Practicing yoga is a staple part of life for many people and growing increasingly popular throughout the United States. People engage in yoga for numerous reasons including meditation, relaxation and of course exercise and increased health. The art and practice of yoga comes in hundreds of shapes and forms, levels of difficulty and various intentions. For this reason, finding the right studio to fit one’s needs can be a challenge.
As the holiday season approaches and travel season is right around the corner many yogis are in search of the best studios in other cities for which to satisfy their yogic cravings. Not to mention yoga is a perfect means of maintaining sanity during holiday travel, family chaos and stress. Finding a temporary studio can also be an adventure, especially when comparing east coast to west coast yoga practices and watching p’s and q’s while doing so. This can be best explained by sharing the following story:
Thanksgiving weekend: Traveling from San Diego to New York to visit family and friends for the holiday weekend and looking forward to it. Having just completed a weekend workshop at my favorite yoga studio in San Diego, Charly is feeling cleansed, stretched and mentally and physically detoxified. This was all in attempt to help prepare for the busy family filled and fueled weekend ahead.
Yoga in San Diego very much resembles the lifestyle in southern California. The studios are clean and students are friendly, helpful and laidback for the most part. Instructors are approachable, calm and project a peaceful, patient yet clear tone when teaching and adjusting students. What more could one want?
Upon arrival to New York, Charly donned her parka, greeted my family and received a list of duties from Dad for the weekend. The list included dog sitting two giant retrievers, black Friday shopping with Mom and cooking her not so famous broccoli casserole for Thanksgiving dinner for 16 people. Ok, first thought is that she will need to find a yoga studio nearby as a source of sanity and serenity and to help her survive the weekend of family love and bonding.
Charly took it upon herself to make the best of Dad’s dial up internet and find a studio here in suburbia, outside NYC. It looked clean and the class schedule seemed to be well spread out and accessible considering her busy agenda. After settling into her old childhood bedroom that I would soon be sharing with her sister, I set out to find the studio that held her peaceful release.
Tunneling through the snow in her rented Camry, I came upon the strip mall that housed a land of bliss for the next hour. Upon entering the studio, Charly noticed a number of signs instructing students to remove their shoes before entering. Interesting as there was nowhere to place them other than the locker room. What no shoe cubbies? She headed toward the locker room and was stopped almost immediately by a woman who looked as if she had just stepped out of the New York School of Ballet. “I don’t believe I have seen you before”, she says condescendingly. “Hello”, Charly replies, “I am actually just visiting for the holiday and would love to sign up for a couple classes”. She proceeds to tell her that they have a few 90 minute beginner classes still open and the cost would be $25 a class, far more than the $15 paid at home. She continues on to tell Charly that she will need her own mat as they do not rent or loan them out, she also must prepay for a package of 3 classes minimum and required to sign a release form taking responsibility for any injuries that occur during the heated 90 minute beginner class.
This is a far cry from a typical studio in southern Cali. Instructors are helpful, encouraging and welcoming to new and seasoned students, regardless if they are only visiting or regular members. Charly was intimidated and not sure of the commitment she just made if even for just a few days, hours even. She finally decides she can do anything for an hour, even military style yoga. She picks up my mat and towel and heads toward the studio. A large wooden sign hangs on the door informing students of the following rules:
- Place your mats along the specified lines on the floor with two inches separating each person.
- Leave all belongings other than mats, towels and water outside the studio.
- No talking.
- Do not leave the studio once the instructor has started class.
She enters the studio and making sure to keep all instructions first and foremost in her mind. She certainly did not want to be the poor soul that disobeyed the rules and found the wrath of the ballet / military yoga instructor. As the instructor entered the room everyone immediately moved to the top of their mats, almost in unison. She said her name was Anita and began class right away. What? No affirmations or words of encouragement? No helpful tips or kind thoughts to set the tone for practice?
Mountain pose, high plank, upward dog, downward dog, sun salutation A, sun salutation B and so on ballet / military woman continued to go through the vinyasa sequence without an ounce of intonation or emotion. There was no cueing of the poses. She sounded as though she was reading a monologue with no ending in sight. Other students stared straight ahead, expressionless; all 60 of them packed in like sardines. Not at all like the double mat space that Charly enjoyed back home. Not one person touched water or picked up a towel. She was becoming anxious (not exactly an emotion triggered by yoga) and not sure I could get through 90 minutes of ballet lady yoga boot camp. Forty five minutes into practice students were instructed to take a sip of water, towel off and return to the top of their mats. Everyone robotically did as they were told. While moving into tree balancing pose Charly suddenly felt a palm to the back of her head. Ouch! She said out loud. Charly received several dirty looks from around the room for the apparent vocal outburst. Anita then asked the class to respect the no talking rule until after the 90 minutes has ended. What? She just got smacked in the head! No sympathy, no apology? As the class winds down, Anita orders students into corpse position, lying flat on with eyes closed. She mentions they should release their emotions and connect with the universe. Charly was pretty sure she wanted to disconnect from Anita’s universe as soon as possible and to reconnect her my sunny, southern Californian, spacious, chatty, positive and encouraging universe that was waiting for her upon her return.
She gathered her mat, towel and water and practically broke into a sprint to get to her shoes, (had it not have been snowing she would have most likely left them). Anita tried to stop Charly at the door but she sped off and didn’t look back. She overheard two women bragging to another about what a great class they had just experienced and what a fantastic instructor Miss Anita was. WHAT?? This was not the class Charly was in, not the ballet / military Anita she knew, not the sardine packed room no water, no talking and no positive energy…..Not the class masquerading as a yoga practice…….
That Thanksgiving Charly was most thankful for her crazy family and the sanity they brought her and that she would go home able reestablish her karmic, yogic harmony with her beautiful, peaceful universe.