Peace and Courtesy on the Mat: 5 Ways to Avoid Yoga Rage

I live in urban New York, so I dont drive, and therefore dont experience road rage. I do, however, experience its distant cousin—yoga rage. As a yoga practitioner for the past 10½ years, perhaps I should embody a love for all humankind at this point. But still, nothing gets my yoga pants in a bunch like rude yogis and yoginis who dont observe the rules of the road. So for rookies to seasoned class attendees, here's a list of simple, common courtesies that every yoga practitioner should observe.

1. Give others their space
The other night in yoga class, I set up my mat near the far, windowed wall, and though the room was practically empty on that rainy evening, a woman came in and plunked her mat down right next to me—too close to allow me to spread my arms wide for the Swan Dive Into Standing Forward Bend at the beginning of Sun Salutations without hitting her. Annoyed, I moved my mat closer to the wall and then reclined resentfully as I waited for class to begin; the cold wind blowing through the windows gave me chills.

As we settled into our meditative seats and the teacher led us in a supposed-to-be soothing chant of the mantra “om namah shiviya” (there is not an exact translation for this but I have heard it described by a yoga teacher as “I bow to my highest self”), I seethed inside at this personal space invader and engaged in an angry internal dialogue with her, admonishing her for squishing me into a cold, windy corner when there were only about a million other available spaces in the room.

2. Stagger when space isn't available
Last week, in a full classroom, I set up my mat next to a girl who grudgingly offered me a bit of space.  Again, our mats were too close to do the Swan Dive without colliding, so I moved my mat up in order to stagger and have enough room to spread out my arms. She moved her mat up. Then I moved my mat back. She moved her mat back. This woman was clearly oblivious to mat-staggering etiquette!

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Jennifer Garam
Last Updated: October 07, 2008

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