Yoga teachers are human so we are not immune to getting annoyed from time to time. We are all for getting you to listen to your body, to do whatever feels right for you and explore your own practice. There is a but coming! But there are certain things that I think stray into the realm of rudeness or are potentially dangerous when it comes to attending a group yoga class.
- An advanced asana practitioner rocking a handstand in every sun salutation during a beginners class. A couple of students might find it inspiring but most find it intimidating, distracting and demoralising. I love to attend beginners classes. It is the perfect opportunity to revisit the basics and have a more chilled practice. But I am mindful of where I find myself and respect the level and the energy of the group. If you want something more challenging sign up for another class.
- An absolute beginner coming to a fast paced and physically advanced class when they know it isn't a suitable. This puts the teacher in the awkward position of having to either slow down the entire class to the annoyance of those who were expecting (and rightly so) an advanced class or continue as planned and pray that the inexperienced student doesn't get hurt despite offering modifications. Give yourself time and space to progress at a pace that works for you.
- Doing your own thing completely. Doing a shoulderstand when everyone else in the room is in Warrior 2 is distracting for the teacher and your fellow practitioners and frankly it's a bit weird! A good teacher will have carefully considered and planned their sequence before class. The class plan is a logical progression to allow you to open up your body in a safe and constructive way. Modifications are fine and very welcome but a totally different pose when the body may not be ready for it could potentially lead to injury and to a lot of irritated and slightly bewildered yogis in the room.
- Endless stretching and writhing around before class. I must admit I find this really annoying when I attend a class. Not very enlightened I know! A yoga sequence when approached intelligently will warm you up gradually. There is no need to warm up beforehand. It may be more beneficial to just sit, lie down or take child's pose and find a bit of stillness before your practice. You have had a busy day. Give yourself the chance to do a little as possible for a few minutes.
- Pushing too hard. We are competitive creatures. In yoga we try to drop the ego and be honest with ourselves. There is a concept in yoga know as ahimsa. This means we should practice in manner that does not cause harm. Old habits die hard and often the 'no pain no gain' gym mentality can creep into our practice. If the teacher offers different options for a pose don't feel like you have to take the most difficult variation every time. If you loose your breath, if you start trembling excessively, if you feel pain or extreme discomfort please back off. Harder doesn't always mean better. Listen to your body.
- Skipping the resting poses. I once taught a class where we had completed a strong series of standing poses and I guided the group into child's pose. One girl did pushups instead, albeit, of the yoga variety. When we came to downdog she did pushups. When we came to paschimottanasana (seated forward fold) she did sit ups. Yoga is physically challenging and it can be very rewarding and empowering to see your body evolve and get stronger and more flexible. However, the resting poses are there for a reason. Moments of rest and recovery are just as important as working hard. Professional athletes don't train every single day at the same intensity. Rest is key to developing the physicality of your practice and also offers time and space to turn inward and connect with your breath.
- Leaving before savasana. I know it is a bit of a cliche to say that savasana is the most important pose of your practice but it actually is. It allows you to assimilate the goodness and nourishing quality of your practice and to safely let go on a physical, mental and emotional level. You are doing yourself a disservice by skipping out before corpse pose.
None of the above are criticisms of any type of yoga practitioner because we have all been that person at one time or another. I am definitely guilty of some if not all of them. I am hoping that by toning everything down a little we, as individuals and as a yoga community, can get even more benefit from this wonderful practice.