Yoga has really started to pick up here in Charlotte NC and I am truly loving what I am seeing! Normally around New Years with resolutions and such studios begin to see an influx in those wanting to make changes in their health. What I am hearing more and more from my students is the desire to just feel better in their bodies overall + to improve mobility. So many of us, myself included, spend a lot of time either sitting at a desk or commuting in rush hour. For the very unfortunate some like myself we do both 5x a week 😢! So stretching, rotating and moving is so very essential and important especially as we get older. Studies have shown that with consistent movement digestion and circulation can be improved as well, so nothing but wins. But how do choose a yoga studio? How do we get to consistent practice?
Movement is one of those things that we know we should be doing, but sometimes saying and actually doing can be a challenge in itself. If you are here in the Charlotte area then you already know there are tons on top of tons of yoga classes and studios with more popping up each and every day. Which on one paw is awesome for consumers because that really requires studios and their teachers to be on top of their game and competitive in their offerings. On the other paw, it can get extremely overwhelming looking through all the many studios and class types. So much so that you might want to throw in the towel before you have even hit the mat. Whether you are a seasoned yogi or a beginner looking to to start your journey, it can be confusing to know where to start. Well like always I have you COVERED! Here are a few things I consider when I choose a yoga studio, they are not concrete of course but maybe this will help you narrow down your list or even start you thinking about what items are important to you.
Ambiance + Experience:
The mood matters. Its important to arrive to a studio that is welcoming, clean and provides a good “vibe”. It doesn’t feel good to not be “seen”, when coming to a studio for the 1st time the front desk or teacher should introduce themselves and provide you a tour of the studio. Not being acknowledged or greeted isn’t an automatic pass, however it isn’t a good sign if they don’t notice that you are new or notice you at all. There should be a sense of peace in the atmosphere . Tools of support should be available for all levels including blocks and straps, mats are often available for rent. The experience should make you want to hurry and come back.
Class Types + Schedule:
Consistent easy to understand schedule that includes descriptions of class types. Class descriptions are SO important! They give you everything that you need to know about each class and should be accurate; if labeled a slow flow class then it should be exactly as described. Take note of the class level suggestions and take classes based on where you are in your practice. If you are a beginner, maybe look for a beginner series or work shop that provides a foundation of yoga such as a 101 class.If you are more experienced maybe look for advanced yoga classes that help widen your growth.
Some classes are described based on specific experiences that the student would like to have. For example a “Deep Stretch” would provide me an experience of longer holds in poses and deeper stretching, where as a Power Flow would give me faster paced flow and a Yoga Body Sculpt may have weights included. Consider whether it mentions if a class is heated or not heated, if you have never taken a heated class be sure to hydrate fully the night before and up until the class itself. Hydrate throughout the class, take breaks when you need to and hydrate some more after the class.
Look for a schedule that doesn’t change often or has a lot of substitute teachers (rotating schedule). Remember part of a great yoga practice is consistency which is both 1 part you and 1 part a dependable class schedule. Finding consistency in the class you attend helps deepen your personal practice while also providing the space to create a relationship with your instructor to monitor your progress.
Policies +Teaching Styles:
Policies can vary from studio to studio just like teaching styles. Take the time to familiarize yourself with protocols and “do’s” and “don’ts” of the studio you are interested in making your home. Some locations do not allow entry if the class has started, so if you are one that tends to run behind frequently that type of studio may not be for you. The other extreme is some studios lock the door once class has started and no one can leave until the class has ended, if you are one that likes to skip out on savasana (why would you skip?!) then this type of studio wouldn’t be for you either.
Teaching styles is also important because you want to find one that speaks to you specifically and will allow you to grow in your practice. There are tons of teaching styles/ methods that range from Birkram, Hatha, Ashtanga and so many more. Take the time to understand the studios methods and styles of teach to help you in your decision of where to call home.
Which amenities are important that you have? If the studio is heated, do they offer showers? Is there storage or space to put your belongings (lockers, cubbies)? Are there mats and towels available to rent? While amenities are not always important you should consider what you may need for a consistent practice and use those things as a deciding factor.
At this point you have narrowed down your studio’s based on the external checklist/tips above, now its time to dig a little deeper and give these places a try before fully committing. There are a few signs that I personally look for when trying new studios that is more teacher focused than studio focused because I always want to feel comfortable in my practice and the practice itself isn’t all the bells and whistles of the studio. It is what happens on your mat inside the studio. Yoga is very much a journey and you want the person who is leading you through this journey to be the best fit for you.
An important aspect of how to choose a yoga studio for me is how the teacher connects with the class. Teacher connection can literally make or break a class and my desire to come back. Does the teacher attempt to connect with ALL students? Connection can happen in so many ways, by knowing students names, greeting them or asking how people are feeling or about possible injuries before practice starts. Small connections like these always help me as a student feel welcomed, supported and “seen”.
There have been practices that I have attended where the instructor came right in played music and started the practice, after the practice they packed their stuff up and got out of there without a word. Now there isnt anything exactly wrong with this approach and if you prefer this approach awesome-sauce , but speaking from my personal preference as a student that approach doesnt make me feel welcome and it doesnt make me feel that my teacher is as invested in my practice as I am and because of that if I continued to practice with that teacher I potentially may become less invested or have a sour view of yoga.
Does the teacher offer some grounding breath-work before the physical practice? Yoga is breath with movement so if there was no conscious breathing at all I would be alarmed. Does the music selected match the velocity of the class? A great teacher is tapped in with their flow and their students. The music played should match the energy of the class and poses. A power flow class shouldn’t be with gentle sleep music or a deep stretch with heavy metal. Some classes are completely silent minus breath. If music is used then it should follow the bell curve of the overall class.
Does the teacher offer verbal and physical support? Possibly providing cues to adjust my alignment, reminding me to breath or offer of modifications throughout the class. No matter what class you attend there will always be varying levels of students. A great teacher can teach to all levels at the same time offering modifications to build heat for those who want it while providing other modifications to guide students to make selections that are right for their practice in that very moment.
Found a potential yoga home… now what?
The yoga studio you choose should speak to you. It should be one where you feel that you can grow in your practice. This studio should leave you with a feeling of community and that you are being supported on your journey. Finding a studio you call your home shouldn’t be taken lightly. Take your time, utilize free trials that studios offer. Take a few different classes and instructors at various times to get a true feel of the studio. Hope that you find these tips extremely helpful as you navigate to locate the studio that you will call home as you grow your yoga practice!
Would love to hear back from you! Did you enjoy “How to choose a yoga studio?” Any specific take aways or other items you consider when looking for a place to practice?