Want to Try Yoga? But Don't Know Where to Start? How to Find the Right Studio/Teacher for YOU!
If I had a dollar for each time someone expressed wanting to learn yoga but were hesitant to go to a yoga class for fear of looking ridiculous, I would be buying a vacation home in Bali by now. In my last article, I talked about the growing interest in yoga, but what do you do when you want to take the plunge and don't know where to start?
Many new students are terrified to come to their very first yoga class and I blame (but also contribute to) social media. With your Facebook and Instagram feeds flooded with people in exotic locations in positions you thought were only seen in Cirque Du Soleil, it is easy to feel pretty intimidated and I have to admit that I have felt the same way too. But, you're in luck, because this is not the reality! Sure those people and classes do exist, but you're not going to wander into your first beginner yoga class with the teacher instructing you to place your foot behind your head. Furthermore, you never have to go into a posture that you are not physically or emotionally ready for. Sometimes the best way to learn a posture is to watch other people in the class get into it. It is beautiful to watch people in varying levels express their best version of the pose. Finally, and pay attention here, NOBODY CARES if you look ungraceful, fall out of the pose, or any scenario that you have played out in your mind. I truly mean that. Everyone in class is focusing on trying to execute their own posture that their mental focus in not on you. The teachers want to assist you in keeping you safe and helping with any modifications you may want to try. So please don't use Youtube for your first class. Many injuries happen early in your practice and can be avoided by working with a trained teacher. But if you insist on knowing some basics before showing up to your first class, consider private lessons. So, with that being said, how do you figure out where and who to visit?
PS-do't foget to check out (at the bottom of this article) an exclusive offer I got for you!
Here are several things to look for when making your decision.
1. What is the style of yoga of that studio/teacher?
I could write an entire article just on the styles of yoga, but here is a short description of some of the most common types. There are styles that "flow" from one posture to the next and there are some where you hold a posture for several breaths or even several minutes. Some styles use props like blocks and straps, others do not. If somethings peaks your interest google it, and learn more!
Bikram- performed in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. You will sweat as you work through a series of 26 postures, each performed twice. Like Ashtanga, you will always follow the same sequence. It is widely popular and easy to find at studios. It is less easy to find instructors who were trained by Bikram Choudhury himself. These instructors follow an exact dialogue written by the founder, Bikram Choudhury. Bikram yoga is a beginner class and is great for brand new students. Just be sure not to show up to a Silent Bikram class where there is no verbal instruction.
Vinyasa- sometimes heated sometimes not, known for its fluid, movement-based poses. Vinyasa teachers choreograph, their classes to smoothly transition from pose to pose, and often play music to keep things lively. Unlike Bikram and Ashtanga, no two classes are the same. If you hate routine and love creativity, Vinyasa just say be your thang! Expect to get a cardiovascular workout.
Yin-a delicious way to relax and sooth frayed nerves, many yin classes use pillows and bolsters to prop students in passive postures. This practice allows the muscles, joints, and ligaments to open through relaxation and passive stretching. Some even use candles and some teachers will even sing you some tunes on their guitar! Netflix and chill just got the boot, this is your way to fully bliss out!
Ashtanga- based on ancient yoga teachings and popularized by guru Pattabhi Jois. A rigorous style that follows a specific sequence of postures and similar to Vinyasa in that each movement is linked to breath.
Hatha- a somewhat generic term that refers to any yoga that teaches physical postures. If the description says hatha, you made need to clarify and maybe it incorporates more than one style of yoga.
2. Are the teachers trained in the style they teach?
First of all, it is important to find a teacher you connect with as a person, regardless of the style of yoga. Look for a teacher who speaks to you, challenges you, and one that offers you a practice that meets you where you are, not to where you want to be. Just like there are many studios, there are also many teachers and teacher trainings. Make sure they have at least 200 hours of training and it is also good to find someone who has experience and knowledge of anatomy. With postures like headstand and shoulderstand, a basic knowledge of a safe spine is critical. One more thing, a teacher may be trained in one lineage of yoga and teach another style. Make sure their training corresponds with the type of class they are teaching. It seems like common sense but you would be surprised how many teachers are not trained in the type of class they are teaching. You can flat out ask your teacher about their training and often their training will be listed in their bios on the studio website.
3. Is temperature important to you?
Do you want to practice hot yoga? In a typical hot class, you will gain extended range of motion, increased cardiovascular activity, increased weight-loss, detoxification, and lung capacity/expansion if you are focused on breath and not distracted by too much heat. Any studio that offers Bikram yoga typically is heated, but many studios that offer Vinyasa are heated too. So do your homework and decide what is best for you. Some studios have both!
4. Cult or Tribe?
Do you like to socialize or are you using this as your quiet time. At your studio, you should feel welcomed and supported and never judged. It should feel like home and not give you anxiety when you walk through the door. Just like any business, yoga studios have a culture. Choose a studio that is welcoming to all students and doesn't feel like a high school clique. The studio may be cultish if all signs focus on the "leader" and there if photos of the owner strewn all throughout the studio; if this is the case, you may not want to drink the punch.
5. Do you want to learn yoga philosophy/meditation, simply get a workout, or a combination of both?
The physical postures of yoga (asanas), are just one of the 8 limbs of yoga. The other limbs encompass a holistic system with roots in Eastern practices and philosophies the govern things like ethics and behavior, self-discipline, breathing, and awareness. Different lineages and teaching styles emphasize this part of yoga in different ways, some much more than others, so it is important to ask about these aspects of the classes you will attend if you are seeking or avoiding an emphasis on these practices.
6. Do you thrive on routine or variety?
If you like routine, Bikram or Ashtanga may be your calling. If you like variety, maybe Vinyasa is your thing. Or, maybe if your too focused on routine, Vinyasa will help you get out of your rut or if your super disorganized the routine and discipline of Bikram will help you focus. You decide!
7. Cost, schedule, and location (Duh)?
Let's not forget the obvious, but don't let this guide your entire choice. This is why I put this one last. It seems like a no-brainer, but the most important part of yoga class is attendance. I get it, we all have a lot of commitments and sometimes convenience wins; but sometimes, it is worth driving a few extra miles, or paying a few extra bucks to join the right studio.
8. Does it feel right?
If it doesn't feel right, but you can't put your finger on it, try another studio, it you may not realize what felt wrong until you are in a place where you feel like you belong!
I currently teach at two amazing studios Betsy's Studios and Sweaty Buddha and between the two you can find all the above!
And I got you a DEAL!!!!! mention this post at SWEATY BUDDHA and receive 20% off any package (excluding annual) *one per person
Check out their schedules:
Sweaty Buddha Schedule
Betsy's Studios Schedule