There are a few obvious things a yoga instructor expects from yoga students. Show up on time, don't make a ton of noise if you need to leave early, don't be disruptive by laughing with your girlfriends in the back of class, no answering cellphones or texting, and please — for everyone's sake — wear clothes that keep your important parts covered. But here are five things you may not know, straight from my experience as a yoga instructor.
Sweat, Fart, or Moan — But Don't Sneeze
Normal bodily functions are more than OK to let loose in a yoga class. I mean, what do you expect when you're twisting and bending like that?! I don't care what things or sounds come out of your body, as long as they don't make someone else sick. If you have allergies or belly bloat, please do come to class, but if you're trying to "sweat out a cold," I'd rather not have you sneezing and leaving snotty tissues next to your mat.
I'd Rather Practice on the Floor Than Use a Studio Mat
I've been teaching yoga since 1999, and that means I've seen thousands of people sweating pools around them — usually on studio mats. I've seen people picking their nose, picking their toes, and leaving used band-aids on their mats. Some studios offer mat cleaner, but how many people really use it? And who knows how often those studio mats are cleaned (if ever). I've forgotten my mat a couple times and opted to practice on the bare wood floor rather than use a mat 100 million other people have sweat on. Do yourself a favor and invest in your own yoga mat. I always recommend the Manduka Black Mat Pro since it's thick, dense, and has a lifetime guarantee.
As a teacher, it's my job to help you. If you have an injury or something else I should know about (like you're four months pregnant!), tell me at the beginning of class so I can offer modifications for you if necessary. Don't be scared to talk in class or to ask questions or ask for help. And most importantly, if I give you an assist that doesn't feel good, tell me! In my first few moths of classes, someone sat on my lower back when I was in a Seated Straddle and I suffered from a pulled hamstring for six months because of it. I wish I had said, "Get off me!" but I was too intimidated, and thought the teacher knew best. Not true at all. You know your body better than anyone, so trust it, and do what you need to protect it.
I'm Not the Yoga Police
Guiding you through yoga poses is what I do, and what I suggest is just that — merely suggestions. Since you're in charge of your own body, you know what it needs and what its limitations are, if I tell you to go into a Side Plank and you have a wrist injury, don't suffer through it! I won't yell at you or single you out or tell you not to do what you're doing. Make up a modification or do an entirely different pose if that's what would feel good to you. If someone ever makes you feel bad for doing something different on your mat, it's time to find a more supportive instructor.
I Don't Care If You Can't Touch Your Toes
So many people have told me "I can't do yoga, I'm so inflexible." Duh! That's why we do yoga, to stretch our muscles so we can become more flexible. Try not to feel self-conscious about what you can't do. Everyone was a beginner at some point, and many of us are able to do these poses because we've been practicing for years. If you see me looking at you or I come by and touch you, it's not because you're "bad at yoga." It's because I want to make sure you're doing the poses safely and getting the most out of them.