People who want to practice yoga have a choice, and in most respects, it boils down to individual preference. Oftentimes, a person looking to start yoga is not aware of the differences between yoga that is taught at a yoga studio, versus yoga taught at a gym or fitness center. One might think that ‘yoga is yoga‘, however this isn’t always the case. If you are on the fence, and not sure where you want to take your first yoga class, or if the yoga class you’ve been going to doesn’t quite suit your needs, please consider these following points.
You get what you pay for. It is more expensive to go to a yoga studio. Small studios have large overhead, and bear the expectation of offering yoga exclusively, whereas gyms end up being less specific and more of a one-size-fits-all kind of environment, which gives them volume and numbers, and cheaper rates. Gyms are able to offer a lot of choice, but as a result, have less control over the quality of those choices. Classes at yoga studios are taught by highly certified instructors who’ve dedicated large amounts of time and money towards their certifications — these people deserve to be paid fairly. Also, at yoga studios you have access to workshops, intensives and seminars, and other things ‘yoga’ (ie: Kirtans, meditation groups, breath work, and other spiritual aspects). These extra offerings are not cheap, especially when taught by specialized, guest instructors. (Most yoga studios will offer pay-what-you-can classes where a portion of the proceeds are given to charity. This option makes practicing at a yoga studio affordable for even the most shallow of pockets.) Gyms commonly employ instructors who’ve attended weekend trainings, open to anyone, and the certifications are handed out to everyone who made it through the day. Worst case scenario: you’ll come across teachers whose training is limited to taking a class or two and/or watching a few videos online!! If this is okay by you, I’ll say it again… you get what you pay for.
TYPE OF INSTRUCTION:
What kind of a student are you and what do you expect from your teacher? Do you value progression and improvement or are you simply looking to stretch out your body? Do you appreciate having specialized instruction and modifications for your ability, or are you okay with general instruction that may or may not apply to everyone in the room? Are you concerned with the longevity of your yoga practice, or are you dangerously forcing yourself into poses that could potentially cause strain and injury? Are you even aware that there are many layers and variations to all yoga postures and it’s about making the pose fit your body, rather than the other way around? Do you know that ‘yoga’ isn’t just limited to a physical practice? Are you looking to get in and get out, or do you prefer a class that is longer than 30 minutes? At a yoga studio, you can expect a teacher to weave in a theme, a piece of writing, or other elements that encourage reflection, deeper thought and/or spirituality. And you’ll be asked to breathe, a lot. Going inwards makes some people feel uncomfortable, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be asked to do any of this kind of stuff at a gym. Be warned, if your instructor ‘skips’ Savasana, they aren’t teaching yoga. True yoga teachers know that this is the most beneficial part of the physical practice.
Is it a fair assumption that those with a gym membership are looking to lose weight and build muscle tone? Can we at least agree that Ego plays a large part in this type of ‘body beautiful‘ fitness? Yes, yoga classes are offered at gyms, however, your class will be taught to the majority — those who want to lose weight, tone their body, and look good. Also, at gyms there tends to be a level of disrespect for the class structure as a whole (or perhaps it’s just ignorance); it’s common for students to arrive late and/or leave early. At a yoga studio, you’ll be asked to arrive on time, stay through Savasana, and please leave your Ego at the door… and this is where the really juicy stuff begins to happen. You’ve likely heard of people who’ve felt an energetic release, immense relief from pain of past injuries or general wear and tear from life, a deeper connection with them self or another person, people who cry in class…among other things you might call ‘hippy-dippy woo-woo‘. Let’s be honest, are you wanting to do some stretches that look like yoga poses, but you don’t want to do the ‘weird stuff‘? Then a gym is probably the place you want to be. And that is completely OKAY. Just don’t say that you do YOGA.
At a yoga studio, you will probably meet people who are just like you, or at the very least, people who are much more similar to you than the general public. Gyms, on the other hand, house people of all sorts. This is not to say that all aren’t welcome at a yoga studio. I pride myself in saying that we offer our services to anyone who wants them. It just turns out that those who want our services, are similar kinds of people; people who are willing to tune out external noises, and listen to their own body, their own breath and their own thoughts. It’s scary, it’s vulnerable, it’s meaty. And so worthwhile. Over time, yoga will begin to feel more like a lifestyle, and so much less about the physical poses and the ‘cool factor’. And when you’re surrounded by people who are there for similar reasons, you’ll feel an immense sense of trust, safety, and support.
As an owner of a yoga studio, I’m faced with many challenges my ‘pre-owner self’ wouldn’t have anticipated. I find myself analyzing these challenges, and I try to look at them from many angles. Through this process, I am better able to define what it is that WE offer, and as a result, we can better serve the needs and wants of those who have chosen a yoga studio setting. Primarily, we sell yoga. We offer high quality instruction, from certified teachers. Our students have the benefit of personalized attention, and a variety of modifications, which makes any given class safe and suitable for many levels and abilities. Our space is clean, it’s quiet, and for the most part, we are an adult specific facility. (We do have Kids’ Yoga once/week, as well as an All Ages class where our younger yogis can attend with an adult.)
Truth be told, if you want to learn French, go to France. If you want to learn yoga, go to a yoga studio. (Yes, I’m biased.)
Over the years, I’ve come to see that many people who are interested in some form of yoga, and delve into the practice, will eventually crave more of what yoga has to offer. Not all yoga is the same, however, no one’s life path is the same either. I see gym yoga as a gateway. In fact, I include gimmick classes like Beerga and Goat Yoga (which I’ve reluctantly offered) in this realm as well. My stance is that whatever inspires and encourages a person to try yoga for the first time, lends itself to the greater offering of yoga. Gradually, sitting still and tuning inward will get less and less uncomfortable. And it won’t be long before the noise of the screaming kids, and the bouncing basketballs, and the distraction of those latecomers won’t be okay. And your gym yoga won’t be enough. You’ll have questions, and you’ll be searching. And us yoga studios will be waiting for you, with open arms and our themes and our deep breathing and our OMs and our Savasanas and our Namastes… and you’ll feel perfectly at home.
This article was partly the inspiration for my writing today… “Don’t Call It Yoga”. Here’s my favourite part, and I encourage you to read the full thing. I found it quite comical, and to the point.
A peaceful mind creates a healthy, vital body. A body forced into asana as part of a workout can damage and strain the body, and inflate the Ego; both of which can cause a chaotic mind… By all means do yoga postures and exercise your Ego, but don’t call it yoga!
I’ve taken the liberty to speak in general terms with this article. It is rare, but you will find wonderfully talented (and fully certified) instructors who teach yoga classes at gyms/fitness centers, and consider yourself lucky. And, when you eventually find yourself wanting more than gym yoga… make sure you ask this teacher which yoga studio(s) he/she teaches at!
We are primarily a yoga studio, however we do offer variety by way of dance and Zumba classes. And you can bet that these instructors are held to the same high standards as our yoga teachers!
I’m very aware that us ‘Westerners‘ have bastardized Yoga altogether., and I’m pretty certain that everyone in the East is pointing judgy fingers at ALL of us.
Ultimately, I can’t blame uninformed students. I was completely clueless about yoga when I first got started. The responsibility falls on facility owners. Please don’t claim to sell yoga if it’s only a watered down version just to get more clients or appease your current clients, or to appear trendy, or to offer something you think people want. Get informed and take the proper steps to do it properly if you do indeed want to sell it, or better yet… stick to selling what you DO know.