While attending a business networking event on Thursday night, I was asked “is there a difference between yoga at a gym vs. yoga at a studio?” In my opinion, the answer is YES for several reasons. In an effort not to go overboard, I’ll focus on training requirements, teaching style and environment differences.
To start, the training required to teach yoga at a gym is usually not nearly as extensive as the training required by yoga studios. A teacher for a yoga studio usually must have a minimum of 200 hours of training. This training covers more than just asana (yoga poses). It includes yoga history, philosophy, anatomy, physiology, meditation, chakras, pranayama, teaching skills, assisting/adjusting students, yoga teacher ethics and more. A gym teacher can get certified to teach yoga in one Saturday afternoon. Hmmm…do I need to say more?
Not to keep picking on the gym yoga teacher…a gym yoga teacher is usually at the front of the room practicing yoga with the students. This is a big no. The verbal cues a teacher provides should address what’s going on in the room. The teacher should know the poses from personal practice (and not just via text book instruction) and be able to convey asana cues in a way that will deliver a yoga experience for the individuals in the room. Cues given in one class might be different than those offered in another based on the students’ level. So I ask…how can a teacher who is practicing in the front of the room with 25 students see what’s going on in the room and provide the appropriate instructions? Also, a teacher that practices the entire time is probably unkowingly posing greater risk of injury to the students. A teacher that floats around the room, like in a yoga studio, can help students safely set up and deepen poses. Finally, the energy level of the class is much different in a gym than when taking a class at a studio where the teacher floats around the room and speaks to what is happening.
Environment. This should be obvious but for those who have never entered a yoga studio they might not realize how different the experience can be from a gym. Yoga at a gym is typically taught in the aerobics/group exercise room which is covered in mirrors. Mirrors provide a huge distraction in a yoga class. For more on mirrors, read my post “why don’t yoga studios have mirrors”. Secondly, the teacher has no control of the temperature which results in people practicing yoga in a sometimes frigid room. Typically yoga studios are warmer than a gym (even those that aren’t hot yoga studios). Finally, the sounds heard in a yoga gym class – thumping music, clanking weights and the buzz of cardio machines – aren’t really conducive to providing a real yoga experience. Again, visit a yoga studio and you’ll immediately feel the difference.
Don’t get me wrong, yoga at a gym is better than no yoga. The gym is a great place to start if you are under financial constraints —since most gyms include yoga classes in the membership. But if this is the only yoga you’ve tried so far and you’re still on the fence as to whether yoga is for you; go to a yoga studio to get a richer experience. And try a variety of studios and styles if you have the luxury of several studios in your area. Each will have something different to offer. Happy studio hopping!