If you’re a life-long runner or gym rat, walking into a yoga studio for the first time can be scary. Liz Eustace, founder of yoga-lifestyle website Alignyo and a yogi for more than 20 years, sees it all the time.
“I’m always surprised at how intimidated people are around the practice,” she says. “A lot of people want to try yoga, but they’re not getting on the mat.”
To help tackle some of the reasons people have for shying away from yoga (lack of flexibility, yoga lingo, leggings from 2008, and flatulence, just to name a few), Eustace penned Frozen Yoga, a guide for newbies that’s filled with tips and tools like quick facts on yoga styles, what to wear to class, and her favorite sites for online yoga classes.
And for true beginners, etiquette may be the best place to start (and actually, ahem, some veteran practioners could use a refresher, too).
We chatted with Eustace about the book to bring you a few unwritten etiquette rules to mentally jot down before rolling out your mat in a yoga studio for the first time.
1. Line your mat up with a neighbor’s. If you literally have no idea where to place your yoga mat in the studio, you’re definitely not stupid. “Some studios have lines on the floor delineated by tape or marker—Shanti bless them, as this makes the process 100 percent easier,” Eustace says. That means you’d align the top of your yoga mat with the marker.
Otherwise, it’s the wild West. You can pretty much place your yoga mat wherever there’s enough space, but as a practice, try to align the top of your mat with your neighbor’s so that you form a row. (And if it’s crowded, don’t leave more than a foot between your mat and the one next to you, as the space is probably needed for another yogi.)
2. Avoid pre-class perfume. Even if you love it, skip your favorite scented spritz that day. “Since yoga places such a strong focus on inhalation and exhalation, a strong fragrance can really take over the room and become distracting,” Eustace explains. Whether it’s Chanel No. 5 or sandalwood oil, better to wait until after class to freshen your fragrance.
3. Don’t freak out if class feels chaotic. At places like Yoga to the People, classes can get super crowded. Like, your-mats-are-overlapping-on-all-sides crowded. “Best advice? Try a simple smile toward your mat neighbor,” she says. “You might even make a friend—which will come in handy if the teacher announces that there is partner work in class.” And if that fails, close your eyes and practice that new deep breathing technique.
4. You don’t have to hold it in. When it comes to the art of the yoga class fart, Eustace recommends letting it out. “With so much breath control from the diaphragm, mixed twists, and inversions—it’s simply a movement of gas, and it’s completely natural,” she says. “Don’t hold it in if it makes you uncomfortable…A big part of yoga is letting go. Of everything.” Of course, maintaining your sense of Zen when someone else decides to follow this advice may take just a little more practice. —Jamie McKillop