Many yoga studio websites have a list of yoga etiquette guidelines. Usually, it includes a lot of things you aren't supposed to do... like "don't wear heavy perfumes" or "don't make a lot of noise if you come in late." And, of course, "never EVER leave during Savasana." I suppose these are important things--especially for beginning yoga students who might not know what to expect when they go to their first yoga class. But this post isn't about things you shouldn't do.
Instead, I want to write about things you CAN do to be a good yoga neighbor--both in the yoga studio and as a member of the greater yoga community in general.
Here are 5 ways to be a better yoga neighbor.
1. Be friendly. There's nothing worse than being the only newbie in an established yoga class. You know the kind--where everyone around you is all chummy-chummy while you sit there and awkwardly stare at your toes? If you are a life-of-the-party sort of yogi, you could do the rest of us a favor and go out of your way to make everyone feel welcome. You acknowledge the beauty in all beings at the end of class by saying "Namaste." Why not make it your practice the whole time you're at the studio?
2. Listen. How often do we engage in small talk with someone and pay very little attention to what he or she is saying? This is the antithesis of yoga! If you ask someone a question before, during, or after yoga class, pay attention to the answer. It's one amazingly simple way to honor the people who show up to practice beside you.
3. Respect boundaries. Have you ever been on an airplane with someone who couldn't take the hint that you don't feel like chatting for the entire four-hour flight? It's not fun. Some people don't want to sit and chat at yoga class either. It's not personal. Pay attention to the cues people give and if they're not feeling chatty, respect their space. Sometimes being a good yoga neighbor means knowing when to back off.
4. Offer your support without judgment. Let's be honest. Even though a yoga studio should be a safe haven, beneath the surface there can be layers upon layers of judgment. We judge ourselves. We compare our poses to the poses of our neighbors. During the break of a daylong workshop, we might even notice (and judge) what others chose to pack in their lunches. The best way to be a great yoga neighbor, is to offer support and withhold judgment of ourselves and our neighbors--especially if those neighbors eat cupcakes for lunch.
5. Be real. Part of the problem with judgment in yoga studios is that people tend to be so worried about what others will think that they hide who they really are. Maybe they wait until they get home to eat their cupcakes (guilty!). Or maybe they just want others to think they're more spiritual or more dedicated to the practice than they actually are (guilty again!). Unfortunately, that just makes those around you feel either really inadequate. Either way it's not good. There's nothing to be ashamed of. We're all human. We all make mistakes. Just be really honest about who you are, and the struggles you face in your practice and your life.
What would you add to the list?