Choosing the right gig for your yoga practice is essential. With “30 days for 3 dollars!” (OK, I’m exaggerating just a tad) deals all over the web, and “get your yoga butt here!” signs on every corner, options clearly abound. But as longtime committed yogis know, picking the right joint to park your mat takes deeper consideration than sweet deals and tight tush promises alone. Finding the right studio or other venue to deepen and grow your practice takes time and effort. And sometimes, as in my case when I moved to the east coast, it takes a few dates with frogs.
I like frogs just fine, but I don’t want ‘em near my mat. One toad of a studio offered up an instructor who never opened her eyes throughout the entire practice. I’m serious. A few whiffs of something other than incense sent me and my mat out the door in seek of another yoga home. I can get plenty enough high in a handstand, thank you.
In time, though, I found several charming princes (studios) to choose from, and am happily teaching and flowing with big-hearted, like-minded yogis several days a week. And you can too. If you’re new to yoga, or your yoga has landed in a new ‘hood, take heart. Your prince ain’t far off.
Before snatching the cheapest Groupon deal, or blindly following your pal to the all-the-rage studio, answer the following three questions. You’ll get to the grand yoga ball faster, and feel less like an ugly step sister trying to wriggle her yogitoes into a glass slipper.
1. What’s The Culture?
In corporate circles they have what’s called a company ‘culture’. This could mean stiff suits and a knock on the boss’ door before entering policy, or a culture of skateboards skimming the hallways in hoodies and Vans between social media management brainstorming sessions.
Not so different in yoga studio-land.
Consider: are you looking to rock your snazzy Lycra-suction miracle leggings amongst other yogafashionistas under state-of-the-art sky lights? And do EXACTLY as Simon Instructor says? Or are you more at home in your well-loved gray sweats in an earthy setting with a soft-spoken teacher encouraging you to listen to your inner teacher – even if that means an entire class in resting in child’s pose?
2. Comfy Kicks Or Killer Heels – What’s Your Style?
I’ve practiced for several years and I still struggle with this one. It changes moment to moment. But it’s an important question. Ask yourself – is your intention to sweat hard and develop some killer triceps? Then maybe Ashtanga (with an endless parade of chatturangas) is the right fit for you.
Maybe med school is on the horizon, and anatomy is your latest obsession. A great Anusara-based (with a heavy emphasis on alignment) studio can get you from reciting ‘my back is stiff’ to ‘my quadratus lumborum has approximately 3 degrees more range of motion than a month ago’ in no time.
Dig a place that welcomes your blocks, strap, bolster and imported Mexican blanket? Haul it all on in to your local Iyengar joint, where savvy instructors will show you how to reap monster benefits from all of them – albeit in eternally-lengthy poses.
Starving for a spiritual connection? A deeper understanding of the philosophy of yoga? Seek out a studio that offers more than salutations. Some great ones integrate chanting, meditation, and workshops emphasizing the roots of yoga.
And, if you’re like me, you may just want a big ole gumbo of yoga options. Some studios offer several styles, while others specialize in one or two forms. So get busy and set up a few dates. Most studios offer a decent intro offer or complimentary free first class. A few frogs never hurt anyone.
3. What Kind Of Community Am I Getting Into?
Wanna chill? Or wring out the sweaty head band after class? Options abound. Heated Flow. Bikram. Outdoors at the local park within a group or solo (which I highly recommend, BTW, after trying it last summer - the “who is this freak?” looks shot my way were well worth the price of a class). Or, perhaps atop a paddleboard in the lake – you know, if balancing on solid ground is just too darn easy for you.
Lookin’ for love in all the yoga places? Or total silence and serene faces? Check out the vibe – some studios are conducive to meeting lots of new pals, while others welcome your spirit, but not looking to friend you on Facebook.
And who says it’s gotta be a studio? One of the most extraordinary teachers I ever had the privilege of practicing with taught in a gym, where a thin, un-soundproof curtain could not curtail the “c’mon!!! Git yer butts up that hill!” shouts from the spinning instructor the next room over. No matter, my instructor was amazing, and I share many kernels of his wisdom with my classes today.
DJ jams or Kirtan? Keyboards and amps in some studios. Harmoniums and flutes in others. You decide.
Don’t forget our friend Technology – just plug and play and dive into down dog with a vast selection of amazing teachers at www.yogaglo.com or www.gaiamtv.com. Several styles, levels, and practice options to get your inner yogi on. Just resist hitting the pause or fast forward button.
Clearly, there’s a yoga sweet spot for everyone. Just keep in mind if you do opt for a studio or gym, to make sure their welcome mat is as big and bodacious as your loving and loyal yoga mat. No yogi needs an attitude to get in the way of their gratitude.
So wiggle your toes out of svasana and try out a studio, park, paddleboard, or anywhere your mat desires. Namaste and see you in class!