Tips for Taking a Yoga Class

Last month I gave the “Beginner’s Yoga Pep Talk” as a way to answer some basic questions. This month, I’m offering suggestions to improve your class experience; and, tell you a few things that your yoga teacher (well, I guess I can’t speak for everyone); what I would want you to know about coming to class.

Let’s start with clothing. Wear something snug fitting, so that your instructor can see your body. We need to see what your joints are doing so you don’t get hurt. Some instructors (the teacher who trained me, for example), insist on students wearing shorts and tank tops to see the knees and shoulders. I don’t have that rule, simply because I am personally not evolved enough to like my thighs

Another reason to wear something snug is so that when you bend forward, you don’t get a face full of t-shirt; you can’t see what you’re doing, and you’ll spend all your time tugging it down.

Try to arrive to class on time. But, at the same time, don’t hesitate to walk in late. We’re located downtown; parking can be an issue. But realize that you’ll miss the essential centering and warm-up period of class. If you do come late, please enter quietly; spend a few moments getting yourself together; do a few gentle poses (maybe cow/cat, or several sun salutes) before joining the group.

That said, if you’re going to be more than 10 minutes late, you might want to wait until the next class.

PLEASE tell your instructor if you have had any recent surgery (like, last five years), if you are pregnant, or if a medical doctor has ever told you NOT to do something. It makes my head explode when I look at an intake form that indicates no medical problems, and then after class the student says “oh, yeah, when I had that knee replacement last year . . . .” Eek.

You can get seriously injured doing yoga, and no instructor wants that to happen during their watch. Tell us the truth; and be able to tell us the limitations that your medical doctor has imposed.

Realize that if your instructor is correcting you, either verbally or by touch, it’s not because you’re not good at yoga; we’re trying to help you. If you don’t want us to touch you, you need to tell us. Because we kinda think that’s our job, but truly, we don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.

Do your best not to look around the room at other students. Sometimes it is necessary, to figure out what the pose is if you didn’t understand the instructions; or maybe you dropped off into your happy place and are mentally rejoining the class. Sometimes you will just watch when more advanced students are doing something you aspire to do. But, please don’t compare yourself to other people, or judge them. Yoga class MUST be a safe place, and it is my job to make it so.

Another thing is to honor the body; don’t over-do your practice, don’t over-do your breath. If you need to rest; go to child’s pose. If you need to go to the bathroom, then go to the bathroom. Especially before the final relaxation. We’ve worked very hard to get you into this state of peace and balance. We want you to enjoy the savasana, not lay there thinking “need to pee . . . really need to pee . . . .”

Another word about savasana; please allow us to bring you whatever you need to become comfortable. Take that extra moment to get a blanket for your feet, to place a bolster under your knees. In our culture, you have been taught that just laying around for five minutes is a waste of time. It is our job to teach you that that is not true. This short period of time is absolutely vital to your practice, and is one of the most important things you will do in a day. That may not be your initial experience; but trust me on this one.

After class — if you have used one of the communal mats — if you were sweaty or feel like you might have some unfortunate germs to share, please use the mat cleaner and paper towels in the cabinet and clean your mat. We wash them, but certainly not after every class; it’s a classic “do unto others” thing.

If you enjoyed the class, tell your instructor. If there was something that bothered you, tell them that also. Not feeling up to a bit of face-to-face truth telling? Then email the Studio owner, or leave a note; at Uttara, we have a comment box near the coat rack. Help us to become better teachers, and better people.

And, finally, practice. You give no greater gift to your instructor than to take the teachings into your life; nothing makes my heart sing like knowing a student has developed a home practice. Knowing they’ve begun to volunteer somewhere, or used the teachings to improve their everyday life. That’s what it’s all about.

I serve you, and in doing so, you give a gift to me. And back, and forth; again, and again.

It’s a dance of giving, and receiving; of uniting. Of recognizing that you, and me; we’re connected. It is, yoga.



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