Almost everything can be done online these days—attending church, dating, and even grocery shopping. But some things are better in person, and despite the popularity of online yoga tutorials like YogaGlo and Gaiam, yoga remains one of them.
Books, blogs, and videos can be great supplements to an existing yoga practice, and they’re better than nothing if you truly don’t have access to a studio, but the best way to begin a yoga practice is by going to a class. At a physical class:
- Instructors can check your form. Yoga postures have a lot of nuance to them. It can be difficult to understand the correct alignment or the muscles to engage without some prior experience. In your attempt to figure out these details, you might push yourself too far or even injure yourself.
- Instructors can physically adjust you. The right physical adjustment can make a posture “click” for you in a way that verbal direction might not. Common cues like “roll the hip forward” or “lengthen your spine” can be hard to translate into the body—that’s where teachers come in! Individualized feedback can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your efforts and how much you enjoy it!
- There’s accountability. It’s too easy to pause a video or put down an app when you get tired or frustrated. You might have the discipline to hold a sixty-second Triangle when no one is cheering you on and the couch is just a few steps away—but most people don’t! Left alone, it can also be tempting to do only the postures you enjoy, while skipping the less fun ones that might be exactly what you need. When you are alone, you have to muscle your way through an entire session, but in a studio, you only need enough discipline to show up—the communal energy will carry you the rest of the way.
- You can connect. Although it’s easier than ever to engage with people online, remote connection will never replace a simple handshake or a shared coffee run after class. It goes beyond the actual physical practice and becomes a community. If you never go, you’ll never know what you’re missing.
If cost is keeping you from going to class, do some digging. Many studios have great introductory offers or other specials. Some will advertise special donation based (or “pay what you can”) classes. Public parks and stores often host free classes. And some studios allow members to bring guests with them for free, letting you piggyback on a friend’s membership.
If fear or intimidation is holding you back, buddy up! Everything is easier when you go with a friend. Many studios offer an orientation or a beginners’ class. Check the studio’s online reviews (or ask friends for recommendations) so that you know the place is beginner-friendly. Tell the instructor that you’re new and feeling nervous. A good teacher will know how to put you at ease.
You don’t need to give up your home practice, which can be a great way to stay regular and focused. Just balance it out with a communal practice led by certified instructors.