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Yoga Etiquete: 14 Rules To Remember When Visiting Out-Of-Town Studios

My recent visit to Toronto opened my eyes to the details that can make practicing in a yoga studio away from home more pleasant, things to be aware of, how to prepare, etc.  I went as far as making a list of all the things I thought which may come handy for others as well.

I am mostly writing it towards the Ashtanga Yoga community, with its own intricacies (self-practice most days, moon days, etc) and because that is the style I practice.

Take for example the point on practicing primary series only (if it is a Friday), that would not apply to people practicing any other style but Ashtanga.

However, in the overall list there are points that could help other styles too, if you practice in other traditions I guess you are the best person to make a judgement on that.

As per Ashtangis reading this, tell me (in the comments or on Facebook) what would you add to the list?

1.- Doing A Bit Of Research

There are many ways to find out what studios have Mysore programs or the style of yoga you would like to practice.  I use Google because I get the convenience of Google Maps which also tells me which one is closer.   Word of mouth recommendations are a welcome addition to this.  Finally I usually check the Pattabhi Jois website to see what teachers are in the area, in my last international trip Google did not point out to one of the teachers that I did find through the Jois’ site.

While at it, remember to check for moon-days.  Some studios differ on their full and new moon scheduling (it has happened in New York City).   If you are not into Ashtanga, moon days are days of rest for the serious practitioner of Asthanga yoga, as are Saturdays.

2.- Read and Respect Signs

Depending on where in the world you find yourself there may be other languages, or unusual places where people place their signs.  Ashtanga yoga has the practice in common and traditional studios are very serious about what is practiced and the level of dedication to it, but when it comes to common rules (like where to put your shoes) it is usually a good idea to do as the Romans.

These details are likely foregone conclusions for regulars but disorienting new intake of information for visitors. However, one can always count on the blessing of studio signs.

I find it is best to be double-curious and aware when entering a new shala. The best attitude is one of respect, because respect can be felt, transmitted, and no better way to show it than by following the written signs.

3.- Introduce Yourself.

If you’ve never been to the studio and do not know the teachers (or even if you do) it is a good idea to introduce yourself and ask if it is OK to practice.  Of course it will be OK, but you never know, in my Asthanga escapade, one of the town’s Mysore programs had been temporarily suspended to the general public because an out of town teacher was doing a one-week-workshop.

If I had not checked online then talking to the teachers would have been the only way to find out before walking into a class in which I would probably not have been welcomed, and with good reason.

4.- Talk Injuries If Necessary.  If you have a particular injury or cause of concern let the teachers know.  In general teachers will pretty much leave you alone on a first practice if you are a beginner as they might want to see your practice first, but if you have a solid practice they may help you in some poses.  It is crucial to let them know if you have issues so that they are aware and can help you at the appropriate level.

5.- Bring Exact Money Change.  You will probably have found out how much the class costs ahead of time by looking on the Internet.  Well done!

I make it a point of bringing exact change and right currency. If you think this is overdoing it you may want to consider Eddie Stern’s studio in NYC.  In it you cannot pay as there is no reception or office manager, you simply put the money in a jar.  When that moment comes, having the exact amount is a relief.

Eddie Stern’s studio in NY (AYNY) has a jar where people
drop in the cost of the class.  There is no reception desk.

6.- When do I Pay?

I would not dare start practicing before paying.  It is in good faith to offer the money before venturing into the class.  Now of course, this is a personal choice and it would all change if the teacher told me to wait until the end.  I always aim to pay first, but follow instructions from the teacher if told otherwise.  Always remember to pay though.

7.- What About Renting a Mat/Towel?

Mat rentals have a cost, and so do towels. It’s best to assume they will have an extra fee as they come with the hassle of having to be washed/cleaned etc.

When I travel I bring with me the Mysore rug but not the heavy Manduka as those are too heavy to carry around in airport lunges!  Then again, some studios do not rent mats.  Another thing to keep in mind when doing research.

8.- Shower Before Class:

Nobody likes the feeling of being adjusted with smelly feet . It is uncomfortable for both the student, the teacher and the neighborhood-mats/practitioners.

And while we are on this note, remember that scents are an issue.  Don’t use after shave or heavy scented deodorant as you could cause trouble for other practitioners who may be allergic to such substances.

A few years ago I visited the
Yoga Place in London for a week.
They also had a “jar” system back then

9.- Check the Schedule Online.  If there is one (and more and more studios are now-a-days doing it), check, especially for Ashtanga Mysore programs.

The reason for this is that some studios run “led classes” (classes where the instructor leads the class as opposed to “Mysore style” where each individual practices at their own pace and separately). These led classes happen on Fridays.

Some studios do led classes for example on “the first and third Friday of the month”, some on the “last Friday”, some (very few) do it every Friday.  It helps to keep this in mind to plan accordingly.

The experience is very different for a led class, starting with the fact that one must show up on time rather than anywhere in a range as it is with Mysore classes.

10.- If it’s Friday: Do Primary Series Only.

If it is a Friday and there is no led class then remember to practice just primary series.

It is no big deal if one forgets and jumps into the first pose of intermediate after finishing primary, someone will likely remind you that Friday is just for primary.

11.- Do Your Practice At The Level Where You Are.  

Guess what I am trying to say is that being a show-off maybe uncalled for and even dangerous.  The practice’s objective is to send us within and there is a great temptation while being in a new setting to get distracted, nervous even.

In my own practice I make it a point to breathe deep, follow the dristhti (sight) points, take my time, and take it one pose at the time.  I only go to where I usually practice, no more no less.

12.- If You Use Props

Ashtanga yoga is pretty anti-prop, but you may -perhaps if it is cold- use a blanket to cover yourself in the final relaxation pose, or, if you are a very beginner you may be using a prop just until you can get your body to reach further.  If you do use a prop then remember to put it back where you got it from.

13.- Be Aware Of Others

If the room fills up it is a sign of camaraderie to check and see if you can move your mat and make more room for others.  The cozier the warmer!  If practicing too close to others makes you uncomfortable then wait till you visit Mysore (which is a whole other world by the way, see Mysorepedia.com)

14.- Enjoy.

Oh yes, very important.  These pointers are here just so that you can take care of the details and then relax into a delicious practice.

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What do you think? What would you add?

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5 Responses to Yoga Etiquete: 14 Rules To Remember When Visiting Out-Of-Town Studios

  1. Claudia November 9, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Awesome! Can't think to add anything as I am still in the learning phase, BUT you have urged me to venture out and try a class. A HUGE step for me, as I practice at home. Hugs! Tanya

  2. Claudia November 13, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    Great advice! The only thing I'd add is sometimes it pays to drop an email in the week before, to ask if it is OK to join. Sometimes the teacher is away (as you mentioned) and I've also had the experience in NYC of turning up during Ganesha week where the classes were cancelled. An email would have saved carting my mat around Manhattan for a few hours!

  3. Claudia November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Great news Tanya, very happy to hear. Would love to hear how it went when you ventured! 🙂

  4. Claudia November 15, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Great point Deanne, yes, absolutely, what a good idea to call. I forgot as I was writing but when I read your comment it reminded me of when I visit Buenos Aires, the studio of Pablo Pirillo, and I always call to see if he is in town, if it is OK to come over etc… Studios in other parts of the world tend to be a lot less formal sometimes, so it pays to call ahead.

  5. Claudia November 23, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    nice info.<br /><a href="http://peaceandtranquility.eu/inner-peace/&quot; rel="nofollow">Inner Peace</a><br /><a href="http://peaceandtranquility.eu/meditation/&quot; rel="nofollow">Meditation</a>