Should I practice yoga at home or at a studio?
It’s a common question most yogis have to face, especially those who are new and thinking of trying yoga for the first time.
I personally started my yoga practice at home, although I’ve been fortunate enough to have the experience of practicing at a studio as well. Over the past few years I’ve had the chance to explore the benefits of both so I thought I’d share my insights on each one!
Guidance and support from a teacher – there’s really no substitute for a live teacher improving your alignment and technique. This is especially important for new yogis. Often when we’re in a pose, even if it feels perfectly fine, something may not be in the correct alignment. Hands-on adjustments from a teacher can be beneficial for you to physically feel in your body how a certain pose is supposed to be aligned. This can also provide you with a sense of comfort knowing you’re practicing safely. And sometimes it just feels nice to have a teacher gently assist you deeper into a pose. When you’re practicing yoga in-person with a teacher, whether privately or with a class, there’s a direct exchange of energy, something that can’t really be replaced.
Community – Kula is a Sanskrit word that translates to “community” or “tribe”. Yoga is all about unity, coming together and receiving + sharing love. There’s nothing better than showing up to the studio after a long day and seeing familiar, smiling faces. Being able to come to a space with like-minded people to breathe and connect with is truly a unique experience. Your yoga studio will quickly feel like a second home, where the people there become your kula.
Inspiration – this can easily tie in with community, but one of the reasons I love practicing at a studio is all the inspiration that comes from different teachers and other practitioners. In every class, there’s always something new that can be learned, for example, maybe it’s a different way of approaching a pose, or maybe it’s a breathing technique. Very often, yoga teachers will also have specific themes or lessons that may resonate with you or inspire you. Their guidance and personal experience can help you dive deeper into your own practice. I love being able to take something I learned from a previous class and incorporating it into my home practice.
Being able to let go – Practicing with a great teacher is truly a gift because it allows us to get out of our own heads and slow down from the constant thinking, questioning and guessing where we should go next. This can be really important for those who struggle with anxiety or feel the need to always be in control. Isvara Pranidhana - means to "surrender" and is the last Niyama of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. It's an essential part of the yoga practice. Having the ability to let go and allow yourself to be guided through each movement in class can be very therapeutic and beneficial.
Pricing – Unless you can find a community studio in your area (a group that offers free or low cost classes) buying a membership to a yoga studio can be expensive. (Studio packages/memberships tend to cost around $100-$200 per month)
Traveling to and from the studio can be time-consuming and stressful – it might be difficult to add in a yoga class to your schedule if you already have a busy lifestyle. Long commutes or having to deal with traffic can also be inconvenient and stressful if you have to rush to make it to class on time.
Might not be ideal for those who need individualized attention (beginners, people with injuries, etc.) – depending on the size of the class, you might not be corrected or adjusted by the teacher when necessary. It’s always a good idea to let the teacher know beforehand if you’re new or have any injuries, that way he or she can help you if you need it.
It can be hard to find the right fit – There are numerous yoga studios and classes in most areas nowadays, especially if you live in a large or populated city, chances are there’s a studio near you. There are also countless teachers in each studio. You’ll find that not every class or teacher will be the right fit for you. It can be discouraging to take classes and find that you don’t vibe well with their specific type of teaching. It may take some time and exploring to find the perfect style and teacher for you.
Takeaway: Practicing classes at a studio cultivates a sense of community and belonging, and it’s a safe way to build your practice by receiving guidance and support from trained teachers. Yet, it may be too expensive or time-consuming having to attend classes.
The focus is on you – you’re able to personalize your practice depending on the day and how you’re feeling. You can learn how to listen to what your body needs and move at your own pace. Over time, you develop intuition about what sequences or kinds of yoga poses you want and need to do. This is the essence of yoga, an inward process (pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses) you begin to become aware of your own innate wisdom through taking the time to tune into your body.
Convenience - No set class time or having to worry about traveling and making it to the studio on time. You can practice at any time of day or night, depending on your schedule. This allows for more flexibility and gives you complete control over your practice. Sometimes 20 minutes of yoga at home is more beneficial than having to prepare to go out, drive, park and pay to practice for an hour at a studio.
Free or more cost effective - even if you subscribe to classes online, it’s usually insanely cheaper than buying a membership to a studio. You can find so many free/low cost videos and classes online to help you get started with your home practice. All you have to do is research!
Variety – practicing at home, especially online, gives you access to a huge number of yoga videos and resources. It won’t be the same routines over and over again. You can practice with teachers from all over the world and really get to branch out and explore different styles of yoga. Some websites even offer more than just yoga – some include meditations, breath work, instructional videos and more.
May become distracted/unmotivated without a class structure – if you’re someone who gets easily distracted or struggles with self-motivation, dedicating yourself to a home practice might be difficult. You may find your mind more likely to wander without specific direction from a teacher.
No support or guidance from a teacher – if you’re practicing on your own, without instructional videos or guidance from another source, you could be missing out on valuable lessons. If you’re completely new to yoga, you may not know if you’re doing a pose correctly. This could cause you to develop poor habits or misalignments, which could inhibit your practice or even lead to injury.
Lack of community – a home practice may not be for you if a sense of community is extremely important. However, there are ways to build an online community. Some virtual resources will have private groups you can join specifically for people who practice yoga at home. For example, if you decide to join an online yoga membership, chances are there’s a private Facebook group or website forum where people come together to chat, ask questions and connect. Although, it’s still different than taking a group class or having those in-person relationships.
Overwhelming – having access to a huge variety of online yoga videos might make it hard to narrow it down. Especially for someone who is new and unsure of where to start, this could lead to procrastination.
Takeaway: Ultimately having a home practice can save you time, money and energy. Yet, it may not be for those who want a sense of in-person community and you’ll need the self-discipline and dedication to stick with it.
I personally believe practicing yoga at both a studio and a home are essential for growth and can help you advance your learning. But at the end of the day, any kind of yoga is good yoga; it doesn’t really matter how you end up on the mat, as long as you find time to practice. It’s important to explore different options, see what works best for you and find the right balance.
Still not sure whether to start your yoga practice at home or at a studio? Take this mini quiz below to help you decide!