I recently realized that I’ve been in the yoga studio environment for so long that I take for granted the fact that not everyone who enters through the front door realizes that there are certain things to keep in mind as they prepare for practice. Courtesies, if you will… Since I’ve been face-to-face (or face-to-feet) with this experience this week, I thought I’d take a few minutes to spill forth from my brain some Yoga FYIs.
Before class: Try to eat 2-3 hours before you come to class. It will give your body time to digest so you don’t feel nauseous during your practice. If your schedule forces you to practice after work with your last meal being 5 or 6 hours before class, try to keep a piece of fruit or granola bar handy. It’ll take the edge off hunger without filling you up.
Occasionally, depending on what you eat before class, you may experience gas that makes its presence known–usually during asanas that involve twists or deep core engagement. And sometimes during a lull in music and/or cuing. While it can be embarrassing to the tooter, your teacher has probably heard it happen before. Don’t sweat it. Just be mindful of your meal choices before coming to class to avoid future mat symphonics. 😉
Drink plenty of water–especially if you are practicing a more challenging or hot style of yoga. You will sweat, so don’t come to class dehydrated. Hydrated muscles also respond better to the stretching they will experience in yoga class.
Do come clean–this means body and feet. Yes, you will sweat in some classes, but if you take the au naturel route of hygiene, that plus a sweaty practice can make for an odorous experience for your mat neighbors and instructor.
At the studio: Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes before class starts–more if you are brand new to the studio so you can meet the teacher and fill out any requisite paperwork. Believe me, I know that sometimes the traffic doesn’t cooperate, parking spots seem to be non-existent, and life can get in the way of making it to class on time. If you show up late, apologize to the instructor. You may also want to ask about studio protocol regarding late arrivals. Some don’t allow for them at all, others ask that you wait until chanting is complete or everyone is in downward facing dog before entering the practice space.
Find out where to put your shoes. Some studios will have shoe racks, others just ask that you leave them at the door. Pretty much every studio prefers you not enter the practice space while wearing shoes. Respect that. If you wore a $400 pair of shoes to work that day and don’t want to leave them at the door, lest you have a Carrie Bradshaw/Sex and the City experience, take them off before entering and put them somewhere that is unobtrusive.
Please don’t whip out your mat like a matador. There are no angry bulls charging at you and the noise is obnoxious. Quietly roll out your mat. If your studio supplies props like blocks, straps, bolsters or blankets, put them away neatly. Your mother doesn’t work at the studio and won’t be picking up after you. (Nor should she–or your instructor–have to.)
Your yoga instructor would love to chat with you and/or answer questions. If you catch them before class, be mindful of the time you take, as some teachers need a little space to prepare for the practice. If you have questions after class, be aware of other people who may also want to talk with the instructor, and try not to commandeer their time. If your question is particularly detailed, ask if you can set up a time to talk or send them an email highlighting your question(s).
Respect the space. If the studio allows for conversations from the mat, so be it. But if the practice space is meant to be a quiet, reflective place, keep conversations to a minimum and/or to the more public area of the studio.
Finally, get to know the people who practice alongside you. Make it a point to introduce yourself. Attend events that your studio sponsors, sign up for workshops, etc. The community aspect of a yoga studio is so special–it’s one of the things I love most. A home practice is great, but the connections that can be made while practicing together as a group run deep.