Pet Peeve: Gym Yoga

As most of you know, I’m on vacation in sunny Florida with my mom right now. Of course I can’t leave yoga behind when I go on vacation, so I brought my mat and some clothes with me so I could practice on my own and, hopefully, find a class somewhere. IMHO, it’s always a good idea to take classes in your favorite mode of exercise in all sorts of places, because the climate, the naming conventions, and the level of difficulty can vary so widely that it’ll always be an interesting experience.

My mom told me she had a class that she’d love for me to take. It was too hard for her, she said, but she thought it would be great for me. I didn’t learn until I’d already agreed to this that the class was at her gym. I kind of went “oh, it’s a gym yoga class” when I found out, and she said “is that a problem?” and I tried, and ultimately failed, to explain that the mood of gym yoga is just a whole different thing than studio yoga.

(These are all vague generalizations based on my experience and reading.)

Studio yoga tends to be a lot more focused on the philosophical aspects of yoga, and you tend to get a lot more personal attention. Gym yoga is often more intense and exercise-based, and is sometimes cheaper. I have read that a lot of gym yoga instructors have sort of danced their way into certification, with telecourses and fudging, whereas studio teachers tend to have to be either certified, way experienced, or provably good/safe teachers. Yoga studio owners know a whole lot more about yoga, on average, than gym owners, who sometimes just want a new class and know that yoga is trendy. So they may not be as discriminating about the instructors and what is taught.

This is not to say that gym yoga doesn’t have its advantages. If you’re looking for a class that will stoke up your physical fire, gym yoga will work. You might be looking to take your first yoga class, and gym yoga classes can have an air of familiarity to someone who’s spent plenty of time on the treadmill but none on the mat. Like I said, they might also be cheaper, and if you’re a member of the gym they may even be free. Plus, if you’re not into airy-fairy crap like chanting and candles and so on, gym yoga will keep it all at arm’s length.

But, returning to my personal quandary, Mom had said no, no, this wasn’t going to be like gym yoga. It’d be great. I believed her, and went on into class, and knew immediately that she was wrong. People were wearing sneakers. The mats were placed haphazardly, and not everyone could see the teacher and vice versa. There was a guy riding one of the stationary bikes that lined the back wall, and the studio had huge windows looking out to the treadmills and the weight machines.


I won’t describe the whole class, but it lived up to my every expectation of gym yoga. No adjustments, no specific corrections, and little guidance on the focus of poses. People were late. People left early. Savasana was so short that I barely got settled before it was time to get up again. The way triangle pose was done by most of the participants (calling them “students” would be a stretch) (ha, that was a pun) just made me want to cry, or to walk over there and say NO, lift your torso. NO, straighten your knee. For God’s sake, lengthen your stance. Ack.

Overall, just staying on my mat and not thinking about the miscellaneous anti-versions of yoga that the rest of the class thought they were doing, it was a pretty interesting class, because the teacher sequenced decently and was friendly enough. Certainly I learned a lot. The big difference I noticed this time was that the class was very lower-body focused – mostly standing or seated poses, and few backbends or balancing poses. “Keep yourself grounded” seemed to be the order of the day. This is fine, for one class, but the way the people around me went in and out of poses showed me that she followed virtually this exact class routine week after week. Which just made me cringe even more.

Gym yoga is great for some people. But boy, does it ever not work for me.


2 Responses to Pet Peeve: Gym Yoga

  1. Taoist Biker says:

    From what you say, it seems like decent beginner’s stuff. Come in, get started – if you have fun, that’s great, but if you want more, then you’d best graduate.

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