I always tell my students, "It's your yoga; do what you want." I fully believe that...unless it is at the expense of the rest of the class. To me, “yoga etiquette” (if there is such a thing) always comes down to thinking of the greater good: As long as you can ask yourself, “Is what I am doing altering anyone else’s yoga practice in a negative way?" and adjust accordingly, then you are practicing proper yoga etiquette (not that there are any hard-and-fast rules!).
Ultimately, being a harmonious yoga practitioner boils down to respecting three basic things: the air others breathe, people's personal space, and the overall serenity of the class for everyone.
1. Be mindful of the air others' breathe. To some people, perfume or cologne in a small yoga space can be equally as offensive as body odor or flatulence, so try not to douse yourself in scents when you know will be sweating in close proximity to others (and maybe rethink that bean burrito before class). Also keep in mind that if you roll up a wet mat with a towel or stuff your wet yoga clothes into a bag, they will all probably end up with a strong, moldy odor, especially if you leave them rolled up until your next practice. (Click here for some super-easy mat cleaning tips).
2. Respect others' space. Try to keep your mat evenly spaced from your fellow classmates—no one likes to feel like a sardine when it isn’t necessary! If you can, stagger your mat as well so that when you open your arms out to the side, you don’t hit a fellow yogi in the face. Also keep your props and anything you might have close to your own mat and, if possible, leave what you don't need for your practice in the cubbies.
RELATED: It can be hard to sort through all the yoga and gym gear out there. Discover the fitness gear trainers can't live without.
3. Consider the overall atmosphere of the class. The shrill ring of cell phones, running commentary with your friends, and intense grunting can be distracting to your fellow classmates, so try to keep any excess noise to a minimum. While a loud exhale, excited squeal, or occasional giggle is completely normal (it happens to all of us), if you find yourself grunting through an entire class, perhaps have a look at how you are practicing, and see how it feels to approach your practice with the intent to move and breathe with ease. Forcing and pushing aren’t part of yoga—allowing is. (For more help, check out tips for moving and breathing with ease).
Additionally, if you are late for a class or need to leave early, try to be thoughtful and gracious about how you handle it. For example, if you are late for class and someone needs to move their mat to accommodate you, wait for a good time for them, not you. And do your best not to leave during savasana! This is the final relaxation period where everyone gets to soak in all of the incredible benefits from their yoga practice. If you do need to leave class early, inform your instructor when you plan on leaving so he or she can signal you before savasana. This way you can slip out quietly, and you can relax knowing you don't have to constantly check your phone and worry about the time during the class.