Confessions of a Beginner Yogi

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Courtesy of University of Washington

Courtesy of University of Washington

Courtesy of University of Washington

Caren B. '17, Co-Editor

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Since this Christmas, I’ve been in possession of a bright pink yoga mat, which gives me the chance to become a yoga person—and learn a little bit more about the etiquette and culture. Here are some interesting things I learned:

1. Mats. According to “The 8 Rules of Yoga Etiquette” from Very Well, many who do yoga see their mats as a “special, almost sacred place” and therefore get frustrated when someone steps on it. As a Christian, this is inherently confusing—people don’t put Bibles or holy water on the floor if they want to keep it clean and relatively untouched, so why would you do that with a mat?
2. Namaste? When I started doing yoga with online videos, I heard the word “namaste” once or twice, and looked into what it really meant. Although most Americans see it as “the divine in me bows to the divine in you” (or some variation of that), an Indian NPR writer named Deepak Singh wrote: “It was the equivalent of hello, but with an element of respect. If we didn’t say namaste, they wouldn’t consider us good kids.”
3. Vocabulary. In one yoga video I watched, the instructor consistently mentioned the “heart space,” while another instructor discussed how you should “melt the fabric of your body.” As an anatomy student, I really can’t take their use of body-related vocabulary seriously—if my body started melting during yoga I’d probably call an ambulance.
4. Clothing. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but there’s a lot of different clothing and accessories associated with yoga—bracelets, scarves, anklets—that I saw in online videos and reading about yoga. To me, it seems inconvenient to wear that much jewelry when you’re doing handstands and other more complicated moves.
5. Chanting. Despite the fact that I haven’t heard chanting in any videos I’ve done yet, I’ve read a bit about chanting in Sanskrit and other languages, which is slightly confusing. Saying something in another language when you don’t really know what it means is slightly concerning, and a lot of the chants in other languages are invocations to Hindu gods or part of Indian religious texts.

Learning about yoga etiquette and culture is certainly interesting to me—perhaps after a few months of doing yoga I’ll understand it better.

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