You see them smiling at you as they walk around the room or demonstrate poses, but do you ever wonder what your yoga teachers are thinking? Here are some things yoga instructors want newbies to know about their classes.
- They're not checking you out to see how flexible you are (or aren't): If your teacher is looking at you, it's not to judge whether or not you can straighten your legs in Down Dog (so don't quickly press your heels to the floor if you catch a glimpse your way!). He or she wants to make sure you're doing a pose safely and comfortably.
- They don't like when you push yourself too hard: You're always encouraged to try new poses, but not if it means struggling in pain. When working on backbends, trust that you know whether it's better for you to do a beginner version like Cobra versus an advanced version like Scorpion.
- They wish you'd ask questions or for assistance: Yoga classes tend to be pretty quiet with only the instructor's voice heard, but if you have a question, please ask! Chances are the other students are wondering the same thing. Also, don't be shy about asking for help — they'd much rather stand next to you and help you lift into headstand than to hear you crash to the floor after trying it on your own.
- They don't care if you pass gas: Yoga instructors are human too, and they of all people know that certain poses can make tooting happen. Why? Because it's probably happened to them! I know it's a little embarrassing, but if you accidentally have a loud outburst from your tush, just pretend like it didn't happen.
- They aren't grossed out by your sweat: If an instructor likes to give assists in poses, no need to apologize for your slippery sweatiness. They're used to touching clothes and bodies drenched in perspiration, and if it bothered them, well then they wouldn't be yoga instructors.
- They want you to speak up if an assist hurts or makes you uncomfortable: You have every right to tell the instructor to press more softly or to back off entirely. It's your body and you know your limits; without your input, a teacher won't know what you like and what adjustment is about to pull your hamstring.
- They wish you didn't come to class to "sweat out your sick": If you're congested with a cold, a little exercise can do you some good. Heat can help loosen mucus, and moving the body relieves body aches. But you want to be careful not to pass along your germs to others, so sweating out your sickness in a packed yoga class with your snotty tissues collecting around your mat is not the best idea. Feeling under the weather is the perfect time to do a home practice, and you can hit the studio once you're feeling better.
- They love when you bring your own yoga mat to class: Borrowing a studio mat for your first five or so classes is welcomed, but after that, it's time to buy your own yoga mat. Using a mat that only you sweat on helps prevent the spread of germs, which we all appreciate, and purchasing your very own mat also shows a deeper devotion than someone who pops into class every once in a while.
- They want you to practice at least twice a week: A Sunday afternoon yoga class will offer amazing benefits, but if you really want to improve your practice, you should include another class or two that week. If it's impossible to get to the studio that many times because of time or money, unroll your yoga mat and do a practice at home, even if it's for only 20 minutes.
- They don't mind if you take class from another instructor: Every teacher offers students something different, and depending on your mood and your needs, one day you might crave a class with Playful Patty who inspires you to try handstands, and on sluggish days, you might prefer Relaxed Rebecca who does mostly seated postures.
- They like when you get to class a little early and prefer you stay until class is over: We all have tight schedules and obligations to work and family, so the occasional late entry to class or early skip-out is OK, just don't make it a habit. Show yourself, your fellow students, and your teacher respect by being physically present for the entire class.