As a student and an instructor of yoga, I am able to experience yoga from both sides of the mat, so to speak. And although you may think your teacher is a never-ending font of yogic philosophy, grace, poise and powerful energy (OK, I am definitely flattering myself here), please remember that your instructor is human, takes his/her practice and classes very seriously, and is prone to the occasional internal freak out caused unknowingly by students.
Here are a few things that may drive your instructor (and maybe even your fellow yogis) to lose their zen during class:
Talking during practice
It is perfectly fine, and even encouraged, to let out a gentle sigh of release when folding into that forward bend if you feel so inclined, or to really dig deep and fire up those ujjayi breaths – that’s great!
But please don’t giggle or whisper to your neighbor throughout the class, or exclaim your frustration over a challenging pose. Respect others who are trying to focus, and the tone of the class that the instructor is trying to create. From time to time, there may be a genuine, spontaneous moment that warrants a bit of laughter and that’s fine—it keeps the practice light and fun—but all in all, please observe silence.
Many studios/instructors ask for phones to be left outside the room. But granted, for safety and emergencies, you may need your things in the room with you. In this case, for Shiva’s sake, put your phone on silent! If you (or we) have the horrible misfortune that your phone does ring, quickly get to it and turn it off – do not answer in class!
I am reminded of a particularly upsetting incident where I had just cued for Savasana to begin, when I heard the tinny sound of Beyoncé’s ‘Put a Ring on It’ filling the quiet, peaceful room. And of course in a huge class, the owner was too embarrassed to step forward and turn it off. “Seriously?!” I said out loud. A woman meekly crept to her bag and silenced Beyoncé’s demand for a ring. Afterward, I felt a little bad for shaming the woman into getting her phone, but only a little.
Not committing to Savasana
This brings me to my next pet peeve: not participating in Savasana. This pose is so important. For many people it’s their very favourite pose. Please commit to it. Adjust your body before you settle in, find your own version of the pose where you feel completely supported and comfortable, and then challenge yourself to total stillness. Stillness of the body and mind. This means: not flailing your arms and legs from side to side; not looking around at everyone else; and most annoyingly, not packing your things noisily as you get ready to leave.
In the silent room, even the slightest sound or movement can be heard, even the vibrations of that movement felt by those around you. If you have not yet experienced the beauty of a full, deep Savasana relaxation, which allows the body to receive all the benefits of your practice, at the very least – be considerate of others who are trying to.
The autonomous yogi
OK, we know you’ve been practising yoga for quite a while. You may even know some of the ‘fancy stuff’ by now. And it’s all well and good for you to deepen your practice by taking a more advanced variation or adding a bind here and there. We’re all for pushing your personal limits and designing the practice for yourself. However, please stay mindful that a yoga class is a collective process. We are sharing energy, breath and trying to connect with each other through our focus. When individuals launch into different poses/variations without the cue of the instructor, it disrupts the flow, sequencing and timing of the series that your instructor has probably put a lot of thought and effort into creating. Not to mention, it may be very distracting to others, and perhaps those not familiar with the class may think they should be following you instead of the instructor. This is disruptive and may lead to injury. We know you’ve got skills, but please hold back until it’s appropriate.
So those are the major things that annoy me personally in my classes. I’m sure all teachers have their own little issues that irk them. To finish off, these are just a few of the minor annoyances that may also be worth mentioning:
- People who practise in socks. Why?! (one lady said to me she can’t take her socks off because her feet were too ashy today… had to chuckle at that one.)
- People who complain about it being too hot. It’s exercise, it’s supposed to be hot! And I don’t even teach hot yoga!
- People who say that they don’t want to try yoga because they are not flexible. No explanation needed here.
Having said all this, I really love teaching. Just turn your phone off!