A registered yoga teacher explains the different types of yoga class settings available and the pros and cons of each.
So you’ve decided that you might want to try yoga. Your mother, close friends and colleagues have all been raving about it for years. But just surveying the current market on class offerings leaves you dizzy and more confused than when you first started.
Perhaps the fancy Sanskrit class names don’t really hold water to you. What matters more is finding the right class setting so that you too can experience a little slice of the benefits that everyone else around you has been talking about.
The majority of yoga classes in and around Malaysia currently can be generally categorized into the following types of class setting:
1. Gymnasiums & Fitness Centers
Yoga classes that are offered at large fitness centers or commercial gymnasiums. These classes are held in a studio setting and often incorporates a blend of fitness concept e.g. Les Mills Body Balance.
This may be right for you:
If you already have an existing gym membership, it makes sense to that you utilize your membership by trying out the different types of yoga classes that are offered at your gym.
Most fitness centers require membership before you can have access to their classes. But if you don’t already have one there are also packages that allow existing members (like your gym bunny friends) to bring you in for free on certain days so you can try a selection of their classes at no charge.
It is best to keep in mind that most yoga instructors in fitness centers have to go through center-specific certification. These certifications are usually more oriented towards anatomy, with less emphasis on the history and philosophy of yoga. Your instructor is less likely to talk about the 8 limbs of yoga but rather how to strengthen your limbs so you can work towards that handstand.
Class size in this setting is also typically the largest out of the 3 mentioned in this article. Because fitness centers are ultimately profit-making businesses, it is their aim to fit in as many students as a studio can efficiently accommodate. With a student-teacher ratio sometimes being around 30:1 or more, the instructor cannot possibly provide adequate adjustments to everyone especially beginners. Such settings are hence suitable only for those with prior experience in yoga, and those who are able to judge for themselves if a certain pose is held correctly.
There are plenty of studios that currently exist around the country. Some preferring to focus on offering yoga classes only, whilst some combine their services with complementary classes such as Pilates and healthy eating workshops.
This may be right for you:
If you want to get to know your instructors better or have common conditions that you would like to address through yoga. In general, yoga studios tend to be slightly smaller in size then your local fitness centers. Smaller studios can sometimes feel more personal, creating space for you to ask questions or strike a casual conversation with your instructors before or after class.
In smaller settings, yoga instructors will have opportunities to address prior injuries and provide modifications to the student as needed. This is great for those who are new to the practice, have existing injuries (e.g. knee or back injuries) and those exploring the different dimensions of a yoga pose.
Yoga studios also tend to offer more specific types of yoga that are not necessarily readily offered in the larger fitness centers. Yoga for spiritual awakening (Kundalini Yoga), yoga for restorative and recuperative purposes (Yin Yoga) and yoga that are practiced according to the founding fathers of the specific school (Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga and Asthanga Yoga).
There are exceptions to the class size of a yoga studio especially for some studios that are built to accommodate 30 or more students at a time.
Specialty classes also means Sanskrit-jargons galore. If you are not sure which class you should try, talk to friends who may have gone to one or two classes before. This is also a good way for you to seek positive testimonials and to build familiarity with the instructor’s style of teaching before attending a class.
Personal Yoga Classes
Yoga sessions are usually conducted one-to-one or in groups of less than 5. The instructor is usually engaged separately by the student to determine price, location and timing of the class.
This may be right for you:
If you currently have a pre-existing condition that you feel may be easily overlooked by instructors attending to larger groups, private lessons can give you the peace of mind that your practice is helping you on your road to recovery rather than unintentionally creating more harm. This is especially true if you fall into one of these categories:
- you have just given birth (especially if delivery was via Caesarean)
- you have just been through a major surgery
- you have been clinically diagnosed with a specific condition such as osteoarthritis, high blood pressure or even depression.
Price is the biggest factor when it comes to choosing personal yoga classes. Yoga instructors typically charge by session that can vary anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes at a time, and prices are influenced by their teaching experience. The upside is that you will be guided to build a practice specifically around your own personal or medical needs and provided with modifications that are best for you.
As each body is built differently with its own needs, a personal yoga class is like going to a tailor and having all your measurements done so that you will eventually end up with a garment that fits you perfectly.
Now that you have an idea what each class setting could potentially provide, go forth and explore as many different classes with as many different teachers until you find one that you can’t do without. Approach all new classes with an open mind and you will definitely know when you’ve finally found ‘it’ .
Are there any other yoga faux-pas that just gets on your nerves? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!