Students frequently ask me upon graduation or a university break “Do you recommend a good yoga studio around here?”
Unfortunately, I don’t. Finding a yoga studio, or as you become more advanced, finding a teacher, is an extremely personal endeavor. It’s a mix of solid logistics, such as location, cost, and schedule, and an indescribable something, an intuitive ‘yes’ that cannot be reduced to a how-to list.
These comments are for a New York crowd, or an urban center with many options. If you have few options near you, well, try them all—a few times. You might not like a style or teacher one day, but another day realize it was just a mood. Keep trying until you find something. You will.
If you know what style of yoga you want to practice, that will narrow down your search. But if your only exposure has been at the gym, or the studio closest to your last address, you might want to see what is out there. Lifehacker has a list of what they call the nine internationally recognized styles of hatha (physical) yoga. I’m not sure where they got the nine from, but it’s worth a read if you don’t know the difference between Iyengar and Bikram. It’s also worth trying styles out, as you may think you want a demanding practice, but are pleasantly surprised by the energy you have after a restorative class.
Location, cost, and schedule are extremely important. If it’s out of your way or the schedule doesn’t fit yours, you might not go, or you might feel stressed getting there. If it’s more than you can handle financially, you might be put out by the cost. Keep in mind that expensive studios with mega-marketing aren’t usually where the best teachers are. And even if you’ve found an amazing teacher, you need to be honest about the logistics so you are sure to show up on their mat. Once you have that sorted, you can start worrying about the feel of it all.
I’ve wanted different things from my yoga studios and teachers over the years. I started doing very basic hatha yoga. The teachers were okay, but I was new enough not to be picky. The pranayama and basic asanas were what I needed to come into my body, and the set sequence of their level one class was very intelligent. A year later, I did vinyasa at a studio that energized me and built my strength, but their funky sequences and harmonium-induced chanting did nothing to center me. Then I heard about Genny Kapuler, an Iyengar teacher in SoHo who is still the top teacher on my list. I studied with her for a few years and learned anatomy and alignment in a very integral way. She is tremendously graceful, patient, and kind, especially among Iyengar teachers, who can be known for an authoritarian style. My schedule in grad school took me away from her studio to a home practice. I took some privates with her for guidance, and found a new depth by practicing at my own pace, at home. When it was time to studio shop again, I did some ashtanga while trying YogaWorks with a Groupon. I’d done ashtanga a few times in the past, and though I liked it, it never stuck. This time it did, and I started a Mysore-style practice, not least because I didn’t have to listen to the inane comments of an instructor leading a class. Two years later, location and schedule became a problem, and I had to shop for a new shala.