By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Around the world, Yoga has moved from private studios to large, mainstream gyms as its stress-relieving body benefits become known to the general public. Is the move to the mainstream good for Yoga? How does gym Yoga compare to Yoga practiced in a Yoga studio?
Entering the world of “24 Hour Fitness” and some fitness clubs have made some changes to this age old practice. Among them, some of the most striking are:
1) A strictly limited time period for Yoga sessions. Most gyms have a tightly packed schedule for their group fitness areas, and squeezing in a Yoga class usually means a one-hour maximum time slot. Savasana may be sacrificed in the name of putting away props before the next step class starts.
2) Emphasis on “Yoga for fitness,” to the exclusion of all other benefits. Practitioners are encouraged to attend for the purposes of elevating heart rates, or stretching muscles; focus and clarity of mind may be ignored altogether.
3) Atmosphere: Unlike traditional Yoga studios, which are quiet, dimly lit and typically feature cloth wall hangings or inspiring prints, the gym studio most often has mirrored walls. Brightly lit, music from neighboring classes or noise from nearby fitness equipment may be clearly audible. In many cases, the lights cannot be dimmed.
4) Teacher/student relationship: In classic Yoga studios, students mesh well with a Yoga teacher and return for ongoing, progressive instruction. In a gym setting, members choose from a potpourri of fitness classes and change options frequently.
Despite these drawbacks, the influx of Yoga to sports complexes is not without benefits. First and foremost, the availability of Yoga in gyms means that more Americans are familiar with the practice. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) report of 2009, there are 45.3 million gym members in 29,750 health clubs across the U.S. Many of these individuals may have been unfamiliar with Yoga before seeing it on the group fitness schedule. Many of those who enjoy Yoga in a gym setting move on to take a class at a neighborhood studio.
Teaching Yoga at a gym may also offer instructors a predictable weekly source of income and supplement a private studio. Gyms typically pay instructors per class, rather than per student, making budgeting easier. Teaching at a gym can also be a good way for a new Yoga instructor to get established in a new city or area. Yoga mats and props are usually provided by the facility, so no start-up costs are involved.
Gym Yoga classes may also be the ideal place to test new styles or fusions of interest. Attracting new students and keeping interest levels high can drive an instructor to continue professional development. Competition for class enrollment levels may keep you on your toes as an instructor, which is never a bad thing.
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