Odorous Yoga: Part Deux

After a nearly 6-week hiatus from taking any classes, I finally made it to the studio this week for some inspiration and community.  I took a class from a new-to-me teacher on Sunday who gave me some good ideas for working with beginners, and, Tuesday, cleared my evening for a double header of damn good yoga with a couple of teachers I know and love:  first a challenging power class, followed by a stretchy hour of mellow vinyasa.  I had a lovely time, and left the studio feeling weightless and warm, inside and out.

Prior to enrolling in YTT, I rarely attended classes.  Then when teacher training started, I was suddenly required (or strongly encouraged, depending on your interpretation) to take four classes a week at the studio, plus the 2-3 classes on weekends for training.  At first, this was really hard for me -- not physically, but emotionally.  I missed my home practice, since I didn't have time for it too often with all the hours spent at the studio.  I didn't feel that I was able to enter the same meditative state that ideally comes in private practice, but after a while, I really came to love attending classes and practicing in the company of other yogis, the student-teacher relationship, the give and take of energy.  Then, when the training course first ended, I revelled in the solitude of my home practice for a few weeks.  I basked for hours in the familiar space and quiet, just the sound of my own breath to carry me.  This passionate reunion with my home practice lasted for a good while, but eventually, I began to experience yoga studio withdrawal.  Even though I teach a class there weekly, it didn't seem to satisfy my need.

So, this week I ponied up and went all in.  And it was great, except for one thing:  the smell.  As I was lying in supta baddha konasana on Sunday, eyes closed, waiting for the class to start, I heard the slap of a mat being laid out beside me and was instantly assaulted by a smog of perfume.  Lots of it.  My guess would be 5 squirts from one of those tiny little glass bottles.  In any case, it was too much.  It burned my throat and stung my sinuses.  It made me think twice about breathing deeply.  Then, I opened my eyes, sat up, and saw the teacher walking around the room lighting wax candles.  In that moment, I considered getting up and leaving before the class commenced, fearing for my precious lungs, but I resolved to tough it out.  The studio is well ventilated, after all.  I told myself the air would kick in and everything would be fine.  But it wasn't fine.  I did not get used to the perfume, and the fumes from the candles gave the air a thick, heavy feeling in my chest.  I'm glad I stayed, as the class was good and I got to hear a new perspective.  I just wish people would save the perfume and candles for date nights and funerals.

Readers:  What's your take on scents in the studio?  Do you cover up the sweat with a little pre-class spritz, or light a candle during your practice?  Which is more offensive to the senses, B.O. or eau de toillete?


  1. I find perfume/cologne to be far worse in class. Fortunately it's quite uncommon here in SF for me to notice anyone else's applied scent.

    Although I wear and enjoy a variety of colognes regularly, I do so only /after/ I've practiced & showered, if at all.

    Anything someone can smell if they're farther than hugging distance is too much in any context, IMO.

    I haven't had the experience of a teacher lighting scented candles, but I wouldn't like it if they did. Odorless candles are fine by me. I have had teachers light a bunch of sage and walk around with it before class, and I can't stand it.

  2. Perfume is horrible. I'm allergic to most scents and I've been known to get up and move if someone who is wearing perfume sits down next to me. Otherwise I spend the entire class nearly choking....not much breathing going on in that case!
    As for candles, the studios around here use those LED (flameless) candles. So you get the light but not the scent. Sometimes they will light some incense before class, but out in the lobby so the scent is not heavy in the studio.

  3. Amen. Can't abide perfumes in the studio. I save mine for the few days when I'm not teaching or otherwise out & about... I also worry sometimes if I am coming from a friend's house where a dog lives & coming from home covered in kitty hair -- not for smell, but I don't want to trigger allergies.
    Hence, keeping a change of yoga clothes in the car all the time & somedays taking like 3+ showers! :)

  4. I hear you on the home practice love. In a class, it's a communal experience which is important for a healthy practice, but for me home practice is the bliss. Love your blog.

  5. Elizabeth - Good point about the pet hair/allergy situation. I try not to let my dog love me too much before I head out to teach a class.

    Wendy - Thanks for reading! And yes, to make a nourishment analogy: classes are the vitamins, but home practice is the meal.

  6. I love perfume, and wear it daily (in moderation) -- but *never* into a yoga studio. It just doesn't work, for anyone. I also run, and I hate running on an indoor track where someone is trailing a big wafting cloud of scent behind them, I can actually taste it sometimes!