In class or home practice?
I often get asked if I practice yoga at home or go to studios and which one is better. The answer is both. I began my yoga journey in a studio. It seems like a really great way to meet people and to build your yoga community. Yes, yoga is truly a solo activity but it can be very motivating and uplifting to be immersed within a community of like minded individuals. They can provide support, new techniques and encouragement when you’re not feeling up for going to class. Some of the people I met in my yoga classes and my teacher training program have turned into some of my closest friends. I can honestly say that I am truly indebted to the yoga studio for helping me to meet other yoga people who love yoga as much as I do. You also get one on one support from the teachers in your practice. This alone is priceless in my opinion (as long as the teacher knows what they are doing).
So what’s the downfall of a studio? There are several. My biggest beef with studios is the politics. I hate that as good people, we can’t seem to find a happy and feel-good space that can stay healthy, inclusive and encouraging for everyone. In my experience, someone always gets hurt and someone will eventually be forced to leave because they feel uncomfortable. It’s really very sad. It’s tough because yoga studios are supposed to be all zen but at the end of the day for yoga teachers and the studio owner, it’s still a job. It’s a way to make money so there will always be some kind of conflict or expectation that can’t be met by one side or the other. Then people feel sad and leave. So that’s one negative. Another is cost. How many of us can actually afford memberships for unlimited yoga classes each month? It’s usually more expensive than a gym. With a gym membership you get all these classes and machines and amenities. In the yoga studio, you get yoga but that’s all. The cost of going to regular yoga classes is just sometimes too much. What about when the class is so packed that you feel like you’re in bed with the person on the mat next to you? Ever been to a hot yoga class that’s really packed? What about that feeling when your sweaty arm brushes up against the sweaty arm next to you, belonging to someone you have never seen before! If you’re uncomfortable with anything like that, going to a studio might not always be your best bet.
What about a home based yoga practice? Let me paint you the picture. You put on your yoga clothes, you put some yoga music into your stereo that you downloaded just for this and you unroll your mat. You feel instantly more relaxed in your home, and then the phone rings. It’s your mom and she needs to ask you if you have a frying pan she can borrow. You talk with her for two minutes about the frying pan and hen another twenty about your day and then you get back to your mat and a duct cleaning service guy rings your doorbell. Once you realize it’s just a salesman at the door you politely decline and get back to your mat. You lie down in savasana and the dryer rings indicating that the dry cycle is complete. Crap, if you leave it, all those clothes are going to wrinkle. If you go and fold them, you’ll have to put them away and then it’s going to be another half hour before you get back to you mat. Once you finally take care of all these distractions, you get to your mat and realize you have no idea what poses to do, so you get up, roll up your mat and decide to try again tomorrow. The distractions at home can be difficult. Have kids? Then it’s even harder to find time for yourself let alone your practice. It’s just a reality that it’s way too easy to get so wrapped up in things at home that even with those good intentions you never actually end up practicing yoga at home.
On the plus side, at home, you can feel comfortable and safe. You can practice whenever you want. You control the music, the lighting, the candles and the type of practice you do. You can improvise everything. You can spend a lot of time on one pose and then less time on another pose. You get to decide the flow. It’s all about you. I love that about yoga practice at home. Truth be told, I also do online yoga videos at home too. I know, I’m a yoga teacher so why do I need to do yoga videos? Here’s the truth of it. I spend hours each week planning classes for the week. I plan intentions and sequences and plan modifications as needed. I spend a lot of time preparing for each class. Then I spend a lot of time in class teaching and guiding. After all the planning, it’s really quite nice to have someone tell me what to do in my yoga practice sometimes. I don’t have to think about what’s next. I just follow. It feels indulgent after all the effort I put in teaching others.
There are many considerations and I think that both studio classes and home based practices have their merits. I wouldn’t choose one or the other. I would choose both as much as possible. It’s nice to have opportunities for both. If you have traditionally only ever practiced at a studio, try it at home and same if you only practice at home, go to a studio and try a class. Both are worth experiencing so you can decide for yourself what benefits you might find.