I get super excited when my friends express an interest in starting a regular yoga practice. I hadn’t realized, until fairly recently, that so many people I knew had wanted to get into yoga, but had so many questions and fears that prevented them from just diving headfirst into classes. So, here are some of my personal tips for choosing an instructor/studio/class. Feel free to leave additional questions or comments below!
- Ask around. The best way to figure out a good yoga class is simply to ask people who are familiar with you (your personality, time constraints, phobias or what not) to make a recommendation. Ask about their experiences with the class/teacher/studio. Thanks to the Internet, you can also check reviews of studios online.
- Think about what you need. Are you looking to increase your flexibility? Lose weight? Rehabilitate an injury? Learn how to meditate? Figuring out what you hope to gain from a regular yoga practice can help connect you with the right resources. Bear in mind that there are dozens of types of yoga, and within those types, each teacher has their own style too. My personal goals for my yoga practice are strength and flexibility, so my Sunday/Monday classes help with the flexibility part with lots of hip openers and backbends, and my Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday classes are strength-builders with a lot of Chaturanga Dandasana!
- Research. Talk to the teacher and find out where they were trained, how long they’ve been teaching, and so forth. (You can check a teacher’s credentials, but bear in mind that there is no national standard for yoga teachers – though it does help if you know they come from a well-respected training program.)
- Assess the space. I know that it really shouldn’t matter what a yoga space looks like, but in all reality, where you study can dramatically change your experience. You want to feel comfortable and safe in your practice space. I have a friend who is a huge germophobe, and there is no way she’d ever do yoga in a poorly-ventilated, carpeted space (a la Bikram)…but a hardwood floor with natural lighting and a few windows feels just right.
- Big class versus small class. Are you the type who wants to blend into a crowd? Or do you prefer a smaller class where you can get a little more attention and adjustments? I made the mistake of showing up a little late to Tuesday night yoga, and for some reason, it was insanely crowded. I am not a fan of the crowded yoga class, where you might accidentally get kicked in the head during Warrior III. The free lululemon classes on Union Street in SF are like that too – crazy crowded. I like fairly full classes, but I do appreciate when a teacher can pay attention to everyone and adjust us as needed (as I know I definitely still need the help!).
- Consider location and schedule. If the place you are going isn’t convenient (accessibility-wise or time-wise), you won’t go. Plain and simple.
- Try it out. Take as many different classes as you can – it’s like dating…you probably won’t find your ideal match your first time out.
The bottom line is, your classes, your instructor, and your studio are personal decisions. They should make you feel safe and supported, and happy. As they say, there is a shoe for every foot…so get out there and start searching!