5 Tips for Choosing the Right Yoga Class for YOU

When I woke up yesterday morning, I found myself fighting this insatiable craving for yoga. As you can imagine, that goes against my entire being. I’m a runner. I’m supposed to wake up and want to run. It’s during those moments when I give myself the internal WTF. Shouldn’t I be up on the High Line, plugging along?

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Once upon a time, I was incredibly into yoga. It started back in college, when my friend Josh convinced me to try it out. At the time, yoga was like what colored television must have seemed like to my grandparents. I knew it existed, and I knew people liked it, but I didn’t need to bother with such a progressive, posh type of thing. I already knew how to go to a gym, step onto pavement. Why yoga? Why now?

To my surprise, I got really into the practice after giving it a chance, and when I was a senior at the University of Michigan, I’d go with Josh at least twice weekly to get my flow on. The class I went to during those years was tough though — and, to be honest, I had no idea that restorative sequences even existed. Each class was tougher than the last, and every time, I’d leave the small midwest studio drenched in more sweat than on my daily morning runs (yes, I was running like a maniac then too).

But I haven’t been “in” to yoga in such a dedicated capacity since that period of my life, and while I’m grateful to have discovered the more challenging sequences at the beginning, I’m also grateful to have discovered that there are more balanced roads to go down. Among my favorite studios in New York City:

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Jivamukti: If you’ve been keeping up with my adventures, you’d know that Jivamukti is among my favorites of all the studios in New York. It’s clean, spiritual and centrally located. The instructors are (for the most part) pretty awesome, and, best of all, there are showers. A word to the wise: If you’re not what the elders describe as “dedicated,” I’d recommend sticking to the 60-minute Spiritual Warrior classes. Once you get into the 90-minute sessions, it can be difficult to back out (without getting the stink-eye from fellow students).

Yoga Vida: I started going to Yoga Vida — the one in Union Square, not downtown — a couple of years ago because I was pretty much desperate to find a class that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Enter this basic, no-frills studio. It was cheap, it was convenient, and it offered basically everything I needed. Something to note: The classes at Yoga Vida aren’t exactly restorative. Most are pretty tough, but I have to say, the instructors typically choose some pretty kick-ass tunes to flow to, which makes the time fly by.

Strala Yoga: Strala is definitely one of the more challenging studios I’ve been to in New York, but if you’ve ever caught a glimpse of Tara Stiles — the owner/rogue yoga guru known to many around the world — then you’d know that every bead of sweat would be undoubtedly worth it. Tara is freaking sexy, and while I’ll probably never acquire her looks (unless there’s a pending growth spurt I’m unaware of), I can nevertheless strive for her physique. Just shorter. And less lithe.

Mang’Oh: I avoided going to Mang’Oh for the longest time, mainly because it’s in my neighborhood and mainly because I can be kind of a snob. Also though, Mang’Oh’s single classes are on the more expensive side of the spectrum, and so while I wasn’t necessarily willing to try the class at $20 a pop, I was definitely game when I received a 50% off discount via email. Ever since my first fateful class, I’ve been a dedicated student of Mang’Oh (translation: I’ve gone once a week max, but that’s far more frequent than my previous schedule allowed).

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Ok, so that very abridged run-down reveals my personal favorite yoga studios in New York City, but what does that really mean for you? After checking out tons of studios, from New York to San Francisco to Michigan and more, I’ve definitely figured out the elements that make or break the class. Fair warning, I’m a simple kind of girl. If you’re into the whole Tracy-Anderson-Juice-Cleanse-Gwenyth-Mandarin-Oriental scene, this might not be for you.

5 Tips for Choosing the Right Yoga Class for YOU

1. Location, location, location. I don’t care if they serve me champagne upon walking through the door; if a yoga studio is too far, too annoying, too unsafe (um, hi Manhattan) or too inconvenient to get to, I probably won’t be going there. I’ve made a huge exception for Mang’Oh on garbage days. I find this literally repulsive.

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But that’s the thing with yoga. At least, when you’re a runner and have the option to step out your door and onto your metaphoric race track, you want to give yourself the fewest possible excuses and reasons to back out.

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That’s what I’ve come to really appreciate about Mang’Oh. It’s not my favorite studio that I’ve ever gone to. But, it is a hop, skip and a jump away from my apartment and my office and so, on any given morning or any evening after work, I can decide, on a whim, to book a class. And what does that mean? No way to back out.

2. One for the money. I was born and raised in New York, so the idea of overpriced, well, anything isn’t totally foreign to me. But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to break the bank for 60 minutes of sweat that, realistically, I could probably muster on my own.

As much as I love living room workouts and running through Central Park for their ability to provide a bit of solitude that comes at a cheap price, I also very much understand the value of signing up for a class. I’ll admit, having an instructor motivates you to push harder and work out smarter. But, to be frank, I’d rather an easy, dumb workout than a session that’s overpriced.

For me, Mang’Oh is the perfect mix. Sure, it’s slightly more than I’d like to pay, but I’ve also learned to take the lack of commute into account. Jivamukti is $13. But unless I walk both directions, you have to tack on another $5 in subway fares — which brings it up to a hefty $18.

If you’re in the midtown area, Mang’Oh isn’t too bad. Each class is $20, but if you buy a 10 or 20 pack, the cost goes down significantly — to less than $16.50 a class. Remember, renting a mat and buying water from the studio can be added expenses, so think ahead and be prepared.

3. Teacher! Teacher! There are few things more frustrating than finding yourself smack in the middle of a yoga class with a terrible instructor. Truthfully, there aren’t many ways to do your homework in advance. You simply never know. If you do happen to find a yoga teacher you love though, stick with them. For me, that’s Thursday morning’s instructor at Mang’Oh — Angelina. Each practice, I find that I learn something new about my body, which is something you should always take away.

4. Stylez. No, not Tara Stiles. Styles. Like, the type of yoga offered at a particular studio. Here’s a place where you can do your homework, because I have to tell you, there are few things more disappointing than thinking you’re going into a quiet, relaxing session only to find that you’ve signed up for hot power yoga. (I’ve been there before, true story. Not fun. You look like this after.)

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I used to practice Ashtanga, which is a faster paced form of movement. These days, I prefer Jivamukti — both a studio and type of yoga (you can probably guess which came first). Elements about the practice that I appreciate are:

  • Same sequence every time, so you can really get into the flow on your own, not to mention practice it personally at home.
  • Powerful yet restorative; it’s the perfect mix of stretching and strength training.
  • Flow: I find that the Jivamukti sequence just makes sense. It’s as simple as that. I love it.

 5. Amenities. This one’s a bit more obvious, but if you’re planning on going back to work after a hot yoga session, you might want to make sure that there are showers to use afterward. Certain amenities aren’t a necessity, but there are basic ones that are definitely nice to have. Among some of the more notable ones to consider:

  • Shower
  • Towels
  • Mat rentals
  • Water
  • Lockers
  • Snacks

So, what do YOU factor in to choosing a yoga studio — or any fitness studio, for that matter?

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