Is Yoga Expensive in Toronto?
Written by Mira Saraf.
"Is Yoga expensive in Toronto?" This question came up, and the first thing that popped into my head was "of course it's expensive, it's Yoga and it's in Toronto, the most expensive city in Canada," assumption made without doing any research. But it got me wondering - if yoga is such a luxury and so much more expensive than a gym membership why are so many people opting for yoga studios over the gym, particularly during a recession? This puzzled me a little bit, especially since I was one of those people. So I decided to dig a little bit deeper.
There are widely varied claims as to what exercise burns the most calories, and what's the best way to lose weight. There are some that swear that yoga has changed their bodies, and there are others who are convinced it is not as good as it seems. Furthermore, yoga can complement any gym-based workout, so the question is not so much what we choose between yoga and the alternative forms of exercise, it is whether we practice yoga in a studio or a gym.
When I first moved to Toronto about 2 years ago, I joined the YMCA. Since the number of people I knew could be counted on the fingers of one hand, I figured I'd keep busy by staying in shape. I did look at yoga studios then too, but I didn't really know what I was looking for and everything was out of my (unemployed) price range. I went to a few yoga classes at the Y pretty regularly. There was one in particular, taught by a woman with flabby arms that used to get frustrated with students that didn't understand her instructions. She would adjust us, but it was more like a neurotic housewife fixing a painting that was hanging crooked, than the softer support I would learn to appreciate later. I also grew bored fairly quickly of her routines, and most of the routines that I would end up doing in other classes as well. Did I see results? Yes definitely, especially after coupling it from running around their indoor track a few times a week but nothing about the whole affair overwhelmed me, and I ended up stopping my classes, and eventually ending my membership altogether.
So is it really that much better at a studio? First, as anyone will tell you it really depends on what you want from yoga. There are many different types of classes and if you just want to stretch a little and gain some flexibility after sprinting on a treadmill for a little while, then the gym should be fine. If you are looking for affordable fitness with a variety of amenities (including pool, gym equipment, weights, and other classes such as dancing, Pilates etc) the gym is definitely a better option. Yoga isn't for everyone, and most importantly it takes some time to figure out which yoga is right for you. Some people feel nauseous just at the mention of spending 60 or 90 minutes in a sauna-like environment with sweaty smelly people, for others it is almost cathartic.
There are some that go for Kundalini, a highly intense form of yoga, which with proper guidance is said to lead to a spiritual awakening and inner knowledge; while others prefer to break a sweat void of any mental strain. Anyone seeking to make a healthy change in their life, be it mental or physical does not have time to try fifteen different types of yoga before choosing one. People are often in a hurry to reach their goals, and especially as we approach that post-gluttonous boxing day/new years period, people will be more anxious than ever to kick-start their fitness routines.
But the one thing that seems to set studios apart from the gym is the quality of the experience. Laura Cullen, a young professional in Toronto says, "I feel the teachers are better trained and have been practicing longer. I have tried at a gym as well and wasn't very impressed with either the teacher or the actual yoga room (the vibe wasn't great at the gym)."
Christine Seangio, another Torontonian, says, "I also like the environment of the yoga studio, it gives me a sense of being part of a community. You get more guidance in your training... I also think that regular gyms are not properly equipped, especially for hot yoga classes." The rooms in the studios are usually mirrored on most sides, not so much so you can see how cute you look, but more so that you can monitor your practice and it helps you correct your own postures.
I personally prefer yoga in a studio, because it healed both my body and my mind in a warm (literally steaming) supportive environment and like Christine, made me feel as though I was part of a community. I feel no jealousy that the person beside me can see the top of their toes directly over their face in floor bow (Dhanurasana) or that the person behind me is doing the standing splits during standing bow pulling pose (Dandayamana-Dhanurasana).
It is inspirational for me, but I am more focused on my own practice and goals. This is what yoga's about; it's not a competition, its not about who can do the most, it is about personal development and truth. It is individual goals with collective support. That, you will rarely find in a gym. Even if the difference is in perception or purely psychological, Yoga is as much a mental and spiritual journey as a physical one that might be worth the expense in the long run.
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