I have practiced yoga for over a decade. Not only Bikram Yoga, though those of you that read this blog regularly, know that Bikram Yoga has my heart. When I was an actress and traveling all of the time I took yoga where I could take yoga. I practiced wherever I could and explored as many other types of yoga as I could before I committed to the yoga that I now teach. I have attended yoga classes at posh spaces that made you look around in awe at your surroundings and at places that made me wonder when it had last received a thorough cleaning. But through the years, the studios I loved the most and had me taking class after class at their location had one thing in common – they were more like a yoga school instead of a yoga spa.
There are so many options out there for your yoga practice these days and studios seem to have popped up everywhere – which is kind of wonderful if you think of it. But each studio will have its own philosophy and focus on what they think is most important and you want to make sure it is the right fit for you and will be a place where you can grow and evolve in your practice and in your life. So, if you are like me, and always looking to learn more about, well, everything, you want to make sure you find your yoga school and maybe avoid the studios that are more of a yoga spa. Here is what to look for:
There are always learning opportunities open to the students and teachers. Posture clinics, mini clinics, workshops, private lessons, and semi-private lessons are readily available to the students to further their practice. When you ask around if someone has taken a private lesson or attended a certain clinic, there are plenty of students that can share their experience and tell you what to expect. Learning more about your yoga practice is at the top of this type of studio’s priority list.
The teachers took on a rigorous teacher training. I believe that teaching yoga is a career and not just a fun side job or hobby. I practiced for years, not months, before I attended teacher training and find this trend of taking a few extra classes on a weekend for a couple of months does not do anyone any favors and does not a yoga teacher make. You need to go deeper to teach and be immersed in the yoga world to give the most to your students. If, in the end, it’s not about the students and passing what you have learned on to others, what is it about?
It is a small business. You should know the owner of your studio. A yoga school opens because a teacher believed in the benefits of a yoga asana practice so much that they were willing to invest a great deal of their own money and time to share it with others. The money you spend on yoga goes directly to supporting small business in your community.
You often see the owner of the studio practicing and teaching. The owner, not just the manager or teachers, practices yoga. They are committed to their product and practice and teach because they love it. By seeing this, you know that you are not considered a client, but are a student. Students at a yoga school are deeply cared about and are valuable to the studio for who they are and what they bring to the practice instead of just another body in the room.
You receive correction and adjustments. You should be in a constant state of learning while practicing. Learning to go deeper, learning to take care of yourself in and outside of the studio, learning correct alignment, learning how to be your best Self. If you haven’t learned something new in a while, start asking why. You might not be open yet to the learning opportunities around you or you might find that you are in a space where there are not many learning opportunities available. Make the changes you need to make.
There is a lineage to the yoga being taught. Your teacher learned from a teacher that learned from a teacher that learned from a teacher and so on. The yoga is passed down from one generation to the next. Your teacher should know this information. When you ask about the history of the practice, there should be an answer.
The teachers are constantly working to give their best class. They receive feedback from other teachers because they always know they can be better at what they do. They attend further education posture clinics, seminars, and recertification classes with leaders in the yoga discipline that they teach.
There is a sense of community as soon as you walk in the door. You feel you can talk to the teachers about anything from how your day is going to that posture you simply haven’t grasped yet. Students know each other and talk to each other in the lobby and locker rooms. You feel as if you are a part of something instead of simply a client.
If you want to teach, you are recommended a teacher training to attend with the absolute best in their field. You most likely will not be able to attend teacher training at the studio, but are expected to go somewhere else to learn from the best and bring back what you learned to your community. There are some studios that are owned by leaders in the yoga industry and they may have a teacher training available to you. This is different than the studios that offer a teacher training from someone on their team that has very little experience teaching themselves – with only a few years of practice and teaching under their belt.
Usually, there are little frills. The studio is clean and well kept, but you might not find spa like amenities, such as shampoos and lotions in the changing rooms, and eye pillows at the end of class. Remember, these are nice things that can capture your attention, but you want the money you invest in yoga to go towards yoga – the studio, the teachers, and the ability for the studio to bring in senior teachers to help you further your practice.
Please know I believe all yoga is good yoga and I know that we are all different and have different preferences. But I think a line needs to be drawn in the sand as yoga becomes more and more popular. If we don’t support the yoga schools out there, there will be fewer yoga schools out there to attend. A regular yoga asana practice is not the easiest journey to take. It can be grueling, demanding, and full of discomfort, but it is worth it. You cannot pour pink paint on it and dumb it down so much that it loses its affect – no longer healing the body or the mind for the better. Know that when you step into a studio that is a yoga school you will be challenged – and that’s what makes it great. That’s what makes it the journey of a lifetime.
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