10 Questions PWCF Might Want to Ask Before Signing up for a Studio Yoga Class
Your first time attending a yoga class in a studio you’ve never been to can be scary, whether you have a health condition like cystic fibrosis (CF) or not. But with added concerns about potential risk exposures, that fear can be a huge barrier to getting yourself in the door.
I know that before my first studio yoga class, I had a bunch of questions rolling through my head:
“Is this going to be a safe environment for me? Will the teacher accommodate my needs? How do I let the teacher know about my needs? What even are my needs? What if I can’t keep up? Is this going to be triggering for me? How do I do this?!”
Almost a decade later, I’m happy to report that I've practiced comfortably in many studios. Finding a yoga studio where you feel safe and accommodated is possible! You can do it!
My number one tip is to call ahead. Calling ahead to ask questions before signing up for a studio yoga class is totally normal! Most studio owners and managers, especially after hearing a brief explanation about why you have concerns, will be happy to answer your questions. They’ll likely want to put you at ease.
A simple way to go about this, without disclosing too much private health information, is to say, “Hi! I’m Colleen. I’m interested in signing up for yoga classes at your studio, but I have a few concerns because I have a sensitive respiratory condition. Would you be willing to answer some questions for me?”
Sometimes, like in cases where studios have managers or front desk people who don’t teach themselves, you may have to leave your number for a more qualified person to get back to you. Be patient, but also persistent. You’ve likely learned this skill when scheduling appointments with specialists or when getting a new speciality medication prescription filled. You’ve got this! You’re a pro.
You possess an incredibly valuable skill: the ability to advocate for yourself!
Once you’re on the line with a person who’s willing to answer your questions, these are some good ones to consider:
- What size is the practice room and how many students does it hold? How much space is usually between each mat? (This is especially important during cold and flu seasons, since we know how far droplets from coughs and sneezes can travel.)
- Are there windows and will they be open? Is there a ceiling fan? How well is air circulated?
- Do you diffuse essential oils during classes? If yes, how often is the water changed? How, and how often, is the diffuser sterilized?1 Would it be possible to turn it off during classes I sign up for?
- Do you offer mats, blocks, bolsters, blankets, or other props for students to use? How, and how often, are those sterilized?2
- Do your teachers tend to cue movements to coincide with inhales and exhales in your beginners or all levels classes? Do they use inclusionary language that offers options for students who cannot breathe at a dictated pace?
- Do your beginners or all levels classes include pranayama or breathing exercises outside of the movements? Like at the beginning or end of class? Is inclusionary language offered during that?
- Do your teachers allow students to flow through basic sequences (like sun salutations) at their own pace, leaving time for everybody to meet up together in downward facing dog or at the top of the mat before proceeding into the next sequence?3
- Do your teachers offer hands on adjustments? How do they obtain consent for this? How do I communicate whether or not I want that?
- Do your beginners or all levels classes include chanting or singing?
- Is it possible to prop myself up at an angle or up against a wall during final resting pose?4
Of course, I also suggest looking at the studio’s social media pages to get a feel for what the studio looks like (paying attention to cleanliness, lighting, privacy, etc) and checking out reviews on sites like Google Maps or Yelp to see what other students have said.
There are so many benefits to attending yoga classes in studios, and I hope that my suggestions will help get you in the door!
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Would you add other question suggestions to this list? If so, please comment below!
1You may need to clarify that sterilized does not mean “cleaned.” There is a difference, and this difference is important.
2Personally, I bring my own mat and props, but another way around inadequate sterilization of these items would be to arrive early and sterilize the loaners yourself. You could ask ahead of time if this would be okay.
3These terms should make sense to the person you’re asking. Hopefully, in time, they will make sense to you too!
4Final resting pose, or savasana, is usually performed lying flat on your back. If you have orthopnea (shortness of breath while lying flat), or if you’re simply experiencing post nasal drip that causes coughing while lying flat, props can be a huge relief!