Yoga studios are as unique as the students who practice within their walls. Some are hot, some are restorative and some are strictly fitness based. In this post, I will be addressing the types of studios and yoga that I have tried and why I love the studio I practice at now.
When I first started doing yoga, I was urged to try it by a friend who had recovered from an eating disorder. She went to class with me and helped me feel less scared of the whole process. The class was at a gym near my house and was very fitness based. Being that it was lumped in with all of the aerobics and group exercise classes it makes sense, most of the gym clientele are looking for another way to strengthen their bodies and burn calories but aren’t necessarily the best option for those of us in recovery from an eating disorder. I stopped going to the gym and stopped attending the classes.
A few months later a close friend of mine asked if I would like to attend her yoga studio. I was intimidated at first but she had a free class pass so I tried it out and I am SO glad I did. The studio specialized in hot yoga which was pretty scary for me but the second I stepped in the hot room it was as if my whole body let out a sign of relief. Suddenly I could breathe more clearly and deeper, the air flowed through my system and revitalized me. I have always been hyper-aware of where my body begins and ends, constantly worried about where my skin met the air around it, constantly feeling the pressure of the world against my body wishing I would implode. In the heat, the barrier between me and the world started to disappear. My internal temperature and the temperature in the room were so close that my skin melted away and I could focus on my muscles moving my body in the space instead of the skin that trapped and tormented me.
As much as I loved hot yoga, the studio had some very strict rules which at first very helpful for me. The whole studio had a very tranquil and somber feeling about it. The walls were painted with a neutral dark green and wood accents along the doors. The hot room was a place of silence and serenity, no talking was allowed and no sound was ever uttered except music and the instructor’s voice. The room was dimly lit, the cork floor absorbing any sound that happened to escape student’s mouths and muffling the sounds of any footsteps. We actively tried to make as little noise as possible so as to not disturb the other students. The sequence was steady and reliable, rarely wavering. The room was wide and shallow so that rows were about 4 rows deep, you always had a good view of your body as it moved through the poses in the wall of mirrors along the front of the room. After a car accident I had to stop going to yoga. A few months later I was given the go-ahead to start practicing again and a friend asked me to try her studio. At first I was afraid of trying a new place but I decided that it would be worth a try, after all I didn’t really know what else was out there!
My first class was awful. When I walked in the lobby was happy and bright, a large chalk board full of colour, photos of smiling yogis everywhere, a bright red couch and chairs in the lobby. I felt as if all my senses were being attacked by the colours, voices and music in the air. My friend kept saying that she loved the “life” in the studio, I was overwhelmed and completely disrupted by it. I chose to buy a month’s pass because it was the best option financially at the time. I walked down the hall and didn’t see divided men’s and women’s locker rooms but instead curtained off change rooms, individual showers and communal cubbies for everyone’s things – it felt so disorganized and chaotic, not neat and cleanly divided the way that my mind liked it to be. I walked through all the noise as if walking through a hail storm and moved towards the hot room – surely I would find sanctuary in the silence of the hot room – I was gravely mistaken. The room was narrow and deep, there was no mirror or focus point. Bright paintings hung on the walls and red velvety curtains hung in front of a wall of windows. People shook out their mats, talked, laughed, sprayed water on their mat towels, checked their phones and wandered around the room. Every noise cut me like the barbs on the end of a whip and I started panicking. During the class the people around me jumped thudding to the floor, sighed moaned and fluttered their lips. I managed to finish the class and quickly ran out of the studio. I had paid for the month so I decided to go back for another class, the anxiety was still very present and the noises attacked me just like before but the barbs cut a little less deep. Over the next few weeks I started to feel less afraid and began noticing the things around me.
I saw the personalities in the teachers and people working at the studio. I saw the colours as bright and inviting. I saw the students releasing tension as the teachers encouraged us to sigh and make noise during our practices. I saw smiles all around me and actually started to appreciate the lack of mirrors. I started to have fun in my practice and to explore what my body could do, not just how it looked. Almost a year later I find that I love my studio more and more. The first studio was what I needed at the time – quiet, regulated, predictable, but over time my needs have changed. This new studio has helped me not only discover myself but create something beautiful within my spirit. The studio is now my safe place, my sanctuary and I wouldn’t give up what I’ve found here for anything or ever forget it’s gifts to me.