When Students Behave Badly, Part II

Jason Crandell teaching yoga | yoga teacher etiquette | Jason Crandell Yoga Method

For teachers, yoga classrooms are where we work. It’s where we share our passion for the practice, where we earn our livelihood, and where we help students learn skillful ways to manage the human condition. Of course, the studio is also where students come to learn and practice. Students have the reasonable expectation that they can be themselves and experience a safe and supportive environment. And, they can –if they’re reasonable. And, students are reasonable — usually.

Like all group environments — especially where the general ethos is “do whatever makes you feel good,” and where the stated fire-code allotment for number of humans that can safely fit into a room is regularly ignored — the social etiquette of YogaLand can be open to interpretation. From time-to-time, students go off the rails and it can be challenging to know how to respond. In Part One, I talked about students who “do their own thaaang” and students who are so physically satisfied with their practice that they serenade class with moans and groans that are better suited for more intimate environments.

As teachers, we need to ask ourselves two related questions when we encounter questionable behavior in a class: First, is the behavior truly a problem for the group? And second, do we need to take control of the situation to protect the overall group experience, or do we need to let it ride?

Now, let me paint a few scenes.

See also When Students Behave Badly, Part I


The first time I taught at Power Yoga Germany in Hamburg, Dirk, the co-owner of the studio, made an announcement before my workshop. After the announcement, he told me in English what he just said to German-speaking students. He said, bluntly, that the studio has two rules and they’re both for men. Number one, he said, “We have two bathrooms and they’re both co-ed, so men need to sit down when they piss because men can never hit the target and women don’t need to put up with such inaccuracies.” Second, he said, “Men, when you get hot and start to sweat, you might want to take your shirt off. But, guess what? This isn’t allowed because the woman next to you doesn’t want to shower in the sweat that will be pouring off your body.”

Just when you thought chivalry was dead, right? I’m not going to expound on the first rule, but as a married man I can assure my male readers that hygiene in a shared bathroom is appreciated. So, take this consideration to heart if you’re a man using shared facilities. When it comes to the “Yoga: men gone wild, edition,” I don’t personally have a problem with men going topless in class. But, heavy-sweaters (men or women), please grab a towel and wipe down the region during and after class. And, teachers, you’ve got to get on your students to mop up their scene. It’s not just basic social etiquette. Students that are sweat on by their neighbor — or slip and slide on someone else’s sweat while walking to the restroom — are much likely to reconsider coming to another public class. So, teachers, if the need arises, simply grab a towel (nearly every studio has them), hand it to sweaty john or sweaty betty, give a quick glance toward their puddle and nicely say, “If you don’t mind.”


I’m going to be honest, I don’t mind when people leave before Savasana. Yes, it’s important. Yes, it’s part of the practice. Yes, we live in a vata-deranged culture and everyone needs Savasana. I’m not going to argue against those points. But, some people have children to pick up at an exact time, or they have an incredibly brief window between jobs. Or, they simply can’t handle laying on the ground for 6-10 minutes in a room full of other adults. I genuinely have empathy for all of these situations.

But, I’ve got to tell you, it takes every single second of patience that I’ve accrued in 20 years of practicing yoga, to keep my blood pressure from spiking when someone leaves in the middle of Savasana — or, worse, 10 seconds before Savasana is over! There’s a natural settling-in phase when students are transitioning to Savasana. I don’t think students are disturbed when others leave during the onset of savasana because there’s already plenty of sound and rustling while everyone prepares for their 10-minute rest. When someone leaves in the middle of Savasana it’s a much more significant disturbance. And, it’s almost always made worse by the student leaving because they’re trying to be quiet, which translates to 45 seconds of hearing a mat sloooooowly peeling off the ground, 45 seconds of floor boards creaking while the student walks to the back of the room to collect their belongings, 90 seconds of the belongings shifting around until the student is able to put their handmade eye-bag away, and another 30 seconds of the squeaky studio door being closed.

As teachers, there’s almost no way to guarantee that someone doesn’t occasionally bail half-way through Savasana. And, hey, maybe someone just remembered that they’re needed on a conference call or whatever. We’re all human and this is going to happen. But, there are two things you can do to minimize these incidents. First of all, end your [email protected]#$%^% classes on time!!! Don’t expect that everyone in your class can go over by 5 minutes or more because you took too long to get to your peak pose! We’ve all gone over — I’ve gone over — but I think it’s incredibly important to end class when the schedule says that class is over.

The second thing you can do is make periodic announcements in your class that you’ll be ending on time, that you’d prefer students to stay for Savasana, but if anyone needs to leave early, do so before Savasana begins or when class is over. Namaste.


We’ve all forgotten to wear deodorant. And, sometimes, the deodorant that we’re wearing is having a bad day and is not up to the task of masking our wild side. Perhaps you believe that deodorant is evil and that it masks your natural pheromones. Fine. All those things are fine. But, attempting to have a body odor that won’t knock a pigeon out of mid-air while it’s cruising past the window of the yoga studio is, I believe, part of the modern social contract.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve never approached someone about their odor. As a studio manager, I have. Fortunately, it’s very rare that someone’s odor rises to level of a necessary conversation. But, it does happen. I can think of three occasions over a 5-year period where, as a yoga director, I had enough complaints from the community about people’s odor that I needed to intervene. It was a high-end fitness facility and the problem was that each of the individuals involved were doing intensive training before coming to class. They’d come to class directly after their training and arrive in a remarkably funky state. This wasn’t once or twice. This was a few classes every week for months. Eventually, in each of the scenarios, I had to address the individuals. It was difficult, but managers have difficult jobs sometimes.

So, if you have a student whose odor is compromising the group experience, take it to your manager and ask them to have a conversation with them. If you prefer to handle it yourself, go for it. Be nice. Of course.


Cell phones are going to ring, buzz, ding, quack, play questionable ring tones, like “Oops I didn’t again, I played with your heart…” during class. Yes, one Saturday morning during Savasana my class was serenaded with a Britney Spears ringtone. And, yes, I’ve taught yoga for a long time.

I ignore 999 out of 1,000 notifications that I hear during class. This is yoga, so let’s focus even if someone’s bag is chirping. But, on occasion, teachers will realize that either A) the person that’s calling the phone nestled in someone’s purse is not going to give up, or B) it’s not a ringtone making that noise, it’s an alarm. Here’s what I’ll say during class in these situations: “Hey, I know everyone has phones and we all forget to turn them to airplane mode on occasion. But, if this phone is still going off during Savasana, everyone is doing pushups for 10-minutes, okay? So, even if you are 100% sure that it’s not your phone that is making this racket, please go check.”

That gets the job done.

I want to conclude with a reminder that this two-part series is written with love. Seriously. I wouldn’t have a fraction of the life that I have without my students and I know that most teachers feel the same way. At the same time, this is our workplace and it’s important that we have the tools to manage some of challenges that happen while we’re teaching. Be loving, be clear, and have boundaries.


  1. I am so glad you said this out loud for all of us teachers that have had these thoughts a hundred times or more…and as always, I especially love the sense of humor you add to any story you tell.
    Having spent many hours with you in person and under your guidance, I feel qualified to validate how much you care about the practice and sharing your years of knowledge with your students. In my humble little opinion, this is perfectly said and made my day!

    • Thanks, Kelly!

  2. Unisex bathrooms must have a urinal, or they are not unisex. End of problem.

    • thumbs up

    • ohhh…. no, Bradd. Careful, you’re treading on thin-ice here. Besides, when is the last time you were in a restroom with a urinal that had a spotless floor? Thanks for reading, though!

  3. It’s unclear from this post how you feel about underwear-clad nadi shodhana breathing during a vinyasa class. That’s fine right?

    • Only on New Year’s Day.

  4. No on the urinal. i don’t want be eye-level with a urinal, which is what happens in the too small unisex bathrooms that accommodate them. We don’t have urinals in our homes (typically).

    • Agreed. And, as I pointed out earlier, urinals, unfortunately, are no guarantee for a spotless floor….

  5. As a student, I also greatly appreciate this series of articles because as much as we try to focus on ourselves during class, being in class with moaners, sweaters, space hogs, unstable amateur acrobats, and savasana shunners does make it harder to concentrate and stay present. Thanks for presenting these issues with your usual directness and sense of humor.

    • You’re welcome. Thanks for reading, Julie.

  6. Thank you so much for addressing these issues. As a studio owner you have to handle a lot of sticky situations. I love the humor you have with it.

    • you’re welcome!

  7. Ohmyguru I love this series. Can I steal the “pushups for 10 minutes” line please? 😀

  8. Shirtless, sweaty and proximate – LOL. Usually goes along with a nice funky mat smell. And people wonder why I love home practice;)

  9. Thank you. I really appreciate your honesty so much. As a student, the leaving during savasana is just awful. It really rips me right out of my bliss, which is something I most likely need to work on, but I don’t want to HAVE to work on it. haha.

    I miss Wednesday nights. We are going to fix this soon!!

  10. Thank you, Jason. As a student and a part time teacher, I think you are spot on. Direct reminders spiced with love and humor seem to work the best. Repeat offenders are sometimes best dealt with one-on-one. Always hard to tell if it’s a lack of awareness or a lack of manners.

  11. There’s a lot we have to deal with as yoga teachers that is quite tricky to address. Your insights, suggestions, and stories are spot on. Thanks for these When Students Behave Badly!

  12. So good! Love the cell phone bit. Thanks for your candor, humor, and appropriate advice. You teach us in so many ways.

  13. Nice take on the cell phone viewpoint. I find the more experience I have as a yoga teacher, the less this sh*t bothers me. It’s impossible to teach in a 100% quiet environment. I just remind students to allow ALL sounds, including my voice, to be a part of their practice, reminding one to stay connected and present. OK, I’ll admit it…I have picked up a handbag with a non-stop ringing phone in it and dropped it outside the closed classroom door!

  14. All of this absolutely well said, per usual. One of the bad behaviors not mentioned but quite common at one of the studios where I teach are the territory wars. People upset that they didn’t get their space, or someone seems to be encroaching. I suppose it’s a fairly basic instinct, this is mine mine mine, but it can be appallingly disruptive. However the huffing usually takes place quickly and there’s no need for teacher intervention. It just makes me shake my head — human folly is ubiquitous, no matter how ‘sacred’ or ‘safe’ the space.

  15. Thank you Jason for stating what I have done and at times need to do with love and patience, instead of fume inside. Life is beautiful !

  16. Hi Jason, thanks for the great advice.
    I have a question about another ‘bad behavior’
    It happened with couples or friends Who come to class together – student will start correct their friends or partners poses, reach over to adjust or even get up off their matt to ‘help’.
    I’m not sure how to react! So far I’ve walked over and told those students nicely but with authority that I am that it is my responsibity to monitor all student and there isn’t need for them to help or adjust their friend, asking them to focus on their own practice.
    Do you think this is ok or do you suggest a different solution?

    • Oh yeah, I know this one! It happens all the time. Honestly, if they’re being quiet about it, I’m happy to let it go. People are just trying to help each other. If they’re spending too much time doing it, you can tell the helper that the helpee is doing fine and they can let them be. If they’re chatty, then you have to address it. The exception is when someone is giving a bad adjustment–which happens with some frequency. In this situation, you can take it as a teaching moment and help the helper get it right.

  17. Thank you for this, Jason! Do you have any thoughts on students who are habitually late? Would you address them individually after class or maybe say something to the class as a whole? Or, since I send an email out at the start of each week, maybe say something there about ‘appreciate everyone arriving a few minutes early’. It’s even more disruptive to me than someone leaving early because they’ll come in just after I’ve introduced the theme of the class and begun pranayama . . . then they shift around for five minutes, unrolling their mats, finding blocks . . . destroying any atmosphere I’ve managed to establish thus far. Thanks for any insights! Love your yogaglo classes. Zoe

    • Thanks for the question, Zoe. I don’t typically mind if students come in a little late–but, then again, I don’t start with pranayama or meditation. Since you do, I see how this would be irksome. You might have the front desk enforce a policy of doors closed during pranayama. Then, if someone comes late, they have to wait until pranayama or meditation is over before they can enter the class.


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