True confessions of a yoga class dropout

If you know me, or read my blog, you know that yoga has become a big part of my life within the past year. This is largely due to the incredibly supportive and welcoming community of yogis I found at Studio Serenity, a vinyasa yoga studio in DC. Soon after beginning classes there last June, what began as a tentative interest quickly became a passion and then a neccessity, as vital to my life as eating and breathing. I became quite attached to the gentle, spiritual vibe of the place, as well as the challenging, yet informal teaching style. I felt especially connected to one instructor in particular, whose flowing sequences - infused with her warm, funny commentary -always seemed to be exactly what my body and mind needed.

One of the hardest things about moving to Annapolis was the realization that I would have to leave this yoga community behind since it would no longer be possible/practical to practice there.

I recently tried a yoga studio near our new place, and found myself disoriented and disappointed after the first class. I suppose this was to be expected on some level, as I had grown so attached to the style and environment of my old studio. However, it left a really bad taste in my mouth, and I don't think it's just because I was comparing it to the old one (though I'm sure that influenced my opinion). The instructor did not seem engaged with or connected to the rest of the class, but rather, seemed to be simply reciting a rote set of instructions. The sequences were totally unchallenging. Now granted, it was one of the easier class levels so I wasn't expecting anything crazy, but we spent almost the entirety of the class alternating between child's pose and sitting on our bums massaging our legs with tennis balls. Now there's a lot to be said for restorative (or yin) practice, but I do expect some kind of workout, especially when my monthly yoga membership costs more than my electric bill! The other weird part was that the other students seemed totally unengaged and were chatting, gossiping, and cracking jokes the whole time. Beyond being just...odd, the chatter totally threw off the energy in the room. There was no collective chi, which is really (in my opinion) a big part of why you would take a group class in the first place.

I don't mean to complain so much, but the whole experience really bummed me out, especially because I was so eager and excited to try a new place. The logical part of my brain told me to give it another shot (I had already paid for and committed to classes through September anyway), but my intuition told me that I should cut my losses and use it as an opportunity to start a home practice, something I've been wanting to do for awhile now.

Well, intuition won out, and I was able to get a partial refund on the rest of the classes. Very shortly after making this decision, I came across Sara's review of yoga DVDs on her blog, The Way of the Happy Woman (check it out if it's not on your radar yet!) and then, yesterday, City Girl's review of her Jade yoga mat. Inspired, I ordered two yoga DVDs (this and this) and plan to purchase a Jade mat soon. The funny part is this: I realized that the sum of these items is almost exactly the same amount (within a dollar) as the amount I was refunded for the rest of the yoga classes. I'm choosing to see this as a sign that this is the right decision for me right now.

My yoga DVDs are supposed to arrive today, but last night, I just couldn't wait any longer, so I did a sort of impromptu yoga practice on the living room floor, using a sequence I made up on the spot. It felt SO good. I'm even sore this morning (in a good way)! I was happy to find that I can lead myself through sequences and challenge myself even without the presence of an instructor. I'm so excited to try my DVDs and really get my home practice going!

All you yogis out there...do you have a home practice? Do you find it more or less difficult to practice at home versus at a studio? I am a little bit nervous about foregoing the studio experience for awhile (though I think it's the right choice for me right now for various reasons), so any words of wisdom would be mucho appreciated!


Lauren said...

I think a home practice is harder for different reasons, the primary one being commitment. If you can commit to it, there is so much to be gained from it. I think it really helps you to learn more about yourself and your body. It also allows you to always have a practice that it tailored to you and your needs!

The links to your DVDs didn't work--I'm curious to know which ones you purchased! And you will LOVE LOVE LOVE the Jade yoga mat! Just wash it with some detergent a few times and let it hang dry before using (they smell at first). Yoga Journal did a special edition a few months ago on how to build a home practice that you might want to check out. It wasn't part of the subscription; it was sold separately at bookstores and such. Another thing I might purchase is something called Yoga Paws. They are little things that go on your hands and feet that keep you from slipping when practicing on carpet. I figure they'd be great for travel!

Even though a home practice is amazing for so many reasons, I would encourage you to keep checking out new studios, if there are others available to you. There is definitely something I get out of a group practice and having a teacher that just doesn't come with an at-home one.

Good luck! I'm so glad you are keeping yoga in your life!

Revisionista said...

I have a home practice, or at least I'm trying to build one because there's only one class option near me and I have a hard time fitting it into my schedule.

I usually just make up sequences as I go with my favorite poses and each week I try to explore a new pose based on some I've seen in yoga journal or body+soul.

abby said...

I used to take classes 3 times a week, but monetarily it just ceased to be feasible for me, so I am in the process of beginning a home practice. Checked out the DVDs you picked up too. Make sure you post about how it goes.

terry said...

If you already know yoga, you can download podcasts from itunes. I love yogajournal and 20minuteyoga for shorter sessions. There are so many to choose from and they are free, which is always a nice way to start off anything. Good luck.

Rachel said...

I definitely do find it more challenging to practice at home instead of in a studio environment. In fact, I too am experiencing some anxiety about leaving town and having to leave the one yoga studio that has so very much inspired and influenced my practice. Frankly, I'm scared. I wish you the best of luck, but perhaps you could attempt to find another studio?

Oh, PS. I recently posted on my blog about this very subject.

Melita said...

i adore yoga. while i prefer the structure of a class setting i can't afford it anymore. being unemployed really put the kibosh on that for now. i do a home practice (which i need to work on becoming more regular) but mainly do what i feel my body needs or sometimes i do a dvd or some of the multiple things that can be found online to mix it up.

Sara Avant Stover said...

yay! i hope you like the dvd's. i wish you all the best with your home practice. it is truly one of the best gifts that you can give to yourself!

shoegal said...

I had a similar situation with my spinning classes - some classes are great while other instructors are very subpar, and on those days I enjoy going into the studio myself and coming up with a challenging 60 minute workout. I've made myself sore through those workouts, sometimes moreso than if someone was instructing me!
I really hope you can make it out to SF sometime...and try out the Yoga tree. I actually LOVE yin/yang yoga, and am trying out the other variations as well. It's a great studio with really wonderful instructors, and they find a good balance of meditation and the exercise.
I've done yoga at home, but haven't been very successful in finding a video or a routine that I like, but I wish you luck!!

Eco Yogini said...

Yep- I moved to a town and tried all the studios several times, different classes and instructors- REALLY gave it a go. had a few TERRIBLE experiences and was forced into a home practice.

I started a series on my blog called 'personal practice adventure' to help other yogis problem solve around the challenges of home practice (there are many!).

I personally am enjoying a subscription to 'yogago.com' right now- it has excellent options, is affordable and has huge amounts of classes by level, style, teacher and time :)

I hope that you gave another studio or instructor a try though... sometimes it's the instructor that isn't a great fit and less about the studio. :)

Found you through Bliss chick!! :)


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