“I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul.” -Rumi
Discovering the right yoga class can be a frustrating experience for many students, whether they’re new to yoga, new to an area, or new to a specific schedule. However, taking the time to find the ideal fit is important. Attending a weekly yoga class should be an experience you look forward to instead of dreading! So what exactly should you contemplate when selecting a new yoga class? Here are five key aspects to consider when searching for your perfect yoga class.
- What do I hope to accomplish?
Take an honest inventory of why you want to take yoga. Are you interested in simply increasing your body’s flexibility through gentle stretching? Do you want a class that burns calories or builds strength? Would you like to deepen the mind-body connection? Does learning the ancient yogic philosophies and language pique your interest? All of these? None of these? Some of these? Assessing your goals in attending yoga can help you narrow the type of class you’re looking for! Critically evaluate what you’d like to get out of yoga and compare class descriptions until you find one that meets your goals and expectations.
- What qualities do I prefer in an instructor?
Every yoga instructor approaches his or her yoga class differently. Some instructors prefer background music while others prefer silence. Some teachers love to talk students through a pose while others prefer to name the pose and wait for students to find their way into it. Some yogis prefer to use a variety of props while others encourage students to solely rely on the weight of their own bodies. Approaches to yoga and its instruction can vary widely, even between teachers at the same studio. Some may find that they prefer a certain tone to the instructor’s voice. This highly subjective opinion is important; if your auditory system believes an instructor has a too high or too deep voice, this may be a distraction during class. Find an instructor whose voice you find soothing and easy to follow for you.
- When is the best time for me to attend classes?
Yoga studios tend to schedule classes when the most people can take them. This means most studios schedule classes in the morning (sometimes very early, prior to work schedules), in the evenings, and on the weekends. Take the time to discover when your body benefits best from yoga. Will taking an early morning class leave you feeling energized for the day? Or would an evening class be better to help you unwind and release tension after working? It’s also best to consider your eating schedule when selecting the best yoga class for yourself. Completing yoga poses with a full stomach, maneuvering through twists or through balance poses can become uncomfortable if you’ve recently eaten. Likewise, some yoga students prefer not to eat after taking a class. You’ll need to find your own equilibrium when it comes to your body’s needs and Class timing.
- Does the studio have additional offerings?
Whether you’re a beginner or a devoted yoga student, knowing what additional options different yoga studios offer can greatly inform your decision on where to practice. Common offerings include: private lessons to work on posture form and breathing techniques, one to three day workshops focusing on particular yoga aspects, tailored classes for specific populations such as mommy and me, cyclists, or veterans ; as well as books, magazine subscriptions, and/or online resources to benefit a home practice. A yogic journey may sometimes follow a difficult path and such added extras are welcomed ways to navigate the terrain.
- Am I comfortable during class?
Feeling comfortable during your weekly yoga sessions is paramount to your continued commitment to yoga. Check in with yourself and assess your level of comfort during a class. It’s important to consider both your physical as well as your mental comfort. Is the room a comfortable temperature? Are there fans to cool the room if it becomes too warm? Do you feel as though a safe space is created in the room? Is the room free of distractions, or do you hear too much traffic or outside voices to concentrate during class? Is the room a pleasing color? While these may seem silly considerations, if you are distracted by subjective preferences like these, it may be hard to relax and be fully present. Soul search and be honest regarding what you like, and what you need. Once you do both, you’ll be better equipped to find the best yoga class for you.
Rumi’s wise words ring true today. Divest yourself of what you think a yoga student should be and accept that you are a yoga student. Listen to your Soul; it will tell you what’s best for you. Many yoga studios offer a drop in pricing, which allows students to drop-in and try classes without signing up for an entire session. Punch cards also exist as an excellent mechanism to test drive instructors and studios without full commitment. Enjoy your freedom and experience as many different classes, with as many different instructors; you’ll discover the perfect one for you!
Image: “Bodhisattva Yoga” by lucytoon (2011)