When I first started yoga, I didn't have to look too far for a studio. What happened was a friend invited me over to a free yoga combination meditation event at his friend's house. Frankly I wasn't in it for the yoga. I like to meditate. The mediation was wonderful and calming. It occurred after the yoga. So fine, I did my best to follow the instructor, whether it was pranayama, kripalu, or hatha yoga I couldn't tell you. The lady demonstrating didn't give us a lot of information. I came away from it unimpressed. I have undiagnosed sciatic pain on my right side, so exercise in general, is something I do cautiously.

A few days later on a hike, my yoga loving friend mentioned that he was getting bored with the yoga offered in our little town and suggested we try out one of the bigger studios in a close by larger city. "Well, you know," I mentioned casually, "There used to be an ad in the paper for a studio in Frazier Park, the Misty Mountain Yoga, have you tried that?" I would have let it go at that, but yoga boy was on it. He called the studio when I wasn't around, ascertained the schedule and asked me if I wanted to go to an evening class. We drove down hill 20 miles in a snowstorm, and were pleased to discover we were not the only ones who braved the weather for classes.

Things You Will Need

It was here my love of yoga was born. So the first thing I want to tell you about finding a yoga studio, is to try more than one. Things you will need:

A phone

A computer

A sense of direction

Some intuition

Step 1

The best place to start is, as I did, word of mouth. Ask around your friends and colleagues to see if anyone in your periphery is doing yoga, and ask them where. There are apparently many schools of yoga, including Bickram, Kundalini, and Ashtanga. I would not venture to say which one is "best" because that is nothing but personal preference. Some studios blend yoga with pilates, or make it almost an aerobic exercise. Others focus more on breathing and stretching, and still others center more on the religious aspects of yoga, mixing the practice with mantras, chanting, prayer and meditation.

Step 2

After you have ascertained a place to go, call and see what the schedule is and drop by for one class. I wouldn't recommend buying a package, even if it's cheaper, until you have decided it's the home studio for you. Many studios have websites where you can pay before hand on line and book a reservation. This is super convenient, and will encourage you to MAKE YOUR APPOINTMENT! After all, if you don't show up, you will never get started.

Step 3

Use your intuition about how you feel about a place over the phone. Do they sound too busy to deal with you? Not a good sign. Although everyone has a bad day now and again, I don't think you should underrate the importance of intuition when rating a yoga school. One of my friends signed on to do a 200 hour teaching training at a place she imagined would be highly spiritual, and was shocked and disappointed at the egos involved. She ended up dropping out after 2 weeks. So don't judge a studio on the credentials on the wall. Make sure the philosophy of the studio matches your personality.

Step 4

When you go, remember you are interviewing them, they aren't interviewing you. Don't let anyone make you feel clumsy or silly for being a beginner. Ask questions! It's your money. Get the most you can out of what you have paid. Sit in the front so you can see the instructor well, and not be distracted by the other people in the class. Bigger is not always better. If there are so many people in the class you can't get personal attention, you might want to find a smaller studio. If money is no object, you might even find a personal trainer. Any reputable yoga studio will be able to hook you up with a teacher willing to give you a personal lesson.

Being good at yoga does not a yoga teacher make. I recently attended a class taught by a woman who had been practicing yoga for forty years. I naturally made the assumption that she would be a better teacher than my regular instructor. I was a little disappointed by her inability to explain anything. She didn't even know the names, Sanskrit or in English of the poses we were doing. She did not pause for corrections, and there were only two of us in her class that day. She just performed in front of us, leaving us to follow willy-nilly.

By contrast, my teacher at Misty Mountain Yoga, is less than forty years old. So she couldn't have been doing yoga for more than 10 or 20 years at best, and she is an excellent teacher. It is comforting the way she tells us both the Sanskrit and the English name for each pose. If different schools of yoga have different names for the same pose she mentions that as well. She often goes into side stories and history about schools of yoga for our information and entertainment. She will pause to do corrections, and is polite to ask before she lays hands on you. She will also demonstrate the right and wrong way people do poses. She modifies poses down, to an easier level for me, because of my flexibility issues, as well as modifies them up, to more difficult for my very strong and agile friend.

Tips & Warnings

Beware of the yoga teacher who does not give you a proper warm up. You can easily strain a muscle. A proper warm up should at the very least include some neck rolls and shoulder rolls. Even better would be something that loosened your wrists and stretched your arms. Do not go into a pose that feels "Scary" or uncomfortable. You know your body better than the teacher does, follow your intuition. If you start cramping, pull out of the pose and do the counter pose (ie stretch in the opposite direction.)