Six years ago, after a 90-minute challenging flow at my favorite studio in Seattle, I sat on a bench in the locker room and wept.
It wasn't because of exhaustion, crappy handstands, or PMS. No, my tears fell at the realization that this was my last class here, at my beloved home studio. This would be my last flow amongst sleepy-eyed friends I’d bonded with through sweaty 6 AM forays into warriors, crows, and twists, guiding us toward wherever we were headed after the sun came up. No more.
I was moving 3,000 miles away and saying farewell to my community. Sure, there’d be new studios to discover, but I already missed mine.
“Shannon,” my globetrotting friend assured me after class, “I have fallen in love with MANY studios. You’ll find your new yoga home.” Five moves and several studios later, I have. I’ve found a great place to practice and a community of friends who have welcomed me into their corner of the yoga world.
But finding your yoga home requires more effort than simply tossing your mat onto the hardwood floor. Here’s what worked for me--my four P's. These can help you to find a local yoga studio in your new location.
1. Play hopscotch, then pick a square and stay awhile.
At one point during my five-moves-in-five-years journey, I was practicing and teaching at four studios within a ten mile radius. I loved them all but struggled to make honest connections at all four simultaneously.
By choosing a flagship studio and limiting other work to occasional subbing, I was able to connect with fellow students and teachers on a deeper level. Of course, you need to visit a few studios in the beginning to determine where you feel most comfortable and welcome; but once you find it, commit to it and stay put.
Resist the temptation to bolt once the new member or Groupon special expires, as the intention behind these offers is to roll out a long term yoga mat for you. The rewards that come with practicing at one primary studio where others can get to know you far outweigh the first time yogi’s deal next door.
2. Put down your phone and say hello.
I’m not suggesting you rouse the serene yogi next to you meditating in Sukasana with a “Hey, how ya doin’!?” but do look for opportunities to engage before and after class. Even if it feels a wee bit awkward, say hello and introduce yourself. You already have something powerful in common--you both love yoga!
By simply saying hello I’ve learned that one yogi divides her time between Cambridge, MA and Brazil; that another is starting a men’s line of yoga clothing in LA; and yet another can’t wait to include me in her ladies wine group. New friends, new community. I’m no longer just another tank top and tights-clad yogi passing through.
3. Pick a primary class and make it one that you’ll attend regularly.
Unless there’s a free pound of chocolate involved, I’m rarely going to make it to an evening class. I know this about myself and thus plug in several 6:30 AM (unless I’ve eaten a pound of chocolate the night before, in which case I’ll plug in a 9 AM) practices into my weekly calendar.
That’s not to say I don’t attend other classes, but I see the same yogis and teachers at my primary class and have developed amazing friendships as a result. Be sure to schedule your classes in advance! I know if I don’t, life quickly gets in the way and by the week’s end, I’m wondering where all the time and my Downward Facing Dogs went.
If you’re a teacher, do your best to land a regular time slot and limit subbing as much as possible so your students can get to know you.
4. Practice that handstand in a workshop!
Try new offerings in opportunities outside of a regularly scheduled class. Workshops are a wonderful chance to not only deepen your practice, but to work with a partner, get to know the teachers and staff, and make a new friend.
And who knows what the Universe will do. I recall landing the same awesome partner at a workshop in New York City who happened to roll her mat out next to mine again two months later at another workshop in Lambertville, NJ. We laughed in awe for a good ten minutes before we could even begin working together. Randomly beautiful.
I’m praying this will be my last move but I'm also comforted in knowing that should life take me elsewhere, a yoga home will find me right around the corner. Wherever that may be.