I remember hearing my first “om” in a yoga class and wondering how rude it would be to leave.
I remember hearing about a neti pot and making a mental note to avoid anyone using that word.
I remember moving to California and seeing people hug each other for what seemed like an uncomfortable amount of time and wondering if perhaps they hadn’t seen each other since childhood or there was more static electricity per capita in San Francisco, leaving people with a fear of letting go. Not the case.
Now, being that person that does all those things that freaked me out once upon a time, it’s easy to forget that most people are probably as weirded out as I was, and at the very least curious about what on earth is going down.
I find that us yogis have article after article of instruction, but you, non-yogis are left completely in the dark about how to deal with us.
Here’s a little social etiquette and some highly guarded secrets for all you awesome regular people.
1. We don’t do yoga because we are flexible, we’re flexible because we do yoga.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard,
That’s like saying, “I don’t exercise, I’m not an athlete.”
Yoga is about exploring your body, flexible or not. Doing yoga is about bringing your body and life into balance, so the more out of balance it is (or the least flexible you are), the more you’ll get out of it.
So, bend your legs and don’t be afraid. Most people in a yoga class are as inflexible as you.
(And even if they are flexible—they are still feeling the same sensation as you—it just looks different. They started out exactly where you are.)
2. Yogis aren’t all the same.
There are many, many types of yoga out there and within every type each teacher has his own style.
Hot Yoga is different from Bikram, which is different from tantra, vinyasa, hatha and so on.
For all your friends that are crazy about Hot Yoga, there are as many yogis who have never even tried it.
We might all make silly noises and shapes, but we’re definitely not all the same.
3. Waiting until we’re done practicing is the key to our hearts.
If we’re on our back that means we’re either in the most peaceful moment of our day or in the most vulnerable. Either way we’d love it if you didn’t interrupt us while we’re meditating, lying down or have our eyes closed.
We know you’re there and we’ll make eye contact with you when we’re ready. It’s like waiting for a dog to finish chewing it’s bone before you pet them. It’s more pleasant and less slobbery for everyone involved.
4. Please, don’t try to impress us.
First of all you might hurt yourself. It happens, a lot, and it’s not impressive.
Mostly though, yoga is not really about what you can do, it’s about how you go about doing it.
So, when you show off a “move,” it’s kind of like showing off your ego, and frankly that’s not interesting. Most of us have been called to the mat to avoid the competitive nature of most other areas in life.
5. Feel free to ask us what we’re doing.
Most of us love to explain the weird thing we’re doing with our arms, or that crazy noise that is coming from our mouth. If you’re sincere with us, we’ll tell you everything.
You can still think it’s crazy—we probably do too— but maybe it’ll make you feel good, and that’s nice.
Curiosity is a fundamental value of yoga, so approach us with an open mind and ask away.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Travis May