The debate over this topic can get really quite heated — yogi/yogini’s are often anything but gracious when it comes to whether they want it church-like quiet or nightclub vibrant before their yoga class.
When we first began teaching in our community — over 10 years ago now — there were very few studios in Calgary, never mind in our area. It became our joy and mission to build yoga in the McKenzie Lake and McKenzie Towne communities; we strove to create a strong sense of connection between the students and with us as well. We ultimately wanted our students to get to know us, each other and to build friendships with like-minded people in order to help birth and foster a Yoga Community in our area.
We began each 6-week program by making our way around the room prior to class introducing ourselves, finding out if studenst had injuries or other limitations we should know about and then did our best to put the students’ mind at ease.
The first week or two of classes the students were as quiet as church mice — likely because they weren’t sure what to expect of themselves, each other or this growing trend called yoga. But as the weeks went on we’d begin hearing an incredible buzz and sizzle of conversation, laughter, bonding and over-the-top energy coming out of the filled-to-capacity room — it was a wild and wonderful time!
There was so much energy that in order to even begin the class we would first have to get the attention of the excited students’ conversations by either ringing our yoga chimes or I’d playfully say, “If you can hear me please say Shhhh.” It was clear that the students were pumped and ready for action and were feeding off of each other’s energy, making our job easy … it’s the old a wheel in motion tends to stay in motion.
Around that time I offered to join a couple of our students, who had become dear friends, in a class at a new studio that had just opened in south Calgary. We walked in filled with excitement, which meant we were chatting as we chose our spots in the room and rolled out our mats. In a flash the owner came rushing over and said “Excuse me, this is a quiet studio!” I had no idea what she meant — I thought, “Yes, isn’t it nice. It’s got a very tranquil décor.” Duh on me!
She must have been able to tell I had no clue what she was getting at and decided to spell it out for me by saying, “There’s no talking in the studio.” I felt about 2 inches tall. Here I was introducing my students/friends to hot yoga and I was being reprimanded before I’d even stepped on my mat!
Ironically, I began teaching at that studio several months later and shared with the owners how that experience had left my friends and myself feeling. They seemed to have taken it under advisement because a few months later they did away with the “Quiet Studio” policy, making it a studio I now love to teach at because I find when the energy is high at the beginning it’s easier to have a fun and energetic class.
Fast forward to today and you’ll find students shushing each other, storming out of the room to complain to the front desk staff or otherwise making it known they want some quiet time in their hectic day. Yet, these are oftentimes the same people who will roll up their mat and bolt for the showers before the designed quiet time – Savasana – the final resting pose and likely the most mentally and emotionally cleansing of all postures. Sadly, many new styles of yoga devote a matter of only a few seconds or minutes to Savasana or have all but done away with it completely.
I’m sure you can tell by now that our preference is a non-quiet studio where there’s conversation and community being developed — especially in the world we now find ourselves in where people are no longer talking, they’re sitting next to each other texting instead!
We seem on the verge of losing our ability to connect with others in personal and more intimate ways, but be that as it may, let’s get to what you can do if you find yourself in a setting that isn’t meeting your needs — it’s noisy and you’re seeking quiet or you feel isolated and showed up at a yoga class in search of a little human contact.
Distracted by noise when all you long for is some quiet in your life?
There’s a story I heard where a man went outside and sat on a soft patch of grass to do his morning meditation. No sooner did he get nicely settled in, eyes closed, breath under control and chanting his mantra when a landscaper fired up his weed eater and lawn mower only a few feet from him.
At first the man was incensed that the gardener would be so rude, after all, it was obvious he was trying to meditate. Then, realizing the only thing in life he could control at all was his own reaction and his mind so he set about using the sound of the weed whacker and mower as his new mantra. Wow, talk about being able to turn lemons into lemonade!
Before I dive into how you can find quiet in a less than perfect environment please consider this — most people who are chatting or rolling out their mat rather noisily, etc. are usually new to yoga.
It might help you find compassion towards them by remembering what it was like the first time you stepped on the mat, filled with a combination of excitement and nervousness over the journey you were about to embark upon. Rather than angrily shushing others first try the following:
- Use the distraction and noise as the perfect opportunity to really hone your skill and ability to go within by closing your eyes and in your mind chant your favorite mantra. If you don’t have a mantra to use then simply Inhale “So,” Exhale “Hum.” Usually it’s best not to know what a mantra translates to but this one’s so sweet that you might like to know it means “I am that.”
- Reflect on all the things in life you have to be grateful for and start to build a list of them in your mind and your heart. You could even start by being grateful for your sense of hearing.
- Rest your hands on your belly or low ribs and breathe into them. Begin bringing a subtle sound to your breath (softly constricting the back of your throat helps create the sound of the ocean) and focus on the rise and fall of your belly/diaphragm and the soothing sound you’re creating with each breath you take.
Seeking a little human contact, connection and conversation with others?
- If you’re practicing at a studio that observes a “Quiet” environment but has a tea/socializing area, plan to arrive a few minutes prior to class or stay a few minutes after for a little conversation with others. You could always break the ice by asking questions such as “Have you been to this class before?,” “How long have you been practicing yoga?,” or “Who’s your favorite teacher/what’s your favorite class?”
- It’s always best to honor the guidelines/rules of the studio you’re practicing at, doing so certainly saves you the embarrassment of being firmly told to “Shhhhh.” But if socializing with your friends after a long day at work, or meeting new ones, is important to your soul simply phone around to find a studio that doesn’t require students to be quiet while they’re in the studio space. We realize that’s getting harder and harder to find but these studios are still out there, I know because we teach at a couple of them.
- Take part in workshops offered at studios in your area. Usually these don’t observe the “Quiet” rule simply because everyone’s pumped and excited to meet the guest teacher. Plus, the visiting teacher may be one who likes to go around and meet the students, which lends itself perfectly to a very social setting. Then, once you recognize other students who also attended the workshop, you might be more likely to chat with them the next time you see them at the studio and you’ll start to build upon your friendship.