Choosing a yoga studio that is right for you can be a difficult task, it can also be a trial and error type situation. I know that I have been to some yoga classes that don’t jive with me. It all comes down to personal preference. The one thing I stand firmly on, do not practice with a teacher or studio that isn’t comfortable for you. Trying new spaces and activities is hard and I find that my first time is always a little uncomfortable, we are creatures of habit so straying away from our normal routine can make us feel a little uneasy. Give the new class a couple of tries. Of course, if you know it isn’t your jam, don’t feel bad not going back. Your practice is valuable and there is no reason to spend that precious time feeling uneasy, that is opposite of how you are supposed to feel. Here are a couple of things to look for when you step into a new practice.
Type of Class
Most studios offer an array of classes, finding the correct style for your needs can be challenging, and the studio definition may vary just a little bit. If possible, speak with the teacher of the class you are interested in taking. They will most likely ask you questions, here are some examples of what those may be. What is your yoga experience? Tell them the truth, the teacher is not there to judge you, they are asking to understand if the class is the best fit for you. What are you looking for in a yoga class? This question can be confusing when first starting off, but yoga classes are very diverse, and if one focuses on core strength and cardio but you are looking for a gentle flow or even a restorative type class, this simple question can clear up any confusion. Do you have any injuries? You don’t have to reveal your medical records to the teacher, but if you do have any major injuries, or are pregnant, that is important information to share with them. A great way for clarification on specific classes is going in with your own list of questions. The questions I would ask may include the following. How many students are typically in the class? Are props used during the duration of the class? What is usually the main focus of the class? What would you say the skill level is? Do I need to bring anything specific with me to class? These are all really great questions for you as well as the teacher because it opens up a dialogue and it gives the teacher an opportunity to get to know you better.
Get a feel for the studio space. I know that I prefer to practice in rooms without mirrors so that is something I look for. Other things I tend to pay attention to include, the temperature, the lighting, how big the room is, windows, decorations. Normally I can walk into a space and know pretty quickly whether the space is ideal. Of course, some things, such as visual aspects, can be ignored but if the room is always too hot or cold for you that is difficult to ignore. The reason I scope out the space is for one reason alone, I get distracted. Keeping focused during yoga can be one of the hardest challenges, so I try to find a space that offers fewer distractions. Over time distractions become easier to ignore, but starting off in a distraction free zone can be helpful in being in tune throughout your time on your yoga mat.
This is where you will really find if it is the correct class for you. You can’t know until you give it a try! Here are a few aspects I tend to notice. Are the teacher’s cues clear? Do I find myself looking around at the other students to understand where I am going, or can I get there by the teacher’s instructions? Is the music distracting? Is the pace too fast or too slow? Does the teacher cultivate a positive yoga space? If the energy of the room is yucky, for the lack of a better term, it is difficult to focus on anything else. Is it the correct style of yoga for you? Even if you ask the teacher beforehand, it may turn out that the style of class is different than expected. Each of these are things that I notice throughout the practice, I don’t walk in with a checklist to check all the boxes. If I find myself in a flow or truly in the moment, those questions don’t happen. Sometimes I leave the class and don’t know what exactly was off about it, was it any of the things listed above, or was it just my own personal emotions that didn’t allow me to fully engage with the practice. Sometimes our emotions can get in the way, it happens to the best of us, which is another reason I try to give the class a couple of tries. What it all comes down to at the end of the day is, did you enjoy the class?
There isn’t a science behind finding the right yoga class. The main question to ask is did you receive what you needed? If the answer is “yes”, do a happy dance, rejoice, go as often as you can! If the answer is “not quite”, don’t feel bad walking away. Take control of the situation. You did the hard part already, trying a public class, walking away to find the best practice for you is child’s play! We all have different preferences, life would be pretty boring if we didn’t, don’t be afraid to own yours. Whether your preferences include rock music yoga or a one-hour Savasana (Corpse Pose), you have the right to practice how you want to practice. Find your yoga tribe, from there you can take over the world, at least it may feel that way!