by  Stuart McGill

This checklist for choosing a yoga studio is written with a Beginner in mind but is relevant to those who can do yoga, who are just looking for a new studio.

Look for these features:

  1. large and convenient timetable of classes at the levels you need, including weekends. If you are looking after young children, it needs to include classes while children are as school. If you are a commuter, you need classes in the early morning, evening or weekends (or all of these).
  2. Certified & highly trained teachers. Check that some recognised and peer reviewed group is certifying the quality of the teachers. The teachers also need to be trained over many years. Any yoga style that trains its teachers in less than several years will be teaching positions in a totally inadequate way.
  3. structured Beginners program over several weeks. It is not enough to do one or two sessions, followed by going into normal classes. You won’t learn what you need to know. You’ll annoy longer term students in those classes, and your own health and body won’t get the benefit of really doing yoga.
  4. Inverted positions of some type in every class, and preferably a structured program to teach you inversions… for the health, brain, and physical benefits. Inverted positions include headstand, shoulder stand, handstand, and all the preparation for those yoga poses.
  5. Supply and use of yoga props, so you get the benefit & safety of them. The minimum should include belts, bolsters, bricks, yoga chairs and blankets. Ideally, it is very useful to have back stretches and wooden horses. The props need to be used in all classes, with instruction on how to use them safely, and get the most benefit from them.
  6. Corrections to help you get into positions in the best way, done in a pleasant and motivating way. This should include some positive feedback when you get it right, and should not “call you out” in a negative way when there’s something you can be shown how to improve.
  7. Creative and variable sequences of poses, that change daily and weekly. Fixed sequences of postures, such as are taught in many studios with lesser trained teachers, quickly get boring, and it’s therefore harder to keep up a regular practice. You also don’t get the benefit and learning of range of poses that vary over time. You’ll notice that the more experienced is the teacher, the more they can creatively vary the pose, including to suit any particular aspect of your body or condition.
  8. Teachers and processes that check your injuries and conditions before a class (including if you are menstruating), and provide you with suitable postures to deal with that situation. The teachers need to be sufficiently trained to give you this information dynamically in a class, including while they manage other students who will be doing a normal program.
  9. Teaching of meditation based on breathing, built onto yoga learning and positions. This may not be important to you initially, but it is where you will get many of the de-stressing and renewing benefits of yoga. It is also a critical aspect of yoga, and any studio that does not place some focus on this is likely to be just doing aerobic or physical exercises, that are not grounded in the 3,000 years of yoga learning.
  10. Easy and low cost long term payment processes, so it it affordable to do three or more classes a week… because that it what you will need to get the full benefit of yoga. You may not initially want to do that many classes, but you quickly find that you do (especially if it is affordable).
  11. Easy access to parking and transport, including located in a place you can easily get to as to go to and from work. In other words, it does not have to be close to home. It may work just as well if it is near the place to which you drive to catch public transport to work (providing it has a timetable that has a sufficient range of classes at early and late time slots).
  12. A process of follow up information so you steadily learn some of the theory of yoga. This not only helps you get the benefits of yoga, but also helps motivate you to keep it up. We just mean small snippets, provided both aurally during a class, but also in follow-up emails, and maybe even easy workbooks with pictures and text.

This is not a conclusive list, but is a start. What else do you think is important, or which is the most important of these factors for you?

Dr Stuart McGill… eleven year yoga student (Level 2)