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This blog post was originally published by Gaiam and is shared with their permission.
There’s no doubt: yoga culture can be daunting. Whether you’re new to a yoga studio or you need a refresher on the rules, here are ten general tips and tricks for making your practice a pleasant one for you and your classmates.
Being in a hurry is already a tizzy-inducing situation, but rushing into a yoga class is stressful for both you and your classmates. Scurrying into a class after it’s begun is embarrassing, and it’s distracting for your fellow yogis. Be sure to arrive on time, giving yourself the minutes you need to check in, put away your items, roll out your mat, and gather any props you’ll need for class.
Got a few extra minutes before class begins? Sit quietly and focus on your breath, or do a few gentle stretches to warm up. And please, avoid picking your toes. (I wish I were kidding.)
Yoga is practiced with bare feet, and most yoga studios prefer shoes to be kept in the lobby or in an area close to the studio entrance. While going barefoot is courteous year-round—even during flip-flop weather—it’s especially important during rainy months and snowy seasons, when mud and slush are common. By removing your shoes, you’re not only helping with studio cleanliness, but you’re respecting a space that’s revered and cherished by others.
Looking for a hardcore workout, complete with grunting, straining, and popping veins? Please look elsewhere. The yoga studio is not the space for showing off your superhuman strength or your competitive edge. If anything, you’ll garner a few eye-rolls and alienate those around you. Remember, you’re here for yourself—not anyone else.
Beyond the competition and showing off, mind your mood. Gossip, complaining, and negative attitudes are better suited for the local watering hole or the communal kitchen at work. Be gentle and respectful in your communication. Like the saying says, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind and respect others.
Many teachers like to give gentle (or sometimes more intense) assists in class, like guiding you deeper into a pose or shifting your position to correct misalignment. If you’re sore, injured or just don’t feel like being touched, tell your teacher before class begins.
This advice swings to both ends of the spectrum. First, please bathe, brush your teeth, wash your hair, and use a clean mat and a clean towel. Second, mind heavy perfumes, oils, and colognes, as strong scents travel easily during class. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you’re on, you’re subjecting those around you to your personal biome. Please make it a tidy and pleasant one.
Want to get the stink-eye from classmates? Just bring your iWhatever to class. Whistles, dings, and blips are incredibly distracting and, frankly, downright rude. For many studios, this behavior borders on unforgivable, and could get your device—or you—kicked out of class.
So just put it on silent, right? Not so fast. For many (if not all), yoga class is a chance to escape the digital addictions and distractions we face in everyday life, offering you a rare chance to be fully present. By bringing your phone to class (even on silent!), you’re distracting yourself and those around you. Expecting an important call or a do-or-die text? Consider skipping class altogether, and returning when you can fully focus.
Yoga classes can get packed; when the last-minute stragglers file in, you’ll often see them scanning the room for a strategic spot to roll out their mat. Be neighborly by making room for them, if it’s available.
In a less-packed class, it’s common courtesy to stagger your mats so that the person behind you has a clear view of the teacher and the mirror. And unless you’re practicing with your bestie or your sweetie, give your neighbor some breathing room.
Lastly, mind your steps: it’s polite to avoid walking on a fellow yogi’s mat.
Many studios are considered a space for reflection, self-study, and focus, and maintaining a quiet atmosphere (if not an altogether silent one) supports this frame of mind. Granted, there are studios that have an air of social happy hour before class begins, and you’ll know this immediately upon walking in. But if the studio is quiet and meditative, keep it that way by refraining from chitchat. It’s not only polite, but it’s beneficial to your own state of mind.
We all get it. Time is short, your schedule is tight, and your day is packed with need-tos and to-dos. But many of your classmates live for savasana, and by packing up and shuffling out during the most meditative and restful stage of the entire class, you’re disrupting everyone else and denying yourself the benefits.
The traditional benefits of savasana claim to restore your nervous system to its default settings and offer your mind a chance to sink into meditation. But above all, it’s a rare chance for you to do nothing for a few minutes. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and feel the weight of your body against the floor. It’s your own little R&R opportunity. Take it.
Absolutely, positively have to leave class early? Let your teacher know before class, position yourself close to the door, and be sure to leave before savasana begins. When it’s time to leave, pack up and scoot out as quietly as you can.
Bolsters, blankets, blocks, straps—yoga is a prop-happy practice. If you’re borrowing the studio’s props, be sure to return them to their rightful place upon leaving. If you’re borrowing one of the studio’s mats, be sure to hang it up at their mat-cleaning station. Leaving your space as clean as you found it is respectful to the studio and students in later classes.
If you’ve ever taken a hot yoga class, you know it’s always going to be one thing—outrageously hot. Not the “let’s hang by the pool and get that sun-kissed glow” kind of hot either. I’m talking that “I can't believe I have this much sweat in my body” and “I may or may not pass out” kind of hot. It’s nothing to mess around with, and after a year or so of not being able to go, it’s easy to forget just how serious that heat can be.
To get the maximum enjoyment and benefits out of your heated yoga classes, you need to prepare yourself before and take care of yourself afterward. Luckily, I’ve been taking some classes (sweating enough for the both of us) and I’ve listed my five favorite must-dos to help you readjust to your heated classes and get back to the hot yoga summer that we all want.
Heated classes are difficult in nature. The normal difficulty of regular poses is mixed in with the added challenges of sweating and dealing with the humidity and the heat (at times, I’ve seen the thermostat climb to 108 degrees—yikes!). Depending on what type of yoga class you’re taking (sculpt, Bikram, power vinyasa), the difficulty level and temperature are going to vary. It’s also important to remember that each person in the room is going to practice in a way that’s unique to them. Hours slept, hydration levels, food intake, and different lifestyles are all contributing factors that make our practices different. What you practice on your mat is your own––trust your body and only do what feels right to you. And remember, it’s okay to take breaks!
The rise in temperature mixed in with the humidity that we all know and love creates the perfect recipe for sweating—like A LOT. You go into a heated class dry and come out feeling like you just took a dip in the pool. Before heated classes, I had no idea it was physically possible to sweat that much. If you’re going to a heated class, especially after a long break, it’s easy to forget just how much you might sweat. Is it possible to lose that much water if you haven’t consumed it first? Trust me, going into your heated class super hydrated is going to make a world of difference and help you feel good throughout your practice. And don’t forget to take some sips of H2O while you’re practicing!
Heated classes are challenging, but I can’t stop going. Nothing quite compares to overcoming the challenge— and experiencing the cleanse my body feels after I’m done. It’s the perfect blend of hard and rewarding, but I couldn’t do it if my body wasn’t properly nourished. On the days I know I have a heated class booked; I like to make sure I am eating right. I make sure to take my vitamins and fuel my body with fruits, vegetables, and my favorite superfood shake. I hold off on food about an hour before my practice, so I feel comfortable. After the class, I like to replenish with a big protein shake (boosted with collagen to aid with muscle recovery and skin elasticity). There is no one-way path for properly nourishing your body but making sure you’re fueled for the challenge of a heated class is essential for getting the most out of your practice and feeling good on and off your mat.
Increasing and maintaining your water intake on the days you take a heated class is important, but sometimes you need something a little extra. If you’re sweating that much, you’re basically an athlete (at least in my book) and if you’re performing like a rockstar yogi, you need to hydrate like one as well. That means replenishing those lost electrolytes. Reward yourself and your body for the hard work and treat yourself to your favorite drink. I switch off between electrolyte-boosting drinks and coconut water depending on what I’m in the mood for that day. Adding these to my post-practice self-care routine has helped me feel more hydrated after and ready to take on the world again after especially sweaty classes.
Usually, a yoga mat is all you need for your practice––but heated classes are a different ballgame. I’ve gone with just a mat, and I’ve slipped all over the place. Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than having sweat drip all over the place while you’re trying to hold a pose that makes you grip your mat for dear life (never again). Make sure you bring a towel to place over your mat, this will help with support and grip. Bringing a smaller towel is also a good idea. You can use the smaller towel to dry yourself off during water breaks or whenever you’re feeling just a bit too sweaty. This is a small step that makes a world of difference during those super-hot classes.
So, there you have it. Five of my favorite tips (more like lifesavers) that have helped me readjust to those heated classes I love so much. Getting back into it is a challenge for us all, so know you’re not alone. No matter where you’re at in your practice, remember to be kind and gentle to yourself––celebrating your health and your body’s ability to do what you love. We’re all just getting back out there, together.
Ready to jump back into your hot yoga routine? Browse Mindbody to find the perfect class for you.
While you’re at it, check out some Intro Offers near you that can help you get back to your cadence of hot yoga classes.