Proper Yoga Etiquette

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Overall, I consider myself a pretty active guy when it comes to physical fitness. Sure, I’m not the same size I was in my wrestling heyday, nor am I slamming down weights like Rocky did while training to fight Ivan Drago. Still, I like to think I live an athletic lifestyle. However, that was until I tried yoga. Now THAT is a workout, my mannerly friends.

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Needless to say, yoga isn’t easy, but along with whimpering as I tried my first dolphin pose, one thing that really distracted me from enjoying my yoga-enduced Zen, were some rather unmannerly yoga buffs beside me. So, before you grab your yoga mats, and overpriced yoga clothes, check out my top three quick and dirty tips for Proper Yoga Etiquette.
Tip #1: Namaste, dude!

Being a former pro wrestler I spent many years surrounded by gym rats and meat heads who believed the louder the grunted in the gym, or harder they smashed their dumbbells against the ground, the better they worked out. I can’t tell you how much this bothered me. In fact, I even wrote an article called “The 6 Commandments of Gym Etiquette” to further stress my frustration with rude gym goers. The best was when said weightlifter took it to the next level and screamed—I mean, violently screamed—when he went for “One more rep! One more rep!” Yes, exhaling makes lifting easier but shouting at the top of your lungs like you are at football game chanting, “Where’s the flag?!?” is pretty rude. So, when I went to my first yoga class, I figured here, of all places, there would a much quieter place to exercise. Sadly, I was wrong. Apparently even in yoga—what should be the most Zen place on Earth—I still run into over-grunters and over-zealous yellers. Ugh, hasn’t anyone ever heard of the term Namaste?

I will say this was not everyone in the class, only two people who stood next to each other. Every single stretch was a gigantic moan and an over exaggeration of the stretch. Now, I’m not talking about a simple “breath in … and breath out” but rather, “roar like a lion … and caw like a raven.” I mean, it got so bad the teacher even said, “That’s great, Donnie, but try rather gently exhaling and quietly inhaling.” That’s the equivalent of bringing a kid up in front of the class and scolding him for eating glue. And in that same scenario, everyone laughed. Bottom line with working out: you have to do what works for you. But in yoga, you can’t be vocal. You have to relax your body, your mind, and your vocal chords. Yes, you can grunt when needed but quietly. As well, you can of course “encourage” your friends, but not like a cornerman cheering on a boxer. Keep calm, and stretch on.

Tip #2: Space Invaders

In Dirty Dancing, Johnny told Baby regarding properly respecting one’s space, “Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine. You gotta hold the frame.” So when I was at a yoga class, I thought about that scene as Mr. Space Invader decided my frame involved him as well. Yes, a mannerly person shares floor space in a crowded room, but this guy started to occupy my real-estate, as if he owned it. While I and others laid down our mats with only our cell phones (in case of an emergency but left on silent) next to us while our keys, jackets and shoes are safely placed in a cubby by the door. Standard practice. Yet this clown decided to house everything but the kitchen sink right around him. Along with his mat, he had a phone, an iPad (yes, a friggin’ iPad in yoga), his car keys (with more coupon keychains than I’ve ever seen), his jacket, and his scarf. You know, just in case we get a cold front coming through the room. As he was breaking the “space code,” I told him there was space by the door but he replied, rather snarky, “Yeah right, that’s how your stuff gets stolen!” In order to stop the rapid theft in yoga, Mr. Space Invader hoards his stuff, making it so everyone has to dodge his accessories.

Here’s the deal; unlike other workouts, yoga is an art form. It combines strength of body and mind, and is designed to keep the body balanced … in a confined space (i.e., the yoga mat). In yoga, the mat is the only place you need to occupy. Yes, you’ll straddle over the mat for some stretches but the mat is like a boat, and you don’t need to go overboard. It’s the key of yoga. It says, “Stay in this spot and do the work.” Invading another yoga user’s space is similar to the arm rest rule on planes; my space, your space, please stick to your side. Yet, the unmannerly yutz in my class decided he was too good for centuries of practice. When doing yoga, you have to follow the rules of not only the exercise program, but also the rules of the environment. If the rule is nothing on the floor with you, than that’s what you do. Doing anything but remaining on your mat, and the areas around it, shows you not only don’t respect others the class but are not quite ready for a yoga class. Stick to YouTube videos on your fancy new iPad at home (that he couldn’t stop telling me about).

Tip #3: Improper Attire (Or Lack Thereof)
When people meet me for the first time, they assume (and we know what happens there) that because I push a proper lifestyle that means I can’t let my hair down and have fun. I mean, hello, the moniker is MODERN Manners Guy, not Old-Timer, Stuck-in-the-50s Manners Guy. Yeesh. With that, please do not think I have a problem when a man or woman wears rather revealing clothes when working out—if that’s what it takes to get the job done for them. In fact, I applaud someone’s pride in their appearance and hard work. I mean, if you’ve got the body for it, and can do it in a classy manner, then more power to you. Heck, if I had a rippling six pack and chest that looked like it was created in a Marvel superhero lab, you bet your bottom I’d rock a tighter shirt from time to time. However, the key word here is classy, not showy. Sadly, many of the yoga goers in my class didn’t quite get the memo that skin is not always in. Yes, it’s yoga, and yes you are there to sweat, and yes yoga clothes usually rival what couples wear on their honeymoon, but this a workout class, not a night club.

Case in point: during the class an attractive woman who was already wearing revealing clothes, decided her already short t-shirt was getting in the way of her workout. So, she took off her shirt revealing a rather skimpy athletic supporter. This caused a bit of a scrum in the class when other people rolled their eyes in exhaustion, seeing that this was not her first time doing this. As well, in the same class a buff college guy took off his shirt about 15 minutes in, and tied it around his head like a bandana, going topless the rest of the class. Ironically this didn’t cause as much eye rolling but did, however, seem rather ridiculous. In both situations, they weren’t going for comfort; their lack of clothes was a purposeful planned attempt for shock value and stares … and it worked. Again, I’m not saying you can’t wear skimpy clothes—both men and women—to yoga, since that’s part of the deal but just do it with class, while in class. Some hot yoga classes encourage partial nudity since you sweat like marathon runner, but in a common class, dress for the day, not for the show. You’re already in great shape, and there are a plethora of tight fitting clothes to wear that will get you plenty of stares, while holding in your sweat.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and, of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

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