It’s about 15 minutes into class when the door slams open. Class started with alternate nostril breathing, followed by a round of cat cow poses. Now we’re threading the needle, releasing tension in the upper back and warming up the spine. The sage Pantanjali defines yoga as calming the fluctuations of the mind, but on a Sunday afternoon, with groceries to buy, errands to run and bathrooms to clean, that’s not easy to do. The energy in the room had finally begun to calm, the hum of ujjayi breath providing a quiet soundtrack, when she bursts through the door announcing “Parking.Was. Insane.”
Quiet mind be damned.
We’ve all seen it. The student who tweets every down dog and chaturanga. The yogi who insists on doing a handstand when everyone else is in warrior two. Where is Emily Post when you need her?
Amy Lafond, a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, has seen her share of egregious behavior involving the cell phone. “Trying to text during class, hiding the phone under a blanket,” says Lafond. “These are not the surgeons in my class. These are not the people who are doctors.” Washington D.C. based yoga teacher Mary Catherine Starr, who writes the blog Starr Struck, agrees. “The person who charged her cell phone in class,” she says. “I still can’t get over that.”
While cell phones may be common, texting and tweeting don’t begin to exhaust the list of odd behavior these teachers have seen. “I had one guy try to eat an orange in my class,” Lafond says. “Yeah, you can’t eat oranges during class.”
However, errant behavior is not always easy for teachers. It’s a delicate balancing act between enforcing decorum and creating a fun, welcoming environment that students, even the rude ones, will want to come back to. “I try to make it a safe environment,” Lafond says. “Everybody forgets every now and then to turn their phone off. But just honoring Satya, truthfulness, if your phone goes off just go shut it off. I can’t stand when the phone keeps going off and no one does anything about it.” For Starr, it comes down to the effect on the rest of the class. “If someone has their cell phone on silent and only they can see it, I still think it’s annoying, but I may not say anything.”
To avoid the ire of fellow students and possible wrath of teachers, follow these five rules of yoga etiquette.
1) Don’t be late: Your teacher and fellow students made an effort to get to class on time and you should too. If you do arrive late, enter quietly. Yeah, you like that spot in the front left hand corner of the room, and if you could just ask one person to scoot over a smidge you could fit your mat in. Well, you can’t. You’re late. Find an available spot, quietly set up your mat and join the class.
2) Turn your cellphone off: Like FAA regulations, cell phones are strictly prohibited in yoga class. If you can’t skip your twitter account for 90 minutes, then skip class.
3) Don’t moan and grunt: It just feels so good when you stretch your hamstrings, and if you want to break out a down dog in your apartment, moan as loud as you want. In class, moaning and grunting just makes people uncomfortable. Don’t do it.
4) Do what the teacher says: Your teacher put thought and effort into creating a class, and there’s a reason why he or she is asking you to do a half moon when you’d rather be in triangle. If you want a space to play with your own sequencing, build a home practice. If you have injuries or physical limitations, ask the teacher for appropriate modifications. In class, the teacher is boss. Follow the leader.
5) Do Savasana: Everyone struggles with staying still, but if you’re thinking no one will notice if you flip up into a headstand while everyone else is lying in savasana, think again. Even if you feel like lying quietly may kill you, when the teacher says savasana, just do it. Its good for you.