It used to be relatively simple to find a good yoga class taught by a relatively knowledgeable and skilled yoga instructor who could help you with your practice. Just over a decade ago, there were approximately four million Americans hitting the mat for a yoga session.
Today, there are four times that many people and the numbers continue to grow.
Why so popular? Yoga promises to relieve stress. Stress is the number one killer today and the biggest factor in a number of disease states. In addition, yoga is an excellent exercise . . . When done right.
So how do you know how to do it right?
My first experience with yoga as an adult occurred when I joined a fitness center and one of their class offerings was yoga. I knew a lot of people who went to yoga classes and they all encouraged me to go, saying that I would love it.
I was already paying for my gym membership, so it seemed like a great idea to take one of the daily yoga classes offered in the big but dark room back at the corner of the fitness center.
My first impression was that it smelled faintly of a locker room. I soon discovered that they provided most things that I would need: mat, blocks, strap, etc. Then as I jockeyed for position (those familiar with the class wanted to be up front along the mirrored wall to watch themselves as they worked out) I discovered that the locker room smell emanated out of the mats and other props that had been used by about a thousand other people before me.
Undeterred, I was determined to follow along. A very young, very supple young woman led the class barking out strange words, moving her body in ways I wasn’t familiar with, and I worked valiantly to keep up. I watched those around me and tried to put my body into the same position, but I had no understanding of what I was doing, when I should breathe, and when I should be using a modification because my body was different and my experience very limited.
Later, I discovered that while the class I took was considered a beginning yoga class, most of the people in attendance saw it as just another exercise at the gym. To give the instructor credit, she did try to point out how a student here or there might want to try something different, but with over 50 people in the room, she simply couldn’t give anyone the kind of individual attention they might need.
In my case, I was frustrated, but rather than giving up, I attended a couple more classes, purchased some of my own equipment, specifically my own mat. If I’m going to smell sweat, I want it to be my own. Fortunately for me, as I met other yoga instructors, I discovered that they are all different.
One day I met one instructor in particular who mentioned that she also taught at a yoga studio. Because her teaching style matched my needs, I went to a free session at the yoga studio and discovered that yoga as it is practiced in a fitness center is vastly different than the yoga practiced in a studio.
Despite the cost, I now attend regular classes at the studio because what I need out of yoga isn’t more stress, but guided instruction so that my practice is truly unique to me. Smaller classes, no mirrors, a much quieter, smaller, and more peaceful environment suited me much better.
If you haven’t found a yoga class that suits you, perhaps you haven’t looked around enough yet. Most studios offer at least one free session to try out what they have to offer. Talk to the instructors and see what they suggest for you.
Yoga is as unique an exercise as you are. Meet it on your terms. Once you find a good fit, you’ll be much more inclined to practice yoga regularly, and that is the whole idea, isn’t it?