Should We Clap at the End of a Yoga Class?

Ilonka Michelle O’Neil
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When students clap at the end of a yoga class, I cover my ears and wait for it to pass.

 
We work hard in yoga, we sweat. We breathe and move and as we do so we allow tension to drain from our bodies. Historically, the goal of yoga is to prepare the body for meditation. We attempt to get all the bugs out during practice, so we might empty the mind.
 
After a great practice, if we’re lucky, we find that momentary place of stillness in Savasana.
 
And as we rise, feeling quiet, calm, fulfilled and refreshed, it happens… someone feels the need to express their feelings via applause.
 
When the yoga room erupts into applause, I find it jarring. Do you?
 
Why do people clap?
 
Are they really that inspired? Maybe. Some yoga teachers are amazing! Are some students sucking up to their teachers with the accolades? Perhaps. Do some teachers expect or encourage applause? I hope not. Isn’t that making the yoga about the teacher and not the students? Is clapping a habit students learn and they just think it’s what you’re supposed to do? Who started it?
 
Who clapped the first yoga clap?
 
Is there another way I might look at clapping? Perhaps as a celebration of how good people feel when they’ve had a great class? Or how relieved they are that a class is over? (Just kidding).
 

 
I wonder if different geographical regions have different clapping practices?
 
Before I ever took yoga teacher training, I was practicing at a studio where clapping at the end of class was the thing to do in the bigger, “hot” yoga room. There was a second smaller room at the studio, with a more gentle slow-flow vibe. The teacher was a little older, and unaffected by yoga trends. Her class had a spiritual component and emphasized proper alignment. Many students came to her seeking wisdom after experiencing an injury.
 
On the occasion when applause would break out at the end of her class, she’d kindly but sternly interrupt with,  “I don’t encourage clapping.”
 
It was shocking the first time I heard her say this. It was so unexpected, so direct. She would go on to tell students she wanted them to leave in the calm peaceful state they’d created during their practice. She didn’t want the energy dispersed with raucous applause. She wasn’t a teacher that needed praise.
 
To clap or not to clap? Each studio will likely have it’s own culture. There is no right or wrong, but as teachers we might want to look at it and bring some consciousness into why we do or do not “encourage” it.
 
So what are your thoughts? Have you experienced clapping at your yoga studio? Personally, are you one to clap or not to clap in your classes? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. We are interested!
 

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Ilonka Michelle O’Neil

Ilonka Michelle O’Neil is a writer, with a background in nursing. She teaches Vinyasa and Yin in the Boca Raton area. She volunteers for Yoga Gangsters and also Connected Warriors, a free yoga program for veterans. She is interested in healing trauma through yoga, and her passion is teaching yoga to parents of children with special needs. She blogs for Leslie Glickman's Yoga Journey.

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