Is it better to take yoga classes at the gym (health club) or at a specialized yoga studio? The answer is…it depends on what you value in your yoga experience. Let’s take a look at how the two stack up on the basic issues of affordability, convenience, quality of teaching, ambiance, and community. (Of course, individual establishments will vary quite a bit, so the below is based upon an average experience).
Generally speaking, yoga classes at the gym are going to be cheaper. This is particularly true if you are already locked into a gym membership or if you want take other fitness classes and have access to amenities like a weight room or pool. Note that some gyms do charge a premium for yoga classes, so make sure to clarify this point. That said, there are ways to get classes at yoga studios on the cheap. Since many yoga studios are individually owned and operated, the owner has a lot more discretion to offer things like karma yoga and students discounts than most gyms, which are increasingly corporate-run. Another issue to consider is the commitment most gyms require. At a yoga studio, you can take drop-in classes any time you like.
Take a look at when you’ll want to take your classes. Are you into early morning Ashtanga
, a quick lunch-time power yoga
session, or after work classes? A yoga studio will probably offer all these options, plus larger studios offer a few classes at off-peak times as well. The yoga classes at the gym have to compete with other fitness classes for the same real estate, so the pickings may be slimmer. Also, if you want to take a shower immediately after class before heading to work, a gym is more likely to offer this amenity than a yoga studio.
Many yoga teachers lead classes at both yoga studios and gyms, so the quality of teaching can be exactly the same. The key is finding those good teacher
s, which can be tough at any location. If you are thinking of joining a gym for the yoga, ask to take a trial class with the most popular teacher, just to get an idea of what the style is like. You will also want to make sure that the yoga teachers are registered with the Yoga Alliance
. Quality gyms are pretty good about this, but some do try to repurpose their other teaching staff as yoga instructors by having them take quickie training courses. Needless to say, it’s not a great idea to study with teachers that are under qualified. Most yoga studios are very picky about their teachers.
Unless you are joining a very upscale gym, the ambiance will tend to be, well, gym-like. There will be sweatiness, lockers, techno music, people working out all kinds of ways. Some yoga rooms in health clubs are carpeted and have mirrors since they are used for a variety of classes. Most yoga studios take great care to provide a relaxing, welcoming environment. They paint the walls with pleasing colors, play mood music, burn incense and serve tea
, all in an effort to build community. Which leads us nicely in to the last section...
Yoga studios love to build community. If you attend regularly, you can’t help but get on friendly terms with the staff, teachers, and your fellow students. Some studios provide couches and comfortable chairs, just to encourage students to stop and talk awhile before or after class. You all have a common interest, after all. If this appeals to you, a yoga studio is definitely the way to go, because most gyms tend to be pretty impersonal, which, on the flip side, is great if you just want to take your class and go about your business.