Aah Love. While we all need it, how do you find it? How do you find the one, the best yoga studio?
Before we go any further, if you just want a few quick tips before you swipe right or left, then go here.
Keep reading, though, if you want to find the best yoga studio…for you. For what makes one studio better than another? This is a personal decision similar to being in any intimate relationship.
Keep reading too if you are a:
- Yoga student, or prospective student, and you want to make an informed choice.
- Yoga teacher and want to understand differences in yoga studios you might teach at.
- Yoga studio owner who wants to know what the decisions are to run a successful yoga studio.
Why Just Limit Yourself to One
Person Yoga Studio?
Is it worth being in a committed relationship? Why bother being tied to one place when there is so much to experience?
I am absolutely an advocate of trying different things. But there comes a time when you might want to settle down.
Yoga is about relationship and connection. You determine what that looks like.
Perhaps you’re not looking for anything serious and you want a friends-with-benefits situation. That’s completely cool and most studios offer a drop-in rate for a one-time, no-strings, thing.
Maybe, though, you’re ready for more. You want to go deeper and build a relationship that will be there for you in both success and difficult times alike. The little extra work it takes to find that special
someone place is worthwhile as this is who you will be spending your time with.
Dating takes a lot of resources. Time and money are often brought up first, but meeting people, continually, is exhausting for your entire mind, body and spirit.
Yoga studios try to ease that burden and make it easier to get to know them by offering some sort of introductory offer. After that, it’s not surprising that the best rates go to those who make a commitment.
When you’re ready for that step, it helps to be
picky discerning. Where you practice matters. You want to find someone who shares your goals and values. Because, as yoga would say, “You become the company you keep.”
Dating Guide to Find the Best Yoga
What Qualities Are You Looking for in a
significant other Yoga Studio?
I must admit I have a type—they must be kind…and smell good.
Your priorities will be different but it’s helpful to know what the possibilities are.
Here’s a brief overview of characteristics you might find in different yoga classes at different studios.
When “alignment” is mentioned it typically refers to how your body is placed in a specific posture. An alignment based practice, such as Iyengar, can help you learn a lot about the poses, asana, and feel more like a workshop.
Flow classes are the yang to alignment’s yin. They have a more continuous, moving nature that excels at creating a connected experience.
Heat—Some Like It Hot
Is the studio heated or not?
There are three temperature ranges when it comes to yoga studios.
Cool—Room Temperature (Varies)
On Fire (HOT)—105°F
Esteemed teacher and founder of The Yoga Workshop yoga studio, Richard Freeman, gives his take on temperature, “The exact temperature is somewhat a matter of personal preference.”
Ask ten studios why they select the temperature they do and you’ll get ten answers. But, do not equate heat and working up a sweat with working harder, detoxifying or burning more calories. That simply is not true.
Music—Yes or No?
The arguments for and against playing music in class are impassioned. It’s common to see a studio having a preference one way or another. Modo, in Los Angeles, does both and makes this super easy to determine by labeling their musical classes “**Music”.
Fixed or Variable Sequencing
A sequence is when two or more postures are joined together. Fixed classes offer the same sequence of poses every time while variable classes vary.
What Are You Wearing?
Yoga pants are just the beginning. The clothing students wear depends on factors like heat and physicality of the practice. For instance, in a hot studio, people will wear short shorts, and a smile, and perhaps, a sports bra.
I take a “When in Rome” stance because practicality seems to be the driving force behind the choices people adopt.
Do You Smell Something?
Smell is primal and something to consider. Hopefully the smell of the studio isn’t of sweat. While Soul Cycle has its grapefruit aroma, yoga studios may burn incense or spritz with lavender. Be aware.
Philosophy or Just the Poses
For almost its entire history, yoga was more philosophy and meditation and less postural practice. Modern day yoga flipped that around so thoroughly that when yoga is mentioned, poses are what people think of.
A yoga studio may choose to focus on yoga philosophy or poses, or both.
The term “philosophy” might be better understood as the “wisdom” or “knowledge” of a certain thing, like yoga, in this instance. Yoga has a rich philosophical past that has been through three great evolutions.
While this is not a primer on yoga philosophy, know that there are many different schools of thinking that come to different conclusions as to what the practice is about. And, just like in medicine, there were some great ideas and outright bad ideas that are best left to antiquity.
IF YOU WANT YOUR YOGA HIGH ENERGY, HEART-POUNDING, GO-GO-GO, then there’s a studio for you. Likewise, if you want to chill and nary raise your pulse above resting, then that too exists.
Risk—Do one thing every day that scares you, or don’t.
What is the safest choice—staying away from things that might injure you or learning to do them skillfully.
Any physical endeavor, whether walking, getting out of bed or practicing yoga presents the possibility of injury.
Safety, in the yoga studio, is on a spectrum. On one end, it can feel like childhood where you were never allowed on the big slide. On the other is dad dangling you off the hotel balcony for the paparazzi.
Balance can exist within exertion and extreme.
At a minimum, go with a studio that knows the risks and makes conscious decisions in how to approach them, especially when it comes to working with repetitive motions.
The Overall Experience
All of the aforementioned qualities come together to create a unique experience. This might be energetic and fluid or detailed and informing. No two studios are the same. What kind of experience do you want?
Tell Me A Little Bit About Yourself
How much yoga have you done?
If you are new to yoga, welcome. You’ll want to look for a class that is accessible and foundational. They typically have names like “beginner’s yoga”, “newbie yoga” or “foundations”.
What are your goals for doing the practice?
Yoga is so expansive, if you have a goal, there’s probably a yoga for that.
Whatever your objective, choose a studio that is effective at moving you towards your goal.
Take flexibility. Many students approach flexibility by finding where the tightness is in their bodies and
forcing stretching as hard as they can. This can lead to destabilization and even injury.
Strength has more to do with flexibility and will help you have a more sustainable practice over the long run, but not all studios choose to empathize that fact.
You may come with only a vague idea and curiosity about yoga. You are not alone for a lot of people try yoga because they have a friend who does it. Or they saw a post. Or they heard it was supposed to be good for you.
The potential of yoga is also unknown to many. Yes, yoga can help you get strong and calm, but it can also help you get clear on what you want in life and help you answer the big questions. WHOA.
The great thing about dating is you can try lots of different things. You can also learn a lot out about yourself. You may have initially been attracted to a studio that is only open at night and specializes in glow-in-the-dark yoga.
But then you reconsidered.
Get a Feel for What’s Out There—Online Dating
Most people practice yoga at home (65%) followed by a health club or gym (48%) and then a yoga studio (45%).
While there are advantages to each, if you want to spend some quality time learning yoga then you’ll want to seek out a yoga studio.
What’s in A Name
Your name says a lot about you. Actors, well aware of this, are commonly advised to change their names especially if, “…your name doesn’t represent who you are.” Mae Ross, acting teacher.
Let’s look at two yoga studio names to see what they reveal.
Note: The names are fictitious and any resemblance to yoga studios living or dead is purely auspicious.
Vedanta Iyengar Yoga Shala
Full Blast Power Yoga
Both tell you the style they are practicing, Iyengar and Power respectively. I might not know what Vedanta is but can assume it’s in another language and that there is a philosophy and/or spirituality associated with it.
Full Blast sounds like they are taking an active practice, power yoga, and intensifying it. I would take two towels to this practice and hydrate well ahead of time.
Speaking of “power yoga”, Bryan Kest, teacher extraordinaire and owner of Santa Monica Power Yoga & Meditation, is one of three people credited with coining the term. Originally he thought about calling it “grandma yoga” because he wanted everyone to know it was accessible to everyone. That’s not what happened with power because we often live up to our name.
What kind of language and phrases do they use on their website?
“Home of the Hardest Yoga in the World” vs. “Sleepy Time Yoga that will calm, cool and prepare you for a restful slumber”, are two very different ideas.
If they keep bringing up crystals, sound baths and angels, then there’s a good chance that’s the kind of experience you are in for.
Personally, I always read a few teacher bios, look at the names of the classes and see what kinds of images yoga studios choose to represent themselves with to the world.
Do They Know Who They Are?
Is it clear what a yoga studio stands for? It should be obvious. If they are trying to be all things to all people, then their future prospects are uncertain. A lot of studios, especially when they are new, are all over the place. Their schedule of classes doesn’t quite fit and seems haphazardly thrown together. Same with their workshops and, well, everything else.
Or maybe they are trying to be a copy of another studio, which is not advisable. Although, when I was thirteen, I did want to be Madonna.
You, hopefully, will go through a time of figuring out who you are. But you probably don’t want to get into a long term relationship with someone in the throes of that process.
After all, when they’re done will there still be a future for us?
Knowing who you are takes courage, the willingness to change and the ability to say “no”.
There is as Texas-based chain of studios, founded by Brandon Hartsell and formerly known as Sunstone Yoga. Today they are SunstoneFIT offering, “hot yoga, flow yoga, Pilates, barre, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and cardio fitness classes.” This is a testament to clarity and knowing who they are.
Darren Rhodes, a teacher’s teacher, who owns Yoga Oasis in Tucson, AZ, is focused on making the difficult, doable. His pose selection, (i.e. the poses you’ll see in the classes he teaches) is expansive, and he will show you how to get into them and out, which is extremely helpful. He takes the same care in his approach to creating a studio space and teaching faculty.
Why should this matter as a yoga student? Because if a studio doesn’t stand for something, then you never know what you’re going to get. It’s also hard to build a consistent practice, and therefore get the true benefits of yoga, if everything keeps changing or is confusing. Seek harmony.
Are they a full-time or part-time lover?
Typically, a full-time studio is defined as one that offers between 30-50 classes a week. This gives you a good selection of classes to take when it’s convenient for your schedule. And it gives you a great price/value proposition.
Do they Seem Financially Sound?
A student asked me recently if we plan to be here for a long time. “Yes”, I told her, and I mean it.
While I love a good mantra in the morning as much as the next yogini, it’s not prudent or wise to have that as our approach to running a successful yoga studio.
A yoga studio is a business and you want it to be set up that way, so that it endures.
We have an obligation to make wise decisions to continue the success and stability of our enterprise because we have people who rely on us. That means we have an accountant, an attorney, business insurance, etc.
There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to take care of the community and business we are entrusted with. When done well, it’s seamless to students which is why I frequently get asked what I do with the rest of my day when I’m not teaching.
Here are some things to look for:
One more thing, there isn’t a correlation with quality of classes and financial soundness. J Brown, founder of Abhyasa Yoga in Brooklyn, NY, has chosen to close his studio at the end of 2017. This is a teacher who has knowledge aplenty in the yoga realm but ran up against multiple waves including, ironically, the success of yoga.
There is not a large, return on investment, ROI, for a yoga studio. And places that love yoga, like San Francisco and New York, are pricing
everyone yoga studios out of the market. J Brown adds this,
Smaller towns, less affected by gentrification trends, actually allow for the kind of grassroots yoga communities that we hunger for.
To avoid the fate of having only yoga chains and a handful of others that exist, yoga studios have to continue to get better and invest for the future. That means they will have to set their prices accordingly—and you want them to.
“In a saturated yoga market studios have two routes to survival: They can push flashy classes and retail, or they can elevate the basics to an art form.” Boston Magazine
Is It All About Them?
I come across a lot of studios that seem to rely on one big name teacher. The teacher might, gasp, own the studio, which is often
disaster not the best idea in the world.
When I say “rely on” I mean the classes they teach seem to energetically, emotionally and financially carry the studio. When they teach there are 50, 100, 200 people in class, and when they don’t, there are 10.
This is not confined to yoga, many industries that feature tradespeople or professionals, be they roofer or doctor, have this propensity. The difference in whether they survive, or not, will be reflected in the choices they consciously make next. The tendency to keep leaning on one teacher gets exacerbated, especially when things get challenging.
As a student this can cause whiplash because when times are good, you are probably getting some amazing classes—if and when that teacher is in town.
Often, yoga teachers have to travel to support themselves financially. It’s a life on the road, which is not conducive to nurturing a yoga community.
Eventually the teacher/owner becomes clearer about what they want, out of necessity or not, and either figure out how to run the studio or sell it. Baron Baptiste, for example, had two yoga studios in Boston, but sold them in 2015. While I have not had a personal conversation with Baron, it seems logical that you can only do so much, especially if you have a family.
It’s okay to have powerful teachers on the teaching roster that are a draw. But it’s better to have confidence that every class on the schedule will be AMAZING.
Narrow Down Your Choices Then Go on Some Dates
Here’s a handy guide if you want some help narrowing your choices.
Yay! Sometimes the hardest part of this entire journey is getting the courage to go out with a few studios, especially if the last time was a yoga fail.
First dates, while often awkward, are a rite of finding the best yoga studio.
Someone might look perfect for you on paper but then when you meet them you just aren’t feeling it.
Long Distance Relationships
If the studio you are want to be with requires a passport, time change and scheduling algorithm to attend, then maybe reevaluate. You want a space that is reasonably close.
Then again, that doesn’t mean your closest studio is your best studio. I can, and do, travel further for a quality class.
What’s the décor like?
It’s not superficial to check out if the environment, especially, if you might someday be living there.
Laughing Lotus of New York, New Orleans and San Francisco, co-founded by Dana Trixie Flynn, offers bright vibrant places featuring fun palettes.
Samadhi Yoga in Denver is known for the quality of its instruction and its beautiful murals.
The priority is that the studio feels welcoming to you.
Are these your people?
The benefit of a yoga studio being clear in who they are is that they will attract people who resonate with that idea.
I love to people watch, and learn so much about a studio before class begins.
At some studios, silence is the norm. Students will walk in quietly, perhaps meditate and then class will start. Other studios feel like a reunion where people are reconnecting, hugging, and smiling. There are places that are a scene where you dress to impress and those that feel like students are warming up for an audition.
Keep this in the back of your mind. Can you see yourself here?
A Word About Yoga Classes
How do you know if the yoga class you are taking is any good, especially if you are new? And how do you know if this is representative of what the studio offers?
The latter is addressed by going on at least a couple more dates, if there is an initial attraction.
To know if the class is good, trust your heart or, more specifically, your intuition. How does it feel?
A skillfully taught class feels like a coherent experience. There is a rhythm to it. The decisions that the teacher makes are intentional. If it’s a variable sequence class, the teacher will choose pose fare that supports everything else being offered.
Like a great meal has a theme, even if it’s the humble taco bar, a class has an idea that unites it. You wouldn’t expect to find pineapple as part of the lettuce, tomato, potpourri, but perhaps a peck of peppers.
An unskilled class is a bit of a hot mess.
The postures are random, the music doesn’t support what’s going on and the philosophy, if offered, is a combination of yoga, New Age, Buddhism and fairy dust.
There are too many iterations of ugly to detail. I stick to the advice taught to me that if it feels wrong, it is wrong. And always know that you have the power to take care of yourself. If you need water, drink water. If someone is assisting you in way that hurts, you can tell them to stop. If you need a break, then you can rest.
Can They Teach You Something?
Here’s what you need to know about yoga teachers, anyone can call herself one.
Just like anyone can call themselves an actor. There are those who have worked on their craft and in the industry for twenty years or ventured to Yale or Columbia for their MFA. And there are those who decided to move to Hollywood.
It’s the Wild West of Yoga right now but being aware of the huge range in quality will help you immensely.
People are surprised at the amount of work that goes into great yoga teaching. There’s a lot to learn. It starts with a high quality teacher training and never ends.
A yoga studio will have a roster, or faculty, of teachers. Put together, deliberately, a teaching faculty embodies the values of the studio and feels like a whole. But finding great yoga teachers is one of the biggest challenges for a yoga studio because they are rare.
It reminds me of Los Angeles where it seems like every other person is an actor but there is only one Meryl Streep. Yoga teaching training programs are graduating record amounts of trainees but it takes commitment and time to develop into a mature, skillful teacher.
I Bet You Say That to Everyone.
To address the need for teachers, many yoga studios rely on a script. It’s why all the classes at certain studios sound the same and why Bikram classes always mention sandwiches.
Bikram Choudhury, wrote a letter in 2002 to “Bikram Certified Teachers and Teacher Trainees” that stated,
I require you to use only this dialogue, unchanged, adding nothing to it, delivering it clearly and concisely, as a condition of your continued certification, privilege and permission to teach Bikram Yoga.
That might have been a big red flag that predated his
fleeing the country relocation.
A script is a class that teachers memorize. While, most are not as fanatical as Bikram, it’s a way to take people who have never taught before and teach them to lead a class—fast.
Pros and Cons of A Well-Written Script
Note: Not all scripts spell out everything a teacher says, many only list a specific sequence of postures that is to be taught.
Standardization allows yoga studios to open up faster, and be more consistent. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Another consideration that may prevent a teaching staff from feeling like a single entity, rather than a ragtag band of wanderers, is the IRS. Yoga teachers are either independent contractors or employees. A yoga studio has limited control over how and what a contractor teaches and therefore they often do their own thing. In California, the trend is towards employees and that may benefit students in the long term.
After class, notice how you feel. Did they walk their talk? Did the class inspire you? Did you feel a connection?
Do you want to go out again?
In the end, to have a healthy relationship, you have to be yourself and they have to be themselves.
We all go through relationships that are less than ideal and they are opportunities for us to learn more about ourselves and get clearer on what we value.
Finding the best yoga for you is an exercise in aligning values. If you base your decision on what’s fashionable or trendy right now, you may find yourself jumping from relationship-to-relationship without fulfillment.
True, preferences change, and you may find a new style or studio is a better fit for you. But the best yoga studios continually evolve. They are guided by their hearts, though, and values that run deep.
Can You Grow Old Together?
You can have a situation where two people are great, but just aren’t great together.
As your practices expands and develops, you want to have a studio that can grow with you. This means they continue to learn and grow themselves. For all, yoga is revealed a little bit at a time, adding layers of richness over the years.
When you find an amazing space to practice, savor the experience for everything is temporary. That’s part of what makes it precious.