Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Yoga class etiquette. Part I. Mat & u

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This is not about my current bunch of students:) They all are here, with me, simply because they align with the way I see a yoga class happening.

So, this is the general yoga class etiquette that simply needs to be discussed! And comes from other experiences I have had in the past, both as a student myself, as a trainee and a teacher.

  • Booking place for your friend. A rather nasty habit that happens when the groups become large. Some groups can be aggressive about this. Hey, but that attitude is not so cool, def not yoga.
  • How much space: Some of my students can do yoga anywhere, I believe. Sonia def. I will place in that category. Also Amitabh.  Actually the only amount of space u need is what your mat requires. Then, you have to measure how much space in front you need to sweep your hands up in sun salute (position 2/11). Then, a similar length behind u, for the plough.  Rest of the space u should not really be bothered about:)
  • Where to place your mat: Deciding on the above requirement then  your mat placement must be just so that you take care that there is space behind u for the other student, for both his/her hands and legs to drop. For instance, even if the `how much space' bit is correctly deciphered by students, they may not think of the second part of it, as to where and how to place it, so u can accommodates someone else. When u place your mat, u need to have seen both these above aspects.
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  • Slamming the mat rudely or loudly to open it up: This is often done unthinkingly.But if someone is already there in the room, meditating or in the corpse pose, this can be quite a jolt for that peaceful creature. So, that loud slapping manner in which u place your mat must be toned down.
  • Size and texture of your mat: Most are standard mats, so the size is assumed. But sometimes people bring their `organic' mats. I had a lady with a fiber, Indian grass thingie which was two mats' size. Now think of how awkward that is for everybody else,  including the teacher, in a crammed space.  Plus, u will find that such mats are impractical for a general class practice (they make u slip). And are practically useless in advanced poses like the scorpion. The lady used to say she was feeling breathless using the `western', non-stick yoga mat... Mmm, next they will want to bring tiger or deer skin to a class?! That is what they may have used earlier on, dearies!!
  • Proximity to the next student: This cannot be helped in a crammed room. But if you can ensure that when you move your hands and limbs you are not touching the other person, u are already doing great yoga.This is crucial particularly while in the corpse pose. Keeping within your mat, when the space is a constraint, is cool:) Even if in the corpse pose u have to have arms about 40 degrees off the body, if there is less space, u may display your decorum by keeping hands within the mat. Why? Not because I say so, but because Swami Sivananda says, Adapt, adjust, accommodate. That means u  don't invade somebody's personal space, esp if the other person is of the opposite gender.
  • Kicking somebody else's mat if you wish that spot for yourself!!: This is a sort of hugely ridiculous and rude behavior  that u see happening even in ashrams, even amongst advanced yoga teachers coming to train there. I have no comment on such behavior. But I would rather that I did not have students who did that sort of thing in front of me (I have a long story behind this simple gesture. Later:) In yoga, everything is animated... including, even that seemingly inanimate mat! Also, that kick  somehow is so unyogic. Plus, it seems to say something about how u feel about the owner of the mat! Somewhat like spitting or farting in public! Very bad, rude behavior.
  • Sticking to your friend or feeling lost without the friend or feeling unable to do without your spouse or partner: I myself find that this is a constant in all classes.  But real involution in a mat cannot happen with a distracting or empathetic or sympathetic energy floating about beside u. How can u involute as u are required to??  Also, it  encourages childish behavior: temptation to exchange glances, crack jokes, share difficulties. With spouses, I find that sometimes the wife may fuss a lot over the husband. Or other way around. He breathes a little heavily, there will be a lot of Tch, Tch happening. The fellow is happy, hoping the teacher will take the hint. All silly behavior and entirely avoidable in a yoga class and interferes not just with that particular friends'-partners' yoga but somehow jars into the rest of the class too.
  • Insisting on placing your mat near someone who is good, even if u don't know that person: Another ridiculous behavior in a yoga class,  including in  ashrams. They will want to do yoga  near you. They will watch where you place your mat and plonk themselves near you. All that is tolerable. But the point is, is that silly need necessary??!!
  • The other extreme, not wanting to be near someone who they think is bad in yoga! This also happens. Sometimes I have students who don't like a particular student (weak yoga, behavioral adjustments, just the look of that person maybe:) and want to know delicately if somehow I can ease him or her out of the class!! Amazing cheek! Any case, another example of how you are ruining your chance to involute!
There is more churning inside of me:) But later.... This should be crushing enough, for now!

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Anila said...

Some of my own.
1) Grunting every time you get into a pose- this is applicable to the men esp,they grunt for anything and everything :-)

2) Trying to 'nudge' into a non existent space even though you are late. This is highly disrepectful of the ppl who came in on time. If you are late, you deserve that place at the end of the room.

3) laughing out loud or making faces or expressing their displeasure openly when some unfortunate victim passes wind in some asana .

Quentin said...

How do you feel about the following by a student age 63, advanced student:
1. doing personal warm up prior to class starting time.
2. going into advanced versions of same pose.
3. bowing and saying namaste at end of class, om to self when teacher does not invite opening om and closing om.

Shameem Akthar said...

Quentin, obviously the student thinks he/she is too good -- if you are the teacher, u must call the student in private and suggest that his behavior is inappropriate -- in a class, what the teacher suggests should be followed, and that is also the right yogic attitude. Egotistic behavior in the name of what he believes is traditional form is plain arrogance, hidden under yogic garb. U can say this gently, but firmly. Such behavior is actually disruptive and if needed, you must request the student not to come. If you are a student enduring such behavior in the class, then you may request the teacher that he/she gets the student organised and not be intimidated (at how advanced he /she is) or by having to lose a student. The other students' space must be respected and that is the teacher's responsibility, for sure!!