Yoga can be applied in many ways and the horizons for self-improvement are endless.1 With over 10 years of experience practicing yoga, I am astounded with just how much yoga in America has expanded, and all the ways people can practice it!
In today’s article, I am going to share some insights I have gleaned from my years. Hopefully, my experiences can help many novice yogis in avoiding some of the initial pitfalls and confusion that surrounds this timeless practice.
Many people, myself included, chose to begin yoga practice in the comfort of their home, and this is a perfectly suitable way to do it. Nevertheless, there are significant advantages to beginning your practice under the knowledgeable tutelage of an experienced yoga instructor in a studio environment.
Here we will look at the two primary options available to the modern practitioner. Firstly there are larger group practices offered at many gyms and fitness centers. Secondly, there are yoga studios that feature smaller groups among other differences.
Remember, the best yoga form is the one that suits the individual. Here are some good questions to ask yourself before selecting the yoga studio for you.
What Kind of Group Dynamics Are Best for Me?
Some people like the high-energy atmosphere of a room packed with other practitioners. These classes are great for boosting motivation and stamina and understanding form and balance. Working in a large group of people also allows the practitioner to be lost in the crowd and escape all attention. Of course, it is just as easy to build some strong connections with those around you if you choose to.
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In a smaller studio setting the energies at play work in a much different way. Here the high-energy and buoyancy of a large group is swapped out for increased attention. Rather than the structured routines seen in the larger groups, you may find the instructor adapts the plans and program to better suit the needs of the practitioners. This requires a closer communication with the instructor so that the adjustments are made as precisely as possible.
How Do I Feel About Spirituality in My Practice?
Depending on your perspective on life, the universe, and everything, you may choose to take a spiritual or secular approach to your practice. In a larger group setting, most of the spiritual implications are sidelined to focus on the essential physical aspects of the practice.
This leads to a fairly regimented program that includes a series of exercises, poses or “asanas” chosen for specific purposes.2 There will be a warm-up phase followed by routines that improve strength, flexibility, and endurance. Breathing will also be addressed as it is crucial to the practice. Attention to the underlying philosophies of what you will be practicing is not emphasized.
If you are interested in the philosophies, psychologies and spiritual aspects of yoga, the smaller studio setting might be right for you. These studios often focus on specific schools of yogic practice and the essential lessons in each one. While there is a strong central element of physical practice, some of the underlying goals, pace, and organization of the practice will be quite different.
It would probably be helpful to study up on the differences between Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Iyengar yoga types before selecting a studio specializing in one of these topics.3
Do You Favor Spontaneity or Routine?
There will be practitioners and times in all committed practice that call for greater routine or more flexibility. Routine is great for beginners and those looking to build confidence and a strong foundation in proper execution.
At most fitness centers, yoga sessions were established a few years ago and have been working well ever since. In addition to the well-rehearsed program, practitioners can take advantage of a variety of resources and services including childcare in some of the better locations.
Flexibility in the program is a hallmark of this practice, however. As opposed to many other forms of disciplines, yoga attempts to adapt to the needs of the practitioner and nowhere is this better accomplished than in the small yoga studio.
What To Choose?
A choice should come down to the needs and interests of the practitioner. The physical benefits found in yoga practice are unparalleled and are readily available in the fitness center along with copious advice on proper execution. Furthermore, the solid foundation available there could prepare the interested practitioner to further their understanding of details and philosophies at a smaller studio.
The flexibility of a smaller studio may allow you the student to have some say and influence it what happens. If you would like to add essential oil aromatherapy or include some other special ingredients to your practice you will likely get a good response from your smaller yoga studio and this can help cultivate a more dedicated practice.
Bonus Note: Affordability and Convenience
As you may imagine, the most important thing you can bring to your practice is yourself. With this in mind choose a studio and location that affords you the time and resources to never miss a class. You may have a choice spot at the swankiest Ashram in town, but if the distances are inconvenient, it might not be that great.
Making It as Easy as Possible!
In addition to getting yourself a proper yoga mat and comfortable clothes, I can’t stress the importance of creating a serene and calming environment. Aromatherapy has profound effects on relaxing the body and building the awareness necessary to cultivate yoga form. I would suggest scents like MONQ’s Active Blend to anyone beginning their yoga practice. Namaste!