For as long as I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga, I’ve noticed a divide between studio yoga and gym yoga. It’s a division I never really understood. I’ve had wonderful and inspiring yoga teachers at the various gyms I’ve belonged to … most of whom have been better teachers than at some studios with reputations for being The Best of FILL IN CITY NAME HERE.
My first paid yoga teaching gig was at the same gym where I took my first yoga class. It was a place I felt comfortable. I knew a lot of the staff, some of the students, and was excited to work with them on a new level.
Since that day, I’ve chosen to teach more at gyms rather than at studios. Some might wonder why I’ve passed up opportunities to teach at more studios in favor of taking on gym classes. Traditionally studios paychecks are higher, the hours more flexible and the space is devoted (usually) to one activity: yoga. No space sharing with the Zumba class, or weaving your way through the grunting weight-lifters, and everyone has a mat, strap and a block at the studio.
So why would I choose to teach at a gym, specifically a university gym? One answer: the students. I don’t just mean the actual students, but the blend of faculty, staff and students who show up, eagerly and with a bit of trepidation every September. It’s always a blank slate; the most perfect storm of Beginners Mind.
Each September I get a new group of yogis, excited for the chance to stretch out, strengthen, and escape the rigors of college for 60 or 75 minutes. They are from all backgrounds and run the gamut of abilities. There’s something about yoga at a gym that’s much less threatening than yoga at a studio. There’s less pressure at the gym to be perfect. Everyone’s a beginner here and we all practice together on the unsprung hardwood floors, attempting to tune out the repetitive thud of basketballs from the courts above.
Every week these students show up, ready to try something new on their mats, and ready to learn how to breath. It’s this dedication that keeps me teaching at gyms and keeps me inspired.
Teaching at a studio is fun, don’t get me wrong. I teach at a beautiful studio and work with an incredibly loving and supportive community there. But there is, atevery studio I’ve gone to, an added level of perfectionism that I don’t find at gym yoga. Perhaps it stems from the single-purpose of the studio. With only one dedicated activity, one cannot help but navel-gaze, often to our own detriment. (Yes, I realize that writing about navel-gazing on a personal blog is the height of redundancy. Yes kettle, I know I’m black.)
There’s a space and a time for yoga in a studio and there’s a space and a time for yoga at the gym. But as someone who found her way to yoga in the dark basement of a gym, gym yoga, for all it’s trials and tribulations, will always have a soft spot in my heart.