The Good, The Bad, + The Ugly: Gym Yoga vs. Studio Yoga

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Image via Vogue Archives

Image via Vogue Archives

Gym yoga or studio yoga? At the end of the day, there's no clear cut answer.

There are amazing things about gym yoga, and there are amazing things about studio yoga—but it needs to be said that they are two very different beasts. 

Your preference for one over the other will change as you shift into different phases of your life, but one thing is for certain: You have to go with what feels right to you. With this guide, you can understand which positives outweigh the negatives so you can pick what's right for your practice. 

Positive Aspects of Gym Yoga

Aside from having a steady home practice, a gym-membership is one of the most cost effective ways to engage in your daily yoga practice. It's reliable, it's friendly, it's predictable, and it's in the same location, every single time. Yes, it's expensive, but that expense can motivate you to get to class, instead of sitting on the couch. 

Gyms typically have salaried yoga instructors, who have a steady and reliable paycheck—they know where their money is coming from, and they aren't struggling to fill their classes. This gives teachers the energy, time, and motivation to develop a fun flow for their attendees, and keep things fresh on a weekly basis. Not to mention, gym studios have a standard sound system that the teacher always knows how to use (no musical flukes, or sound system woes). 

There's no mat rental fee, and the cleanliness levels of the space reign supreme. The sweaty nature of gyms cause them to have their floors, and equipment (including yoga mats), cleaned daily. This means less bacteria, less dust, and good smells for the yoga studio room.

There is a heavy emphasis on physical fitness. This means instructors are trained to develop a full body flow. You'll leave your class feeling like you just got a full body adjustment, instead of just a heart-opening adjustment, or a hip-opening adjustment.

And the last major benefit of gym yoga? Clean, filtered water on tap. There's no shoving your water bottle in a bathroom sink to get some drink. You get the nice, filtered stuff. 

Negative Aspects of Gym Yoga

When you're paying a hefty gym membership, you will see people sliding in five minutes late, and leaving ten minutes early. They may have the mentality that they've paid their dues for the class, and if they have a life to live elsewhere while everyone else is in savasana, no big deal. 

Another noteworthy negative of gym yoga is the use of cell phones. It's not rare for your neighbor to have their phone out, lighting up, and buzzing during a gym-yoga class. If you came to unplug, turn to your neighbor and let them know that the anti-aura glow of their phone is killing your vibe. Gently ask if they can silence it, put it away, or move far, far away from you. 

Gyms attract people from all walks of life, which can make your yoga class marginally less spiritual than a class at a privately owned yoga studio. It's not to say that you won't be getting oms, or the occasional chanting—but just make sure to curb your expectations so that you know spirituality isn't the focus of the class (it's fitness).

Positive Aspects of Studio Yoga

New member special—ohhhhhhhh, yeah. You just scored a two-week unlimited yoga pass for $50, and it pays for itself if you go twice. What gets better than that? Nothing, unless you want to become a studio regular.

Yoga studios have personalities. They are living, breathing entities, and you see the personalities of the staff in every corner of the room. This home feeling fosters a more spiritual energy in the space, and it changes the way teachers engage with their audiences. 

Teachers may pull in a heart-warming poem, a passage from a spiritual text, or lead you in a full kirtan-style mantra chanting session.

Yoga studios tend to emphasize breath work, specialized workshops, and holistic lifestyle tendencies—like burning incense. They're perfect for drop-ins, and for anyone who is looking to explore the spiritual aspects of their city. 

You get a mix, a flow, a plug into the grassroots community, where ego disappears, and the oneness that stands behind the yoga movement can shine through. 

Not to mention, if you love to be massaged and touched by your yoga instructor, yoga studios are the place to be. (No, not like that, Bikram Choudhury). Studio teachers tend to be more sensual and feminine in their practice, and they give out tender healing freely, and that personal touch elevates your experience every, single time. 

Negative Aspects of Studio Yoga

Is your teacher salaried at a yoga studio? Probably not—most studio yoga teachers only make a percentage of total class sales for the session. This means that they're not making the same amount of money on each paycheck, and that can cause anxiety, tension, and a sense of panic for the teacher. It may lead them to take on side jobs that drain the fire out of their practice, and can make it hard to share their true teacher potential with you. 

Studios are typically small businesses, and sometimes small business have to cut costs where they can—maybe they aren't cleaning the floor every night. Maybe they aren't dusting the windows sills, or washing the windows, causing a build up of dust particles in the air. And maybe, just maybe, they don't have a water filtration system—causing you to purchase a bottle of water, rather than get clean, filtered water on tap.

Class attendance is filled with a wider array of people than a gym. This means, the person next to you might have just showed up to see hot girls in yoga pants, or hot guys with their shirts off. So, if and when someone crosses your boundaries and tries to hit on you in a way you don't like, shut this person down immediately (no one likes being harassed!).

And last things last, let's address the moaning. Yes, your muscles are releasing tension, and it feels so good. In an open environment like a privately owned yoga studio, there will the the occasional few who take their moaning to an R-rated level. If and when that happens, take it with a grain of salt, and maybe join in on the fun?! (JUST KIDDING). 

Diya SenGupta