With the proliferation of online yoga tutorials like YogaGlo, GaiamTV and even YouTube, more and more yogis are practicing at home in front of their laptops.
But as a yoga teacher who even has a few online videos of his own, I still find incredible value in attending class at a yoga studio with a group. In my opinion, the traditional drop-in yoga class is still the best place to practice yoga. Doing yoga at home in front of a screen might be convenient, but I think it's far less effective and could potentially lead to injury.
Here are six reasons why you should keep taking yoga classes at your studio:
Yoga studios are not just big rooms with hardwood floors, but hubs of personal and spiritual growth. By attending a class you're joining a large and far reaching community of teachers, students and scholars. In addition to classes, most studios also offer workshops, retreats and trainings, all of which are meant more to bring people closer together more than anything else.
It is easy to see the isolating effects of technology and the current loneliness epidemic that plagues the modern person. Unfortunately sitting at home alone, even doing the beautiful practice of yoga, fails to foster a sense of connection with others.
In Buddhism, the sangha, or community, is one of the three treasures that practitioners look toward for guidance and take refuge in during difficult times. I often say in my classes that, "We're in all this together," because by coming together in the sacred space of the studio, we keep each other accountable and support each other, even in the most difficult of postures.
Here's the tricky thing about yoga: your body doesn't want to have correct alignment. Your body wants to slump into a couch (and sometimes eat that entire bag of chips). As a result, practicing yoga alone can have the potential to put the body into a position more prone to injury, and also reinforce bad habits.
Unless you have a wall full of mirrors in your bedroom, chances are that an experienced teacher is necessary to correct any misalignment in the poses, for beginners and even advanced practitioners alike.
Yoga teachers are not simply following a script, we are continually scanning the room and examining every body shape to see where students are lacking. Our verbal instructions are then customized exactly to what the room — and each body in the room — actually needs.
Whether it's before, during or after class, students are invited to talk to the teacher and ask them questions, when in a studio setting. And although the yoga teacher at your local gym might not be a sage guru fresh off the ashram, they're still a source of valuable knowledge and wisdom.
Whether it's a certain injury, pain in specific parts of the body or simply a desire to gain flexibility or strength in specific areas, your teacher is there to provide insight into the problem, or possible solutions to add to your practice.
Unlike school teachers you may have for only a semester or two, the relationship you have with your yoga teacher can build up and grow over many years. I have made many invaluable friendships with students of mine. It is amazing to see how much they have grown and how I myself have grown and learned from them.
Unfortunately, it can be pretty easy to slack in your home yoga practice. There are certainly plenty of distractions! We wake up in the morning, roll out out the yoga mat and pop into a Downward Dog, only to notice our toenails need some trimming. But on the way to the bathroom for the nail clippers we notice that the cats have to be fed, and then our phone pings with five important emails that need our attention.
By removing the distractions of home and joining others in a dedicated space, your personal practice gets strengthened as well.
Practicing yoga with others can bring up an interesting challenge: self-judgement. When we lose our balance in Tree Pose while the person next to us barely breaks a sweat in a handstand, a lot of harsh judgement, comparisons and a desire to compete can come up.
Fortunately, these difficult moments provide the perfect time to practice mindfulness — the practice of approaching our present moment experience from a stance that is both nonjudgmental and nonreactive. It also entails accepting ourselves just as we are.
By letting go of the judgements that arise when we compare ourselves to others, we bring mindfulness and peace of mind into our daily lives.
So this one is a bit of a guilty pleasure, but the advantage of being in a physical space with someone else is being able to enjoy the physical touch of someone else.
Savasana is already pretty blissful — but getting that last boost of oxytocin with the healing and loving touch of your teacher? That is a feeling is hard to top.
So is there any reason to still do yoga at home? Of course! Any yoga anywhere is 100% worth it. Finding balance on the mat is just as important as balancing the needs to develop a personal practice along with a studio practice.
What brings you to the studio? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.