November 23, 2015

Common Courtesy is the new Enlightenment: 5 Ways to Practice it in the Yoga Studio.

Emergency Brake/ Flickr

Enlightenment is not Entitlement.

Namaste means “I bow to the divine in you.”

It’s a term of respect, peace and honor.

It is said at the beginning and/or end of just about every class I’ve ever taken or taught in the last 20 years.

These days it’s more likely that a cell phone will go off during this process as a student confirms their late night dinner plans. And no, the student has no idea or couldn’t care less if their conversation bothers you.

I’m not sure if it’s because of my PMS, the fact that I’m teaching seven days a week all over town or maybe I’m finally on my way to becoming enlightened (never), but I’m over it.

I’m so over the entitled behaviors from both teachers and students alike.  We all should be. It’s time we start taking some action, besides pulling a continually disrespectful yogi aside and asking, “Really?!”

We need to be holding ourselves and those with whom we share the yoga room accountable.

Starting my yoga class on time is about being respectful and professional to those who’ve made time in their day to be with me. I find continual tardiness to be rude and disrespectful.

Other than an act of God, what good reason is there to keep our fellow yogis waiting?  When the teacher before me, who is notoriously late, arrives late (again) I am forced to start my class 20 minutes late (again).

Her lack of apology shows me how entitled she feels to behave this way.

This juxtaposition that exists in the modern yoga world is not new, but it’s getting worse. The more pop culture yanks yoga from its small spiritual niche where once upon a time only a few hippies or struggling souls were interested in exploring it, the more unenlightened it’s becoming.

The most “spiritual” yoga rooms I enter, filled with the most “devout” teachers and students feels like some bad realty T.V. show of what yoga is supposed to be about.

Now, I’m not the enlightenment police. I am by no means preaching the pedagogy of yoga’s traditional pursuit of enlightenment to reinstate itself into what has become mainstream yoga. Enlightenment is a lofty goal for your average person. I’d be laughed out of India by any traditional yogi  in a second. And rightfully so!

But perhaps there’s a niche for me as the common courtesy police.

Let’s start small.

Here are a five key things to remember that can keep you from being the self-entitled yogi we all want to send to enlighten…er, common courtesy rehab:

Be respectful:
Of people’s time. Of the people you are sharing—yes, sharing—the room with.

Shut off the phone:
As in off, not kinda off. Don’t talk on your phone inside the yoga studio, just before, during or after class. Ever.

Lose the outbursts:
Don’t burst into a class midway and make demands. Don’t throw temper tantrums when your practice frustrates you.
Don’t engage in long personal conversations with your teacher or yogi neighbor mid-class.

Be clean:
Stinky bodies and stinky clothes become like a diffuser when you get heated up and we all suffer. Lose your favorite perfume or cologne for the same reason.

Do the class (the one that is being taught):
Please stop coming to class to do your own class. It’s a distraction for everyone but you and it’s rude to the teacher.


The short term goals of yoga (union) are to reconnect and reintegrate our bodies, minds and subtle bodies, and in doing so, to become aware of the relationship we have with ourselves and with others.

Awareness is the first step in fostering the ability to become more courteous.

I may not know about enlightenment, but I sure as heck know about common courtesy in the yoga room, so how about we all start there.


Relephant read:

9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow.


Author: Heather Dawn

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: Emergency Brake/ Flickr


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