1. Start your practice on the drive (or bike, bus, subway) on the way to class. Have you ever been driving to yoga like an asshole just to get there in time? Heart rate and blood pressure elevated because you’re late? The cars around you not driving the way you think they should? How about when you are looking for somewhere to park? So many classes are so packed that scoring that parking spot can be a bitter battle. But does that serve you? Begin first by noticing if any of the above is happening. And, if it is, laugh at yourself. Find your breath and notice it. Even count it. Let someone cut in front of you without letting it get the best of you. Remind yourself that yoga is more than just asana and that the breath and attitude you bring on your journey to class it part of the practice.
2. Be cool to the front desk. Especially if you’re late. Yes, it is their job to facilitate you checking in with kindness. So be cool in return. Learn their names. Take that moment to say hi. For many of us teachers, we strive to create community in our classes and studios. After all, isn’t yoga ultimately about union and connection? I love when I see my students interacting with the front desk in a kind way. We are watching!
3. If you are an early bird. First of all, high five! If you managed to get to class early and create your spot, well done! But keep in mind, someone may not be as organized, or their boss kept them over, or their babysitter was late. As the room fills, you may need to adjust your spot. Make a decision not to get annoyed by that. It’s a choice. As your teacher, we so appreciate it.
4. Say hi to your neighbor. Introduce yourself. Nothing makes me happier as a teacher than when I cannot stop you guys from chatting in a friendly way before your class. Let’s work together to create connection and community in our classes. Your best friend may be practicing right next to you and you won’t know unless you say hi!
5. If you are late. Please no dramatic entrances. If the class has started, just quietly stand in the back until the opening is over or the teacher gives you an indication to come in. We get it. We have all been late. But do your best to ease in respectfully and definitely kindly say thanks to anyone who is cool enough to make space for you. Asteya, non stealing, is part of yoga, so remain mindful of not stealing the vibe the teacher and students have already started creating.
6. Save the singing for the shower. Or car. I LOVE music. Making playlists for my class is like making a mixed tape for a first love back in high school. And I really, really love if you love my music. However, we don’t all need to hear you sing, as beautiful (or not) as your voice may be. It distracts other students. Unless the teacher offers up a sing along (it happens on the fly every now and then), save it for the drive home.
7. Silence your damn phone and don’t even think about texting. And guess what? Vibrate is not off!!! If your phone makes a sound, it can take the entire room out of savasana. Even better, just leave the phone outside. That said, we all mess up. My mom once called (I forgot to go on airplane mode) and the phone rang through the speakers during our meditation. So when you mess up, as we all do, make as little deal out of it as possible, apologize and turn the damn thing off.
7. Wipe your sweat. PLEASE. Especially if you drip on your neighbor’s mat as you rock a stealth Warrior III or flip your dog over to their mat. It happens, and it’s fine. But it is definitely not fine if you don’t wipe it up. Use the manners your mama taught you.
8. Don’t impress us with your ujayii. Yes, your breath should be audible. But not to everyone. Only to you and maybe the people closest to you. Definitely not to the people on the other side of the room. You may not know. So now you do. Also, begin to notice if you favor the exhales or the inhales, and strive for balance between the two. Equanimity, after all.
9. Do the offered sequence. As best you can. As teachers, we for sure want you to modify to take care of yourselves, take breaks, rest in child’s pose. But please don’t go totally off grid and do your own thing. It is very confusing to other students, not to mention potentially injurious if your body is going one way and the rest of us are going the other. And check yourself. Do you really need fifty extra chaturangas or a handstand when the rest of us are in Warrior II? It is ego driving you or something else? Believe me, I have had days where my mind will not quiet without a fiery flow. But we teachers (most of us anyway) put love and thought into our sequences, and they are designed to set you up for success, warm your body up intelligently. Listen to the teacher. If she green lights doing your own thing (which I often do during a strong flow), by all means, but otherwise, do the best to, yet again, remember yoga is about balance and that you are part of a community when you show up. And if you absolutely can’t help yourself, go in the back row.
10. For god’s sake DO NOT SKIP SAVASANA. No one in that room, including you, believes you are the one person so busy and so important that you cannot lie still for a few minutes. I get it can be super challenging for some of us. Being still and doing what appears to be nothing, may be the most important thing you do that day. And if you have to leave early, tell the teacher before class, practice near the back if possible, and leave yourself at least a couple of minutes to do savasana before you go.
11. Please put your props away. Put. Not toss, throw, or leave in the middle of the room. Enough said.
12. Be you. Smile. Laugh. Cry. We want to create a space for you to have the most divine experience as possible. We love when you bring your authentic self to the practice.
13. Talk to us! Introduce yourself. We want to know you and know your name. If you have a pose you are dying to learn or a question or anything at all, we want to hear about it. And remember, there is so much choice out there. So don’t dismiss yoga because of one class or one teacher. If one teacher or class has turned you off to yoga, try someone else. You will find your teacher.
* Total bonus most important one of all… TAKE IT OFF THE MAT!!! Now more than ever, we need more kindness, more breath, more connection, more tolerance. All of these are encompassed by yoga. So we never need to confine our practice to the four corners of a mat. So let’s pick up our gazes, connect more, speak up, love wildly, and bring all of the lessons off the mat and into the world we share!