As a nation, we’re embracing yoga with a zeal usually reserved for a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Classes are so overstuffed that we routinely violate every edict of personal space, lining our mats up wall to wall with barely enough room to complete a Sun Salutation without beheading our neighbors.
The Wall Street Journal reports that angry yogis have thrown foam blocks at one another in turf wars and shamed latecomers clear out of studios. And yet it seems like the yoga trend is here to stay: Nearly twenty-five million Americans practice regularly and the numbers are increasing dramatically.
The time has come for someone to assume a leadership position, to quell the anarchy and establish unbending ground rules for yoga classes before more people are needlessly shamed or maimed. Herewith, my first draft of a Universal Yoga Class Manifesto:
- No farting.
It was an epic fart, the kind you’d be embarrassed to emit even in the privacy of your own bathroom, with no one else home. We were in Down Dog and the person in front of me let loose. What can you do? We all knew the culprit but we had no recourse. Now, with the No Farting rule in place, we can forcibly eject those who pass gas from the class. Poof! You fart, you’re gone.
- No tardiness.
You arrive early to get your favorite spot. You set up your mat, arrange your accessories, lie down and begin your yogic breathing. You’re feeling Zen-like already. The class fills up but you don’t care because you’ve staked out your territory. The music begins. The instructor speaks in a soothing voice. Seven minutes later the door opens and someone stumbles in, breathless and carrying bulky coat, purse and yoga bag. You open your eyes because she’s staring down at you, silently imploring you to move over so she can squeeze in where there is literally no room. Now you’re crammed between the newcomer and the wall. You’re pissed off. Your breathing becomes ragged. You want to pound Ms. Tardy over the head with your forty-pound bolster. But this is yoga so you think calming thoughts and vow to run her over in the parking lot after class. Latecomers no more!
- No over-breathing.
We’ve all been there. Next to or smack in front of the heavy breather. The yogi who takes the breathing aspect of the class very, very seriously. While the rest of us are audibly inhaling and exhaling through our noses, the over-breather embraces breathing with the passion of the Big Bad Wolf. Yes, breathing is important, but if yours sounds like a Category Five hurricane then it’s time to calm the hell down. Just breathe. Don’t over-breathe.
- No sneezing, wheezing or coughing.
If you’ve got a cold that’s causing your nose to run like a leaky faucet then maybe it’s a good day to practice on your own. At home. Or in the TB ward. Most yoga studios are enclosed, often stuffy rooms. Phlegm is not welcome here. A few weeks ago a yoga student placed her mat directly in front of the instructor and spent an hour coughing in her face. There was no escape. Once we impose the No Sneezing dictum, you spew fluids on me and I’ll give you a lozenge as I say “Gesundheit,” and shove you out the door.
- No showing off.
As I teeter in Tree Pose, quiver in Side Plank and keel over in Warrior III, the last thing I want to see is your Lulu-clad legs wrapped around your neck as you levitate in place. There’s nothing worse than being stuck next to the yoga over-achiever. So even if you can execute every pose to perfection, think about me, the poor schlub next to you who thinks she gets points just for showing up. I’m happy I can still sit cross-legged on the mat then manage to rise after a sixty-minute class. Can you just pretend that some poses are a teensy bit challenging? Or I’ll enforce the No Showing Off rule and have you ejected from the class. Prima donna!
- No snoring during Shavasana.
The reward for surviving class, you assume your favorite pose, that of the corpse. It’s no stretch playing dead after at least an hour of bending, binding and balancing. You lie supine on your mat, breathing easily now, allowing the benefits of your practice to permeate your being. Suddenly you hear soft whistling sounds followed by deep snorting. Someone has fallen asleep. They’re snoring! This is completely unacceptable. Totally uncool. You’re jolted back to reality and open one eye to search for the culprit but the rude noises have stopped. That’s because it was apparently you who had fallen asleep. OK, maybe the No Snoring rule can be waived.
Simply insist that your local studio adopt these succinct Universal Yoga Class Rules and I’m confident that we can all achieve a lifetime of balance, flexibility, strength and mindfulness – all without bloodshed.