Recently I moved from one city to another and moving is not fun for most of us and while I am a big proponent of change, I do get super intimidated by the thought of uprooting myself from one place to another. So while so many things were happening, from changing schools for kids to changing doctors and changing my happy place – my yoga studio! This is really tough for me since I get so comfortable with the space I practice in and since it is a daily ritual for me- it’s like my second home. Everyone knows me, teachers are my friends now, we are a big community of yogis and we share so much and then all of a sudden you realize you won’t be coming to this place anymore. This haven you call your unwinding place, your meditation space, the part of your daily routine, it all will end soon. I felt remorse. My husband who is a fitness enthusiast himself couldn’t understand why I felt so strongly about this. But many of you will relate to this because for us yogis, the concept of a yoga studio is really sacred.
I was so perplexed that I have to find a similar space and get started once again that I lost sleep for a few days. I started searching online for a new studio in the town I was moving in but I wasn’t satisfied and couldn’t reach a decision. If one thing was right there were so many other things that were wrong. It was then that I realized that there has to be some sort of checklist to follow when we have to look for a studio space. Whether we are trying yoga for the first time or we’re regular yogis, we’ll find ourselves in a situation where we cannot make a decision on the type of studio or space we choose.
Yoga studios are supposed to be happy places and for me it is so essential to have a space that completely aligns with my practice and my ideals. It has to have the same pattern that is reflective of my beliefs about yoga. It has to resonate with me for it to be my go-to place when I need some peace and quiet. Hence, I don’t mind taking eons on my research to identify where I should go for my daily OHM
This is also true for yogis who travel a lot for work or leisure as each time they are in a new town/city/country they face the dilemma of where to practice. Since time is of so much essence we need to make sure that we make the right choice. Because a bad choice can lead to loss of time, effort and money and these three things are not to be trifled with.
Especially, if one is choosing a place to go on a regular basis, we don’t want to be locked into a program/place that isn’t aligned with our goals and is not agreeing with our ideals. It is very hard to break from gym/studio contracts as they require us to pay a penalty of one or two months fee as per their policy. So it is extremely crucial, to choose the right kind of place as it means locking ourselves into a long-term contracts.
I have had to do this a couple of times now so after much contemplation myself, I was able to come down to a list of things that I believe are essential to consider when we are choosing a studio. So next time someone faces this deadlock, the below checklist can come in handy.
What is the aim?
The first and foremost, is to identify what type of a studio I am looking for. Am I looking for a pure yoga studio or for a hybrid (yoga plus other fitness programs e.g. Pilates, barre, HIIT). Also, I need to know if my preference is personal training or group exercise. Once I have identified my preference for the studio, it is easy to narrow down to those that fit my goals. And the process of elimination works here which helps me make the right choice and faster.
Now once I have selected the type of studio I am looking for, now is the time to start with some online and offline research on the studios.
Online research saves us a great deal of time and we can easily understand if the studio/space is worth the trouble of actually visiting in person. Here are a few things to take into account when doing online research.
Check the Website:
Almost all the studios these days have a website and we can find loads of information on the website itself. The main areas to consider are:
- The classes offered at the studio
- Schedule and timings of those classes (how they fit in my day)
- The fee structure (daily, monthly, yearly membership options)
- Promotions offered (sometimes membership is on discounted rates)
- The Introductions and background of the teaching staff
- Details on location (look for the proximity)
Once I have identified and short-listed three or four options to choose from, then start looking for reviews. These days it is very simple to read reviews of a service or product online as google provides that option. As soon as I put the name of the studio in the search engine, it will populate all the reviews from people who have been there before. I go through these reviews and look at the rating and stars provided by visitors. More often than not, the reviews and ratings provides a true picture of the place.
Now is the time to bring my online research to offline (physical checks or visit) to the studio.
Call and book a tour/or simply walk in
When I visit the studio, I am not really going with the intention to pay. All I am doing is the customary check to see if this place fits in my image of a studio. Most places will be willing to offer a tour of the place. Some will not be so forthcoming but it is always best to request on booking a tour when their schedule allows- because seeing is believing!
- Ambience of the place (do I want warm or bright, cool or sauna-like)
- Cleanliness (check the toilets, showers and change rooms)
- Space in the class (is it too crowded or roomy?)
- Parking space outside (last thing I want is running late to a class and looking for parking)
- Location (close to bus, trains stations if I have to use public commute)
- Check the Vibe (is music too loud, is the décor classy or cheesy)
- Staff’s Mannerisms (receptionist helpful or rude)
- Perks (are mats provided, towels, lockers, drinking water etc.)
Request a Trial Class:
Most places don’t have the trail class option because it is easier for them to offer the one month trial plan versus the single class. This is because they make more money on a one month plan and can easily track who’s availed the trail as opposed to offering one-off classes which are tough to keep track of.
There is usually no free trial these days- so even if they allow me to take a class they will most likely charge me for it. In my opinion it is always better to take a trail class or the one month plan because it gives a fairly good picture of the studio. This way I can make up my mind whether to continue and upgrade to a full-time membership or not.
Meet and greet the teacher/s:
This is important for some people to see how well they connect with the teacher. Although it is not always possible to judge someone in the first meeting but it stills tells a lot about the people conducting the classes. Best way to start is to introduce myself and ask them about their style of teaching; I usually ask them a few yoga related questions on a pose I am struggling with or a technique I am experimenting with. If they help and assist me with my queries, I know you I am in the right place.
Read the contract and cancellation policy:
Last and most crucial for me is to go through the contract and check for any clause that looks fishy. If there is anything binding me into a commitment that I cannot keep then I simply refuse to sign and look for another place.
I am sure there may be so many other things people look for in a practice place and what may suit me may not suit somebody else. However, I hope the above check list helps someone like myself in making the right decision as our yoga practice is so sacred.
Good Luck !