Yoga is a beautiful practice. Many people escape the humdrum or stress of daily life and seek the solace of their yoga mat to have an hour or two to just do something for themselves for once. But unless we are sensitive to those around us and share our space nicely, there can be some gripes that can ruin it for others also in need of their piece of yoga. So here are some of my favourite 'yoga grumbles' that can actually ruin a class for people and a few tips on how to 'play nicely' in class.
* Punctuality - Walking in late, making people move their mats to fit you in and interrupting the initial meditation can be very disrupting. Turn up a few minutes early and allow yourself to enjoy the chance to lay down and prepare for class. More importantly, your teacher needs to know who you are; do you have any injuries, are you pregnant, are you new to practice? This is vital for not just you but your teacher as well.
* Be considerate of the students around you - there is a lot of movement in yoga, sometimes you will be sat down with wide legs, other times your arms will be floating up around you. If you can see class is filling up, move your mat accordingly. When moving around, be kind and considerate and make sure you give your classmates the space they deserve. Stagger your mat so that when you're doing sun salutations, you don't have to knock the student next to you. Or lo and behold, if you're all in the same line, raise your arms forwards and up if the class is packed. It's quite off-putting to have someone's hands in your face when you're practicing, so trying to make yourself a little bit smaller can make all the difference to the person next door.
* Turn off your phone and leave it far away from your mat - this one seems obvious, I know, but it's amazing how many svasanas I've been in only to be disturbed be a nearby mobile phone going off. And if you feel that you have to have your phone face up by your mat, kiss goodbye to the purpose of practicing yoga. It's exactly the place to switch off and disconnect from outside. Yoga is a work-in, not a work-out.
* Please don't step on my yoga mat - I feel there is a sacred quality to a yoga mat. I feel my mat carries so much energy, experiences from my yoga journey. To me, stepping on my mat is like someone treading on my sofa with your shoes, so please treat other people's mats with respect and walk around them.
* I love to 'share' but not everyone needs to hear your 'ujayi' breath - It's ujayi, soft and gentle and audible only to you. Think more Princess Leah, not Darth Vader.
* Listen to instructions - your teacher is guiding you to keep you safe and focused. Yoga is not simply a case of watching someone do their own practice at the front of the room but a time to focus, concentrate and listen - we are using many senses during our practice. (If you can't hear or understand your teacher, you can always tell them.) Your teacher cannot do the practice for you, and it's not enough to simply show up. You really have to be present, pay attention, with not only your body but your mind too.
* When you come into class, much as you might be bursting with energy, excited for your class, it isn't the time to catch up with your friends. Your classmates may have had a stressful day and may be meditating or simply relaxing to prepare for the practice. Yoga is a time for calm. We get so little of it, embrace it!
* Bikram yoga - oh, where to begin? You are going to sweat, lots and it's really unpleasant to be splashed by a stranger's sweat, to be touched by a stranger's sweat or have any other kind of contact with a stranger's sweat. It is also not necessary to smell a stranger's sweat so please be nice and respect each other's personal space, take a shower before class and don't eat anything too pungent the 24 hours before.