I love group classes. As someone who struggles to work out solo, having a personal, self-driven physical practice of any sort is, as far as I’m concerned, unbelievably impressive (and don’t even get me started on the awe I have for runners). Personal training is, of course, amazing, and probably worth investing in at least every so often to help push you through plateaus, or just so you can learn how to do shit without injuring yourself, but there’s something about a proper group class that I absolutely love. Perhaps it’s the energy of the group, or perhaps it’s my innate competitiveness, but workout out en masse (even en petit masse) pushes me to do better. It’s like, um, positive peer pressure.
Case in point: I did yoga, at home, with a lovely instructor, for years. He was delightful, knowledgeable, came right to my doorstep, and at times that suited me. I’d do a session before work, because it didn’t add to my commute time and I could just toddle right over to my own shower immediately after. But eventually it just got sort of...boring. For me. And this is with a teacher who dedicated all his focus to me. On the other end of the ADD spectrum, I have a friend who has a rigorous at-home yoga practice; it’s just her and her mat, and she has the focus to work her way through the ashtanga primary series, and is now, in fact, working on the second series. Me? I end up lying on my stomach “in makarasana,” watching tv.
Of course, one of the things that differentiates yoga from other workouts is the idea that there has to be a logical progression in your physical practice. It depends on the sort of yoga you’re doing, of course, but there is usually a big step forward, then three little steps back, another couple of steps forward, and then a little shuffle back… your practice changes with the seasons, with your body… and at the bottom of it all is this core idea: that you are working, constantly, to let go of these hierarchies, expectations, and comparisons on your yoga mat just so that you can do the same thing off the mat, and in your life, work, and relationships.
If, unlike me, you prefer the privacy and convenience of doing yoga in your own space and on your own schedule, there are loads of resources available to you. If you’re a more advanced student, you can tinker with making your own sequences, and developing a daily routine that takes into account how you’re feeling each time you roll out your mat. We’re lucky, here in India, that one-on-one at-home instruction is so accessible, and there are also, now, an abundance of online resources available to you, many of which offer ‘classroom settings’, sort of mimicking being in the studio.
The thing you cannot emulate is the community aspect of the yoga studio, and it’s not always easy to find a yoga studio to make your own. There are loads, now, in every city, but they don’t always feel exactly right to everyone. For every ashtangi who favours a Mysore-style self-practice, there’s someone who needs personal attention, adjustments, and direction. It’s definitely not one-size-fits-all, so you’ve got to do a little shopping around to find one that feels like home to you.
Here in Delhi I found my studio in Hauz Khas. At Seema Sondhi’s Yoga Studio you’ll find a pick-and-mix of styles dotted across the morning and evening, Monday to Sunday. There’s ashtanga, both led and Mysore-style, there’s vinyasa flow classes, both beginner and intermediate level, and there’s yin yoga, which I wrote about here.
They don’t list the teachers on their class schedule, but there’s Seema, her sister Bindiya, and Anushka who tend to lead the majority of their classes, with visiting teachers popping in every so often. They now also have a studio in Gurgaon, which I haven’t been to, but I’m told that Bindiya also leads classes there. The studio suits all levels, from downward dog virgins to the advanced yogis contorting like ouroboros in the corner. Classes aren’t too precious; there’s all levels of practitioners in every class and the teachers don’t take themselves super-seriously (although they’re all die-hard yogis, and know their shit). When I first started going there, they’d play a mix of sort-of-relaxing, sort-of-invigorating kundalini mantras, but the soundtrack really depends on the teacher. Traditionalists will scoff at music entirely (“Listen to the sound of your breath!”) but, be quiet killjoys. I frickin’ love it. There’s nothing like getting into a good groove to also make you also get into a good sequence.
There’s no booking or waitlist, just get there on time and find place for your mat. But get there on time. The vinyasa classes are my personal favourite, particularly when you get into a lovely flow, segueing from one warrior position to another, into plank and back up again… when I’m a regular at the studio, things are better. My muscles aren’t as tight, I’m more flexible and pliant (both on and off the mat), and I’m more grounded. I haven’t been as regular in recent months (due, in part, to a fixation on Studio 60, which I wrote about here), and I miss it. Whatever your reason for getting onto the mat, whether for your anxiety or your ass, this is a place we recommend.
For more information, for class price, and for a full class schedule, visit their website.