Signs are popping up in yoga studios around the country telling people the parameters of their shared space and community. They say things like “Don’t step on anyone else’s mat,” “Stay for Savasana” and “Turn off your cellphone.”
I think this is nice. It lets people know what to expect, and when people know what to expect, they feel safer.
I just don’t think it goes nearly far enough.
Now, I don’t mean these signs need to go into great detail about the exact spacing between mats, how greens/blues/purples are preferred to oranges/reds or the precise brand of eco deodorant that everyone should be wearing.
That would be a little much.
Instead, I think that actual community parameters should be clearly shared (not to mention regularly, actively discussed, re-evaluated & updated), including how students can expect to be treated.
This, to me, is far more important than turning off your cell phone (though no one likes a ringing phone during Savasana, so that could stay).
Yogi Bill of Rights
I don’t think we talk often enough in yoga communities, big or small, about the rights that we each have to our own space and bodily integrity. I find it funny (though not at all haha) that we don’t talk about this since, oh, I think this is what yoga is all about.
Here are some examples of what this could look like to get the conversation going:
1. You get to decide if, when and how you are touched: Our teachers are available to offer you a physical assist if you’d like, but we won’t do that without clearly asking you first. And if you say no, we will walk away — no questions or cajoling.
2. We teach from the ground up: In all of our classes, our teachers will begin with the most supported version of the pose and work to a less supported version of the pose. We’ll remind you along the way that your only job today is to check in with your body and see which one feels best in this moment.
3. Students of all identities are welcome: This is a safe space for people of all gender identities and expressions, sexual orientations, races and ethnicities, shapes and sizes, abilities and levels of experience. Our teachers are trained to use gender neutral, welcoming language.
4. No sitting out (unless you want to): We promise to never ask you to hang out in Child’s Pose for 10 minutes while everyone else does something else. If you want to take a break in that or any other pose, though, you are welcome to.
5. You know you’re advanced when: In our classes, advanced doesn’t mean putting your leg behind your head. Instead, it means doing your best to listen to your body on any given day. It’s possible to have a not-at-all-advanced Headstand and a very-advanced Savasana.
There are so many more I could add here, not to mention the years we could spend discussing each one. I want to hear from you, though: What would you add to the list?