Odorous Yoga

I finally made it back to the studio this week. After almost three months of hauling around the intention, but lacking the motivation, I finally decided to just go to the Thursday evening power yoga class. And it was damn good. The class was led by an instructor I have not experienced before, and she gave us a really nice practice. The room was not overly hot, and she was generous with her time, going over the scheduled hour by 10 minutes or so. The class was comfortably populated by about 15 hard working, talented yogis, almost half of which were men, which I always consider to be a good sign. I'm not a misogynist, I promise you. My logic here is that it's easy to get a bunch of women to do yoga these days. It's a little harder to rope the men in, or so it seems. An instructor with a gender balanced student body can indicate a grounded, versatile, and well balanced teaching style, in my humble yogic opinion.

At least it was true in this case. The class started out nice and slow, with ample opportunity to warm up the spine and shoulders. A few slow salutations, then some long holds in warrior I and II before moving into a well rounded and flowing standing sequence. The instructor's cues were strong and clear, and I particularly appreciated her focus on intention, which she reinforced by informing us of what was to come next in the sequence before actually cuing the asanas, which assisted in maintaining a nice, smooth flow throughout the practice and allowed each student to move in their own way. She walked around the room throughout the class, not demonstrating many poses, but watching us carefully and making alignment points. I felt her light hand on my back or saw her feet by my mat several times throughout the hour. She offered several optional progressions to go deeper if desired, and we played with handstand kicks on both sides, which was fun.

I have just one stick in my craw to discuss here, and it does not reflect on the instructor. In my vicinity during the class, somewhere, someone had not showered in days. This person, whoever it was (I was not able to pinpoint the source), was absolutely ripe. Overripe. Beyond ripe, they were downright rotten. It was a struggle at times to maintain the ujjayi breath. Warrior I was especially rank. By the end of the class, the stench was thick in the air. Last night at work, I was still smelling it, scrunching my nose and asking my coworkers anxiously if they detected the awful stench. I don't mean to be prudish, but it seems to me, as a courtesy to the other students, and particularly to the instructor, who may be obligated to get a little intimate with his or her students, that one should bathe before attending a yoga class... or, at the very least, have bathed in the past couple of days. Yes? Granted, it's a culturally relative matter of etiquette, and I realize in many places no one would bat an eye. But here in the West?


  1. Yuck. It doesn't really matter what the smell--b.o., patchouli, perfume--intense smells are very distracting in class. I even object to incense, because who knows who has asthma or sensitivity. I don't think you're being unreasonable.

    The lingering effects reminds me of the "Seinfeld" episode with the smelly valet parker. Sorry it go stuck in your nose...

  2. I agree with Brenda about smells in general even incence. What smells good to me might not smell good to everyone.

    However I did used to teach in a hall that always smelt of onions! I spoke to my students and we all agreed that incence was the way forward then!

    As for your smelly student - doesn't Mr Iyengar advise us to approach our practice freshly bathed?

  3. Brenda - Agreed on the incense and perfumes... no thanks. I, too, was reminded of the Seinfeld episode with the smelly valet. Classic.

    Rachel - A hall that smelt of onions? Sounds both appetizing and nauseating. I believe you're right that Iyengar prescribes a pre-practice bath, in keeping with the purity limb.

  4. found this from rachel's blog....

    as for the smelliness. i dont even know. of course its rude and grody, but im too much a wuss to actually approach people like that. so, basically, im no help :)

  5. Where I live it has been so hot recently, and the air conditioners in our conference-room-turned-yoga-practice-space have been malfunctioning, my Vinyasa classes are turning into giant sweat-boxes! Apart from the very real danger of slipping on the tiled floor as it becomes a pool of sweat (I know, right, ewwwwwwwwww!! Going around the room to do adjustments becomes Mission Impossible to try and stay on my feet... Not to mention doing adjustments on sweaty bodies... Oh, there is no glamour in that job lol!), I am finding that the odors are kind of intense!!

    I definitely don't like using incense during a practice, so I have compromised by lighting an insence stick during Savasana to try and mellow out the smell... LOL

  6. Hi Emma - Thanks for stopping by! I'm sure I wouldn't have approached the person, either, even if I did know who it was.

    La Gitane - Eeek! Be careful on that wet floor. I admire your fortitude in the face of sweaty yogis.