Ashtanga Yoga Studio Customs

Never been to an Ashtanga Yoga class? Here are some basics about the etiquette that you are likely to encounter. Of course, much depends on the studio and how traditionally they run things, but in general this is what you should know:

  • Avoid drinking water during class. For those who may think this is dangerously radical, consider that these days our views about how much water we need to drink is heavily influenced by marketing from the companies that want to sell us water. In Ashtanga Yoga, the idea is not to interrupt the flow  of the postures but especially your breathing. As long as you hydrate sufficiently before class, there really isn’t any need to drink water during class. Reaching for the water bottle usually has a lot more to do with your mental thirst to take a breather than an actual need to hydrate.
     
  • Mirrors. Ashtangis generally do not have/use mirrors in their studio. Even when a studio is equipped with mirrors, Asthangis will often set up the mats to face away from the mirror. Ashtanga Yoga is an inward, meditative practice and for that reason mirrors are viewed as a distraction. Unlike other styles of yoga that obsess over the minutiae of a posture to get it “correct”, Ashtanga Yoga allows more room to explore the posture without obsessing over perfection. Beginning students are asked to focus more on the breath, than perfecting the postures. Eventually, over years of practice, the postures appear in their intended form.

  • Music. Ashtangis also see music, much like mirrors, as a distraction. Listening to music in class is viewed in much the same way trying to meditate to music would be. Also, as the focus is the breath, having music distracts from and inhibits listening to the breath.
     
  • Props are infrequently used. This should not discourage those who ordinarily use props. Some teachers employ props (blocks, straps. etc.) to facilitate their teaching. Avoiding injury and/or managing injury is important. Students should modify asanas (poses) as necessary. Practice Safely!
     
  • Sanskrit. Ashtanga Yoga is traditionally taught using the Sanskrit names of postures.
     
  • Opening/closing Chant. Each Ashtanga Yoga class is opened with the traditional opening chant. Not every student will know the chant by heart and there is no obligation to join in. So whether joining in or not, all students start by standing at the top of their mats, hands in prayer position. The closing chant is usually  performed after a Led Primary class.
     
  • The studio will typically be kept at about 80 degrees.

Hygiene

It is important to take care of yourself and be respectful to those around you in the yoga room.

  • You should take a shower before practice, use deodorant (natural), wash your clothes and your mat regularly.  Please do not wear perfume or cologne as these can cause allergic reactions for others. 
     
  • Most people already know how to keep themselves clean and smelling nice, but it only takes one odiferous yogi to send fellow seekers on the path to samadhi running to the other end of the room.
     
  • Many people believe that because they have a clean diet they don’t need to use soap or deodorant.  You can have the cleanest diet in the world and still have B.O. If one sweats and fails to wash thoroughly, EVERYONE including Vegetarians, Vegans, and Raw Food Enthusiasts, has the potential for offensive body odor.