I had never been a member of a yoga studio until I finished my yoga teacher training, thus, my impression of all yoga studios, up until a month ago, was that they were all like the teacher training I attended: inclusive, positive environments that value the “capital-Y Yoga,” or the Yoga practice off of the mat.
While this may be true of many or even most places, I don’t believe that it was true of the first yoga studio I went to to try to get a yoga job. (Which they did not offer me because they never even gave me a chance to audition, but they were doing me a favor. I just didn’t realize it was a favor initially).
I bought a new membership pass at a local yoga studio, and the first class I took was taught by the owner of the studio. As a new teacher trying to get a teaching job, I understood that you have to take a class with the owner before asking about a sub-list.
Well, I felt like the owner didn’t take interest in me as a new student. I believe it was the front-desk woman who asked me if I’ve done yoga before and asked me a little bit about myself. During the class, the instructor did not make any corrections, verbal or otherwise, to any of the students. I feel like there wasn’t an excuse to not do this, especially considering that the class was small, with about four people aside from myself, so there was an opportunity for the class to be personable.
Another aspect of the class that I did not like was how she incorporated “yogic” things. She used the harmonium, chanting, and a gong, which I love, but if I was a new student who was not very familiar with Yoga, it may have been very uncomfortable. The only reason I was familiar with the harmonium and the chant was because I had undergone 200 hours of training, but the gong was off-putting to listen to for the first time (although now I love it), especially because there was no introduction to it.
Despite my ill-feelings about the class, I had the pass so I took advantage of by attending different styles of yoga with different teachers. Unfortunately, I found all of the instructors to be similar in their teaching style (probably because most of them were trained by the owner) in that they don’t make any effort to get to know new yoga students in their classes and they didn’t make any corrections during the physical practice. Due to the lack of student-engagement, I feel like the instructors were more focused on themselves than on the students, which does not align with how I interpret the “capital-Y Yoga.”
From my yoga teacher training experience as well as my own pedagogy, I believe the purpose of teaching Yoga is to help, guide, and support students. In other words, it is about the students. It is about inspiring them, encouaging them, and helping them find their confidence. It’s about challenging their bodies, mind, and spirit. It’s about sharing with them how Yoga is more than just the physical practice, and it’s about introducing them to the spiritual and philosophical side. It is about creating a community and it’s about creating leaders.
There are more definitions of what a Yoga teacher’s purpose is, but these are the ones that stand out to me in this moment. Regardless, as you can note, all of these definitions are about the students. None of the definitions have anything to do with the teacher.
Unfortunately, I do not feel like the yoga teachers at the studio I was attending were creating leaders, though. I feel like they were keeping their distance from students by not engaging with them, which then reinforced their position on the hierarchy as a teacher.
After a month of attending yoga classes at the studio, I had the opportunity to pay a reduced rate for a regular monthly membership. I considered it for a while, but then, when I talked to my girlfriend, real shit came up. After my surprisingly explosive rant to her, I realized this yoga studio was not for me. Their pedagogy does not align with mine, and I would be better off finding a different studio.
So, how do you find the right studio for you?
Tip 1. Look at the styles of yoga that a studio offers.
If you want to take vinyasa classes, you probably don’t want to go to a studio that only offers Kundalini yoga, which is awesome but entirely different.
Tip 2. Check Out the Studio’s New Membership Packages.
Yoga studios draw you into becoming a member with new membership deals. The prices of these deals vary, so they may or may not be pretty comparable to paying for one class.
For example, one class at the yoga studio I attended cost $20, and the new membership cost $39. The new membership was unlimited for the month too, thus, it was worth paying an extra $19 for unlimited classes. I attended classes nearly every day, and it served a greater purpose in my life by exposing me to my local yoga community as well as providing structure in my otherwise structureless summer.
Some new membership packages, however, are a five or ten class pack, or the unlimited month is pricier. Regardless of what the packages are though, I feel like they are a great way to become acquainted with a studio to see if you want to stick with it. If I had attended only one class, I may not have realized that the studio wasn’t for me. If I wanted to continue to attend that studio after paying for once class, I would’ve had to pay the regular membership price instead, which is a lot more expensive. Thus, I recommend doing new membership deals if it feels right to you.
If, after a month, you don’t feel connected to the studio, try another studio and take advantage of their new membership deal! On the other hand, if you do feel connected to the studio, become a regular member if that makes sense to you.
Bonus tip: Most studios seem to use the company MINDBODY for scheduling, prices, class descriptions, and more. You can download the app and do your research there if you like!
Tip 3. When you attend a class at a new studio, ask these questions:
When you arrive:
- First, how do the front-desk people treat you? Are they pleasant, welcoming, and helpful?
- If you meet the owner, do they introduce themselves to you? Do they welcome you?
The yoga class:
- Does the yoga teacher introduce themself to you before class starts, or at the beginning of the class?
- Does the yoga teacher take an interest in you?
- Do they offer modifications based on your physical abilities?
- Do they make verbal corrections and/or hands-on corrections? (The hands-on corrections should be made with your consent and they should be combined with verbal cues. They should also be necessary for either your safety or to come into the true form of the pose. Basically, they should not be touching you just to touch you).
- Do they care about the “capital-Y Yoga,” or the Yoga beyond the physical practice, and do they incorporate it into their classes?
The studio overall:
- Is the studio clean?
- Is there water?
- Is there a bathroom?
These questions are the most important to me as a new yoga teacher who wants to find a welcoming environment to share and learn more about my passion for Yoga.
If you’re a member of a yoga studio, please share any other tips you have in the comments below!
If you’re not a member of a yoga studio, what are your thoughts on yoga studios? Do you practice yoga, and if so, where?
I used to practice yoga by myself in my living room, which I still do, especially when I’m practicing the classes I make. I really love the energy from doing yoga with others though.