Deciding Whether to Take Yoga Classes at a Gym vs. a Studio

A group of people taking a yoga class at a gym

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Whether yoga classes are better at the gym or a specialized yoga studio is hard to say. The answer is different for everyone because it depends on what you prioritize in your yoga experience.

Considerations When Deciding to Take Yoga Classes at a Gym or a Studio

If affordability is paramount, a gym probably comes out on top. But if you care most about community or spirituality, you might prefer a studio experience. Here's how the two options usually stack up.

Affordability

Generally speaking, yoga classes at the gym are cheaper. This is particularly true if you already have a gym membership, or if you want to take other fitness classes and have access to amenities such a weight room or pool. Note that some gyms do charge a premium for yoga classes, so make sure to clarify this point.

At a studio, prices for individual classes and even for longer memberships are likely to be higher. That said, there are ways to get classes at yoga studios on the cheap. Since many yoga studios are individually owned and operated, the owner has more discretion to offer things like karma yoga (where you trade services, such as cleaning, for class discounts) and student discounts.

Another issue to consider is the commitment most gyms require. At a yoga studio, you can take drop-in classes anytime you like. Paying for a single class is usually the most expensive way to go, but it's nice to have that option when you are shopping around for a class you like.

Convenience

Take a look at when you’ll want to take your classes. Are you into early morning Ashtanga, a quick lunch-time power yoga session, or after work classes? A yoga studio will probably offer all these options. Larger studios may offer more classes throughout the day at off-peak times as well.

At a gym, yoga classes may have to compete with other fitness classes for the same real estate, so the pickings may be slimmer. However, if you want to take a shower immediately after class before heading to work, a gym is more likely to offer this amenity than a yoga studio. A gym may also have childcare facilities and will allow you the option to add another workout to your yoga class (such as swimming laps or hopping on the elliptical trainer).

Teachers

Many yoga teachers lead classes at both yoga studios and gyms, so the quality of teaching can be exactly the same. The key is finding those good teachers. If you are thinking of joining a gym, ask to take a trial class with the most popular teacher, just to get an idea of what the style is like.

You will also want to make sure that the gym's yoga teachers are registered with the Yoga Alliance. Quality gyms are pretty good about this, but some do try to repurpose other teaching staff as yoga instructors by having them take quickie training courses. Needless to say, it’s not a great idea to study with teachers that are under-qualified. Most yoga studios, on the other hand, are very picky about their teachers.

Ambiance

Unless you are joining a very upscale gym, the ambiance will tend to be, well, gym-like. There will be a whiff of sweat in the air, fluorescent lighting, techno music, people working out all kinds of different ways. Some yoga rooms in health clubs are carpeted and have mirrors since they are used for a variety of classes.

Most yoga studios take great care to provide a relaxing, welcoming environment. They paint the walls with pleasing colors, play mood music, burn incense and serve tea. It's all part of the effort to embrace yoga's philosophical roots. So if you are looking for a more spiritual practice, turn to a studio.

Community

Yoga studios love to build community. If you attend regularly, you can’t help but get on friendly terms with the staff, teachers, and your fellow students. Some studios provide couches and comfortable chairs, just to encourage students to stop and talk awhile before or after class. You all have a common interest, after all.

If this appeals to you, a yoga studio is definitely the way to go, because most gyms tend to be pretty impersonal. Of course, that is great if you just want to take your class and go about your business.

A Word From Verywell

As yoga becomes more and more mainstream, some of the lines between gyms and studios are beginning to blur. Gyms have observed that their clientele value yoga and have responded with expanded class schedules and nicer practice rooms. Boutique fitness studios provide a hybrid experience that combines some aspects of a more traditional gym and some of a classic yoga studio.

And some yoga studios, especially chains like CorePower and Modo, are offering gym-like membership plans and amenities such as showers. Ultimately, what's most important is finding a place that fits your budget, where you feel comfortable, and where you click with the teachers.

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