If you’re on a quest to go from yoga novice to full-fledged yogi, you may find yourself spending a lot of time in a studio. With the right studio and instructor, you can prevent injuries, align your chakras, and connect your mind, breath, and body.
Keep reading for tips on how to find the perfect studio.
Before you commit to a studio, drop in for an introductory class or even just stop by and talk with the people hanging around.
Research local studios. Just as gyms can run the gamut from Planet Fitness to a CrossFit box, there’s lots of variety among yoga studios, so it’s best to get a feel for your options in person.
Yoga studios are like buffets. You can and should try as many recommended teachers, styles, and studios as possible.
Here are three things to consider when selecting a studio:
Location and price
This might seem like a no-brainer, but the most important part of yoga class is attendance.
It doesn’t matter if you sign up for the best studio in town — if the location is inconvenient or the cost is too high, it’ll be difficult to establish a daily yoga habit.
A studio with a good community can be helpful to your journey. Practicing with a community may be a great way to deepen your experience with yoga.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself to help figure out the best kind of yoga community for you:
- How social do you want to be? Do you want to chat with people from your class, or do you want to run in when you have time, take the class, and leave? A studio with a restaurant or coffee shop attached might be more social, while a studio advertising short lunch-hour classes may be more businesslike.
- Are you interested in learning more about meditation, body work, nutrition, or natural health? If you aren’t, and you want to take traditional fitness classes, too, you might be better off taking classes at a gym than at a dedicated yoga studio.
- Do you want spirituality to be part of your practice? Some instructors teach only asana (the physical postures for exercise), while others include chanting and reflections on ancient yogic texts.
Accessibility and community might be some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a studio. But if you want to keep your long-term yoga future in mind, make sure to also choose a studio that offers a wide range of classes.
As your practice grows, you’ll eventually want to try more challenging classes or target parts of your practice you feel are lacking.
No studios nearby?
In some classes, you may be able to request demo postures, ask for adjustments of specific poses, and get help developing your own routine.
If you have specialized needs, such as a serious injury, a virtual class might be better than a large in-person class because you’ll have the teacher’s full attention and none of the urges to compare yourself to other people.
Just as important as finding a great studio is finding a teacher you connect with, regardless of the style.
Look for a teacher who will listen to you, offer feedback on your practice, challenge you, and encourage you, no matter what level you’re at.
It’s also important to find an instructor you connect with on a personal level. Yoga can be a spiritual and personal journey, so having an instructor you really like may help you maintain your practice long-term.
Even if you’re a beginner in yoga, it’s important that you feel free to be yourself in the presence of your instructor.
A great teacher will also encourage you to continue to practice yoga outside of class. Although instructors are important, it’s especially helpful if they give you the skills to practice when you’re at home or away from the studio.
Maybe you’ve dabbled in yoga at home and practiced with videos that taught you all the basic poses. Should you still be going to beginner classes? We say yes.
Just because you have some experience with yoga doesn’t mean you have experience attending a yoga class.
Also, keep in mind that the atmosphere of a group class can make you push yourself harder than you would at home, and being too sore to move the day after a grueling intermediate class can decrease your likelihood of sticking with the practice in the long run.
There’s a blurry line between beginner and intermediate yoga, and some instructors think that’s intentional. The best person to tell you what level you’re at is (surprise!) you.
Choosing the best yoga class comes down to how you feel about it. You can ask yourself questions like:
- Do you feel like the class is manageable?
- Is the class too challenging?
- Do you feel more lost than others in the class?
The best thing you can do for your studio experience is arrive early and introduce yourself to the teacher. It’ll be easier for them to teach you if they know you’re a beginner (or that you’ve only learned from videos).
It’s also important that you let your instructor know about any health conditions or injuries you have. That way they can modify poses for you throughout the class.
While it’s ultimately your responsibility to keep yourself safe by listening to your body, your teacher is also there to help, so give them the information they need.
And even if you do eventually decide to advance to an intermediate class, that doesn’t mean you can’t go back to a beginner class from time to time.
With all these pointers in mind, here’s your action plan:
- Make a list of convenient studios. Research studios that are accessible — close enough and cheap enough that you’re likely to actually go.
- Go to a few studios, pick up a schedule, and soak in the vibe.
- Try beginner classes with a few different teachers. There’s no hurry to commit to one teacher or style. You’ll try new classes throughout your practice.
- Show up early to class and talk with your new teacher, especially if you have an injury. Following this basic yoga etiquette will make you more comfortable and improve your experience.
You probably wouldn’t be asking yourself this question during a Pilates or cycling class. That’s part of what makes yoga different. Even though many yoga classes today teach only physical postures, the practice is not just an exercise methodology.
Physical postures, known as asana, are just one of the eight limbs of yoga. The other limbs encompass a holistic system with roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions that governs things like ethics and behavior, self-discipline and faith, breathing, awareness, and meditation.
There’s not enough space here to go deeply into the holistic side of the practice, but there’s a reason many yoga teachers don’t stick to just telling you how to stretch.
Historically, asana was intended to prepare the body for greater spiritual discipline, growth, and union with the divine.
Some further disciplines include breathing exercises (called pranayama) and meditation practices. Some teachers also reflect on sacred texts, such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, or spiritual teachings from many faiths.
That might sound heavy, but a spiritually oriented yoga class isn’t like a religious meeting or service. Instead, it’s an environment where people discuss spirituality.
The most important aspect of choosing a yoga teacher, class, and studio is that you feel comfortable. A good yoga class is a supportive and inclusive community that gives you space to explore your practice.
You should never feel judged about something like your technical abilities, your body, or even your clothes.
If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, try a different teacher, class, or studio.