I am a Vinyasa yoga instructor bases in Oakland, CA. I teach private and group classes all around the Bay area. Recently I had a discussion with my Dad about clapping at the end of a yoga class. He asked me if it’s customary where I live. Hmm…I thought. Well no! I would say it’s very rare that I’ve experienced it living here in Northern California. My Dad lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Our conversation got me really thinking about clapping in yoga. Coincidentally, a few days before I had a taken a class taught by a local teacher in which applause came after savasana! It was an all-levels class. Early on I felt the class was a bit acrobatic. Very past paced, next to no modifications and quite honestly, pretty unsafe. As a long-term practitioner and a teacher, I still appreciate options and an instructor who can really hold the space for all the levels. I admit, it can be tough sometimes.
I asked my Dad, does the teacher clap too, or is the vibe one in which the students are clapping for the teacher? The class I took, the teacher started the clapping. Both scenarios could mean very different things. A teacher initiating applause after a very aerobic and acrobatic type class, seems he or she is celebrating that the class is still standing after such a workout. It’s a bit of a reward, if you will. It’s almost like, “boy, we made it!” Like a lot of the Atlanta classes, when the students start to clap, it seems more like the teacher is being celebrated.
In yoga we practice letting go of the ego. We look at the bigger picture and we dedicate and surrender to something higher. While we do learn this from within ourselves, it’s not the ego that teaches us. Not in the same sense at least.
In my opinion, clapping after savasana is in a way, massaging one’s ego. The teacher is there to simply guide the class through the poses. He/she should only demonstrate certain poses, not go through a practice on their own. This is why I enjoy working with private clients. Students’ experience is unique and their own. It is important to establish that from the beginning. When we get into too much teacher/student role mumbo jumbo it may imply the student must listen and do as the teacher says, etc. while one should really be listening to his/her own body. Sometimes I tell my students, “You don’t have to do anything I say to do.” Yoga is the teacher. It teaches us about ourselves every time we come to the mat. There’s no need to look around the room to see what other people are doing. It’s not a competition or a team sport.
I think I might feel uncomfortable if a client or class applauded for me. I did not clap in the class I took that day. It didn’t feel natural. After all, it’s not a performance. As a teacher, I asked myself what I would do if I were in this situation. I’m not sure. It hasn’t happened yet. What’s your opinion on clapping in yoga?
Melanie is Vinyasa Yoga instructor and Holistic Health Counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works with groups, as well as private clients. Please contact her at www.melaniekaufman.com for a complimentary consultation.