The Set & Flow’s Beginner Guide to Yoga Etiquette

One of the best things about the variety of classes offered at Set and Flow is that we’re able to expose people to different types of workouts that they otherwise may not have tried. For example, some students may take a Barefoot Bootcamp or TRX class, and soon end up trying one of the many Yoga classes we offer.

Since many of our students are new to yoga, we thought we’d offer a little cheat-sheet to help those unfamiliar with Yoga Etiquette. Yes, there is such a thing!

Why yoga etiquette?

With yoga, you’re not just studying physical postures: the postures (called asanas in Sanskrit) are just one of the 8 limbs of the Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga. Part of studying yoga is embracing this element of yogic philosophy, the objective of which is to not only make you healthier and more fit, but help you interact with others in a more positive way.

Two of these “limbs” are the Yamas and Niyamas: sort of a “code of conduct” for our self-development and how we move through the world. We’ll explain some more about these later on, but first here are some basic universal “do’s and don’ts” for most yoga studios, including ours:

1. Shoes & Bags

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  • We are a barefoot studio! Shoes track dirt into the yoga room and cause wear and tear on our special antibacterial flooring. There’s plenty of room for shoes in our ample self-locking lockers, and more than enough shoe cubbies right outside the door of Studio 1!
  • Lock up bags in our self-locking lockers. Bags don’t belong in the yoga room. What does? Your mat, your towel, a water bottle, and YOU!

2. mat placement

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  • Yes, there’s actually an etiquette to where you place your yoga mat! Have you notices those two mirrored walls in Studio One? They’re not *just* for admiring your new pair of Lulus. Mirrors help yogis monitor their posture alignment, and are helpful particularly to new students learning correct and safe body alignment.
  • DO make sure that you avoid placing your mat directly in front of another yogi’s mat.
  • However, if you have a favorite spot, or came in with a friend, DON’T ask another yogi to move. Come extra early if you want that spot in the front; otherwise, be flexible and practice aparigraha (non-attachment)!
  • Bonus tip: don’t step on another student’s mat (gross) and, unless it’s super crowded, leave a reasonable amount of space between you and the student next to you.

3. Loud Noises

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  • Loud grunts and moans may be impressive after bench-pressing at the gym, but it has no place at a yoga studio. Inhales and exhales are very important: vocalizing is not. As one of my former old-school yoga teachers once said, “it’s rude to other students to behave as though you’re working harder than they are!” (can also be filed under: distracting)

4. Phones

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  • This is another zero-tolerance point of etiquette: phones have absolutely NO PLACE in a yoga studio. A yoga class is a one hour digital-free zone for you AND your fellow yogis. No exceptions (unless you’re my one student who is an OB/GYN,  on-call one day a month, takes time to tell me in advance, keeps his phone on vibrate UNDER his mat in the back of the room, and promises to leave the room if it vibrates). LOCK IT UP. Give yourself an hour away from messages, texts, likes, and snaps. It can wait. Practice asteya, non-stealing (of your attention, and the attention of others!)
  • -“But what if I’m doing an Instagram yoga challenge and I just HAVE to get a shot of myself in compass pose?” OK:  1) wait until class is OVER, and 2) ask the teacher if it’s ok (sometimes we have a tight turnaround in between classes, so it may not be a good time; but if it is, and you ask us nicely, we may just take the pic for you!)

5. Coming in late/leaving early

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  • There’s no other way to say it: lateness to a yoga class is not ok. There’s no grace period: if you’re not already in the room when the teacher begins, you’re late. Period.
  • What’s the big deal? Walking in late is a disruption. It’s inconsiderate of the other students, disrespectful of the teacher, and if that isn’t enough, it can actually be very unsafe for YOU. Yoga classes are built on a progressive sequence, and missing the first few postures or breathing exercises (as well as any special instructions from the teacher) may put you at a risk for injury. Practice the yogic principle of ahimsa—non-harming!
  • We get it: we live in LA too. There’s traffic and congestion and a shortage of parking. However, lucky for us, we have ample parking in our parking structure. Modern technology gives us navigation apps that predict traffic patterns and suggest alternate routes. Best of all, if you miss a class here at Set & Flow, chances are very good that another one will start in a few minutes—perfect opportunity to try something new!
  •  Leaving early: not as serious an offense as coming late, but still not encouraged (file under: disruptive and unsafe). If there is a VALID reason you absolutely must leave early, please do the following: 1) let your instructor know, and 2) secure a spot by the door so that your departure is as stealth-like as possible!

6. Modifications

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  • Here at Set and Flow Yoga, we always encourage students to practice safely and mindfully, and to take care of your bodies during class. This DOES include taking modifications or modified versions of postures (an example would be dropping to one knee in low lunge pose, or using a block in standing split). However, that does NOT include doing postures that are completely different than what the teacher is cueing. When we say “your practice is YOUR practice”, we mean SAFE for your body—not a completely different sequence. Humble yourself to what the class is doing, even if it’s not your cup of tea (this applies the yogic principles of tapas—discipline—and svadhyaya—self-study).
  • Not sure how to modify a posture? Ask the teacher after class—we’re always happy to help!

7. Talking in Class

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  • Set and Flow is a friendly community, and a great place to meet cool people with a common interest in fitness. Good thing we have several places OUTSIDE the yoga room to socialize: the kombucha bar, front lobby, and seating area across from the hall lockers. Chatting in the Yoga room? That’s a big no-no. Take it outside!

8. Odors/Cleanliness

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  • Saucha (cleanliness):There’s no denying that when you have people’s sweaty bodies in a hot environment, you’re bound to have odors. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your part to practice good yogi hygiene. Keep your yoga clothes and mat towels laundered between workouts, and take the time to clean your yoga mat (a solution of equal parts water & white vinegar is a great natural cleaner).
  • Cleanliness is one thing, but don’t overdo it with perfumes and essential oils, either: what smells good to you might cause a bad reaction to someone else (and essential oils WILL ruin our special antibacterial yoga flooring!)

We’re all in this together!

At Set and Flow, it’s true we do sometimes ‘break the rules’ to make our studio experience fun and unique; however, following these simple, common-sense yoga studio guidelines will actually help keep the experience fun and positive for everyone in our studio community!

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