Yoga Teachers Reveal the 12 Rules You Should Memorize Before Taking a Class

Updated: May 03, 2021

No, they're not judging you, and, yes, you need to wear deodorant.

young woman meditating at home
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Keeping yoga class relaxing for all

You go to yoga class to unwind, but unless you observe some basic rules, the experience can be less than fun for those involved. Keep the distractions to a minimum with this sound advice from yoga experts.

woman, legs only, yoga studio

Before you leave for class, mirror-test your pants…

All leggings and yoga pants are not created equal, so do a spot check before you hit class. “Just because pants are black does not mean they are opaque,” says Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga. “Some leggings are meant to be worn under dresses or tunics, but not for working out. You’re bending, squatting and doing all sort of less-than-flattering movements in yoga so be aware of what you’re showing the person on the mat behind you or the teacher.” Women, to be sure, aren’t the only offenders: while shorts and boxers are a common combination for men on the mat, they’re pretty much the male equivalent of wearing see-through pants with no undies. “Yoga is low-impact, without a lot of jumping around, so workout shorts and boxers may feel very freeing and comfortable, but this combination of clothing can be very exposing for those around you or the teacher,” she says. “Compression shorts or boxer briefs are the way to go here to keep your family jewels in the safe.” Another option? These 10 yoga unitards that have got you covered (literally).

tying hair
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…But don’t go too baggy, and tie your hair back

Baggy clothes can be an equal opportunity offender, shares Calli De La Haye of Kalimukti Yoga. “I want to see the pose and help you get the best from it, so I need to see your body, that super fashionable scarf isn’t for the yoga class,” she said. Also, if your hair is long enough to be pulled back, do that. “I dread standing on you pulling your hair when it’s all over the mat, tie it up so I can get to you,” she says. Find out all the amazing things that happen when you start a regular yoga practice.

woman with yoga mat in a studeo

Show up on time—and clean…

Nothing is more distracting than having someone come in ten minutes late while you’re just getting into the groove of teaching and looking for a mat, says Karen Nourizadeh, yogi and meditation guru at Pure Yoga. “We want you to start with the group, warm up properly, and get the most out of your yoga,” she says. Also, please remember to shower, or, at the very least, apply deodorant before class. “When there are lots of bodies in the room sweating and moving to the same flow, things get stinky all on their own,” she said. “If the teacher notices body odor, I guarantee the person next to you definitely will.”

women upward dog, in yoga class

…but don’t layer on scents before class

That means no perfume, even essential oils like patchouli. “In a yoga class, mats are generally pretty close together and scent is easily detected,” shares Kristina Dau, a yoga instructor. “Rule of thumb is to try to not smell like anything, deodorant obviously is an exception, that is encouraged.” And, for the love of yoga, don’t smoke, cigarettes or anything else. “I have been in a class next to a person who wreaked of cigarettes and it totally threw off my practice.”


We don’t care how your feet look

“No need to be shy about your feet! I don’t care, and probably won’t even notice, if you’ve had a recent pedicure or not,” says Kat Heagberg of Yoga International. “If you catch me staring at your tootsies, it probably means I’m checking to make sure your knees and toes are pointing in the same direction, not to judge your foot-grooming habits.” And, if you are wondering whether that discoloration on your big toe is normal, don’t ask. “I’m not a doctor or physical therapist,” she adds. “Please don’t ask me for medical advice.”

yoga class

Being uncomfortable and being in pain are two different things

There is a huge difference between being uncomfortable in a pose and being in pain, says Danielle Diamond, mind/body wellness expert and founder of Xen Strength Yoga. “If you’re holding warrior two for ten breaths and your thigh is on fire, that is an uncomfortable feeling and you can learn to breathe through that,” she says. “However, if you’re in the same pose and you feel a stabbing pain in your knee, then that is pain, she says, adding that yoga is not a no pain, no gain sport. “Yoga’s main focus is to stop the fluctuations of the mind, so don’t ever let a teacher tell you to breathe through pain,” she says. Here’s a 10-minute yoga workout you can squeeze in every day.


Teachers get insecure, too

Yoga teachers might project confidence, but at times, it’s all an act. “Sometimes I feel really good and powerful, and sometimes I feel insecure, weak, and judged,” says Lisa Hughes, who teaches at Breathe Yoga in Rochester, New York. “I can see when you feel this way, too. We have all felt at some point or another, and you are not alone in your feeling. I will hold space for you if you feel amazing or feel deflated.” Want to practice at home? Try these nine easy yoga poses.


Go at your own pace, please…

“When we say, ‘go at your own pace,’ we really mean it!” says Chelsea Xeron, a Kundalini Yoga and Meditation teacher based in Washington, DC. “There is no competition in yoga. The focus is solely on you.” She continues, “I have seen many students come from other styles of yoga and try to compete with other yogis in the class. They end up pushing themselves too hard and have to lay down on their mats for the rest of class. Never compete with another student! You will lose the greatest opportunity for self-growth if you do.” Make every day a great one with by starting the morning with a sun salutation.

yoga pose

…But don’t disregard the teacher altogether

There is a fine line between modifying your practice and going completely rogue at the front of the room. “It can be distracting to other students, the teachers, and beginners,” says Nourizadeh. If you want to do your own sequence, practice at home,” she says. ” Be open to whatever your teacher is presenting that day—it might actually be something you like or never knew before.”

downward dog

Farts happen

In the middle of a downward-facing dog, you may let one rip, even when you didn’t know it was coming. But know that it’s normal and everyone does it; there’s no need to cry, laugh, or get mad. “We will just ignore it and continue on,” says Kate Hamm, owner of AnamBliss. “Everyone else is glad it wasn’t them, but they won’t judge.” If you need a minute to compose yourself, take a child’s pose or leave the room, she suggests.

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Be social after class

No doubt about it, yoga can be an awesome place to meet someone special or your new BFF. “There are very few places you can count on being surrounded by so many like-minded people with shared values and lifestyles. Enjoy it!” says Amy Baglan, CEO and founder of the dedicated yoga community MeetMindful. “Just don’t tap on someone’s shoulder and ask her out to dinner as she’s coming out of savasana. Wait until the practice is completely over.”

woman with rolled yoga mat drinking water

Leaving class early is the greatest offense

“If you leave class early, I often secretly wonder if I said something to offend you, or if you really didn’t like my class,” says Heagberg. Not to mention you risk disturbing other class members and miss out on the benefits of savasana.

Helaina Hovitz is an editor, journalist, and author of After 9/11.