, one must also keep the skin, teeth, tongue, ears, hair, clothes, home, and yoga temple in perfect condition. This is a given.

Like many yoga practices, the guidance of an experienced teacher is necessary in learning to live by the niyamas. A teacher should set an example for students. This means your asana classes must be held in a clean, clutter-free, and well-ventilated place with a comfortable temperature. The floor surface should be neither too hard nor too soft. If a student wants more air, open the windows more or turn the fans on. If it's a bit cold, make sure to turn up the heat to make the room comfortable.

Of course, in keeping with saucha, everyone should be clean. Otherwise the student with the odor can be gently directed to practice in a specific location in the room where he or she will not disturb anyone else. At a proper time after the class, when no one else is around, you may compassionately tell the student about the problem. Explain that it is making others uncomfortable. You may also recommend that the student begin to read the Yoga Sutras, practice simple bathing, and moving to a more vegetarian diet. The root cause of many physical impurities may come from eating bad foods and animal flesh.

Sri Dharma Mittra, who has been teaching since 1967, was the first independent yoga teacher in New York City. In 1984, he created the famous Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures, which has become an invaluable teaching tool. Dharma is the creator of more than 300 postures and is the author of the book Asanas: 608 Yoga Poses. He is also the inspiration for the Yoga Journal coffee-table book Yoga. His Maha Sadhana DVD set (A Shortcut to Immortality, for Level I, and Stairway to Bliss, for Level II), has been widely acclaimed as preservations of the main teachings of yoga. Dharma Mittra: A Friend to All, is a biography documenting experiences of his students from the 1960s on. Dharma Mittra: Yoga Life of a Yogi teacher trainings (200- and 500-hour) are held in New York, San Francisco, Japan, and at workshops worldwide. For more information, visit www.dharmayogacenter.com.