How to Not Be a Dick in Yoga (and Life)

and the introduction of Ryslow’s Pyramid

Imagine having a few friends over at your place… and a couple of those friends bring a couple of their friends.

After a few formalities and maybe a beverage or two… one of those new friends gets up and starts going through your drawers, commenting on the food in your refrigerator, logging into your Facebook, reorganizing your closets… and just generally doing whatever the hell they feel like.

Would you be OK with that?

No, right?

It’s your home.

And there are unspoken rules about how we should behave in someone else’s home… and in life, in general.


We learned this stuff in first grade.

But I’m continuously amazed at the selfish, entitled behavior that happens in yoga studios…

Studios where we’re supposed to be practicing compassion and “becoming one with everything” or some shit.

I had to revoke a long-time student’s BurnPass yesterday because she flat-out refused to abide by very, very lenient “rules” about using a cell phone in class.

I didn’t embarrass her in class. I sent a very nice email, asking that she please step outside the studio if she needed to “monitor her emails.” (her words)

After a long email thread that I shouldn’t have engaged in (but it makes such great email fodder AND I was dominating in every single response)… her final response was:

“I hear you, but it’s not the policy of the studio, so I can’t promise you that I am going to abide by it. I pay for that workout and if I need to quietly monitor my emails so that I can be in class, I am going to do that.”
Uhhhh… come again?!

Because you paid for something, you think you get to do whatever you want — at the expense of EVERYONE ELSE’S experience?!

Here’s your little $99 from last month and we’ll cancel your BurnPass.

Obviously I don’t like having to take yoga away from anyone… So I thought I would take this opportunity to lay out the “rules” for class so I don’t have to do it again.

Which… really, aren’t “rules” so much as they are standard operating procedures for LIFE.

How to Not Be A Dick in Yoga 101

A few weeks ago, I posted on Facebook about another all-too-common variety of Yoga Dickness.

The person who shows up to a class, where everyone is following along with a teacher, and does their OWN PRACTICE.

This is akin to walking into a restaurant, sitting down, and telling the waiter “naw, man… I’m cool. I’m not really into what the Chef is doing here — but I do dig the vibe of the place, so I just ordered some food to be delivered from down the street. I’ll let you know if there’s anything you can do for me.”

You can look at the post (and the followup) to see the discussion… but most everyone agreed with me.

A few didn’t. But obviously, those are the people who are guilty of doing the thing that EVERY OTHER PERSON says is not cool. #commondenominatormuch #checkyourself

Usually when someone is confronted about committing one of these ACTS OF YOGA-TREASON… the response is something like “well, if everyone was focusing on their own practice, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

How boring and tired.

How about you stop regurgitating what everyone else says and wake up?

Before we start “focusing on our own practice” or worrying about our own happiness — we should first determine where we fit in and act accordingly.

I’m all for “doing you” and not worrying about what other people think.

But living your life that way doesn’t mean you get to operate without constraints.

You aren’t the center of the Universe. You’re orbiting.

So… being that the majority of the people who read my stuff and come to my classes are intelligent people — instead of just making a list of hard-rules, I thought I would provide a pyramid, similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy, that provides some general guidelines.

It’s super simple:

Ryslow’s Hierarchy

On the base of the pyramid is “DON’T BE A DICK.”

That comes first… which would be things like:

  • don’t blatantly disrespect the teacher or the students around you by doing whatever you want
  • don’t use your phone
  • don’t carry on long conversations
  • make room for people and be accommodating.
  • share
  • be nice

You know… refer to the “first grade” image at the top of this post.

On top of the pyramid is “DO YOU, BOO.”

That’s the part where you start “focusing on your own practice” and doing the things you need to do.

But you don’t start there.

Other people first.

This is why we are the dominant species.

You see… we figured out a long time ago that when we work together, we thrive and win.

This still applies.

Act like it.

Don’t be an asshole.

My first email:

Hey Hi
Ha you know I love you.. Or I would have said something outloud in class … And I know you’re a big baller now at FancyMovie Productions..
But I want to be really careful about the reputation of the class… I’ve heard the “everyone was in halfmoon while the girl next to me was texting” joke about other classes too many times.. Or about people having their phones by their mats.
So if theres no way around it and you absolutely have to … You can take it into the office yah? :-)
Personally I don’t care — I tune it out.. But word travels and this studio isn’t an easy place to operate as it is
Thanks girrrrllllllllll

Her first response:

Thanks. I know. I don’t make it a habit, but when it’s a choice between not getting to class or getting to class but having to look at it, I opt for going to class.
Frankly, I don’t care what people think… Blessing of being in my 40s and comfortable in my own skin.


Like I give a shit about how comfortable you are in your own skin.

And then it went down the Selfish Hill from there…

I’ll spare you.

If you’re in LA, and you think you can operate under the guidelines of Ryslow’s Pyramid, holler at us.

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