Everyone Begins Somewhere

By: Chase Heidner

Chicago Yoga

In my Explore Chicago LSP 111 class at DePaul University, I had the privilege of exploring the cracks and corners of Chicago, and testing out all the different types and techniques different yoga studios offer. I went to close ones, far ones, exclusive ones, small ones, chain ones, strange ones, and everything else in-between! I was able to experience meditation and how it is done, which became an aspect of yoga that I fell in love with for how mellow-like-jello I felt after I was done with it. I participated in fast-paced yoga by moving from one pose to another with little to no pause in-between, and I learned how to control my breath. I began as a clueless beginner who was afraid of the thought of participating in a real yoga class, and formed into a person who could now confidently walk into a yoga studio.
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The Issue In Chicago Yoga

After experiencing the many different types of yoga studios while out and about in Chicago, I realized that there was important criteria for me that some of the studios didn't address. Since I was both timid on unfamiliar ground, and also a beginner in yoga, it was important to me that the yoga studio was welcoming and acknowledging to my inexperience. This lead me to a bigger conversation going on in the yoga community which is, should yoga studios be more beginner level accessible? I mean, why wouldn't they want to be? That means more business for them! But surprisingly, some yoga studios just weren't beginner level friendly, and in consequence, turns new-comers away from their studio. For example, Chi-Town Shakti was not for the beginner community with all of their scary yoga words pouring out of them, sounding like a different language. On the other side of the spectrum, there were yoga studios that were very beginner level friendly, and even offered many classes JUST for beginners! One example is the chain of CorePower yoga! They offer many classes for all scales of expertise, including beginners. Ganesha yoga also falls into the beginner level friendly pocket by making it very clear that it is important that all of their students feel very comfortable.
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Woman Being Taught a beginner Level pose: Child's Pose

CorePower Yoga: Is This Chain Beginner Level Friendly?

Absolutely! You see immediately by going to their class list on their website that they offer classes specifically targeting beginner level yogis. The class I attended was supposed to be a hot yoga class, but the instructor explained that she felt more comfortable (since most of us were beginners) if the room was only set slightly above room temperature. This was very professional of her because she explained that it is very easy to injury yourself in hot yoga (due to the fact that the heat loosens our muscles), and because of our inexperience, she wasn't going to let that happen. Being a beginner, I would have had no idea and tried to go straight to a real hot yoga class where the temperature was piping hot. While visiting their webpage and seeing the classes that they offer, you'll notice that no beginner level class reaches a temperature above 91 degrees Fahrenheit. The instructors made sure we were comfortable and safe as beginners. The poses were more fast-paced than the other classes in different studios, but they were definitely possible for any beginner like myself. Beginner-Yoga expert Cyndi Lee explains that, "Teaching beginner’s yoga is challenging, because beginners may not know what to expect. Many people, for example, come to yoga believing that it’s simply a physical exercise." (Brahinsky) This is how I felt when I first walked into CorePower, because I associate hot yoga to exercise. But the instructor quickly changed my beginner thought process by bringing me back to "a deep quality to what’s being taught.” (Brahinsky) This yoga studio was my favorite, because I felt as though I could come to CorePower as a beginner, and slowly work my way up to intermediate and then expert, instead of having to find many yoga studios that fit my wants and needs.

Chi-Town Shakti: Beginner Level Accessible?

Unfortunately, no. Their website itself is intimidating to the beginner's eye. They describe their practices in a way any uninformed beginner would not understand, using words like Shambhava, Asana, Hatha, and Vinyasa. When I was practicing there for the first time, the instructor was dropping these words as if I had a clue about what she was talking about, but instead my facial expression probably looked like a giant question mark. In an article talking about how to teach beginners written by 11-year respected yoga teacher Kat Heagber, she writes, "Don’t assume that students will automatically know what “energy lines,” "hug the midline," "engage mula bandha,” or “anjali mudra” mean. Use terminology that non-yogis will understand, and when you present some new vocab, define it!" (Heagberg) This is an important concept that Chi-Town Shakti should take into consideration in order to be more welcoming to beginners. What made it even more awkward was the fact that they were very exclusive, and therefore would make a beginner uncomfortable. The co-owner even said that they'll turn certain people away from their practice. What also made it not accessible for a beginner was how extreme they were about the practice. The co-owner talked about how she lived in an Ashram for months of her life, and that they would wake up at 5am to meditate. All of their extremeness could scare away a beginner, especially ones that were just trying to get a taste of it for the first time. I would suggest that they use a more Foot-in-the-door technique specifically for beginners, because I personally was taken-back a little bit at how extreme they were.

Ganesha Yoga: Is It Welcoming To Beginners?

Very much so! They made sure to make it known that their business's focal point was to make sure that their clients were comfortable when the stepped foot inside the building. One of the Co-Founders, Jane, took time out of her day to visit our classroom at DePaul to tell us about her business. She emphasized that their business was a judgement free zone. This is very important for the comfortableness of beginners, because having been one of them, I was very shy and nervous at first thinking that everyone was staring at me and laughing. This makes Ganesha a perfect place for beginners to practice in and also feel comfortable while doing so. Jane made it clear that the classes themselves are also suitable for beginners by explaining that you're not going to walk into one of their beginner level classes, and then be asked to stand on your head. And unlike Chi-Town Shakti, they make sure to speak a language that doesn't sound foreign to the untrained ear of yoga. By looking at their class list on their website, they even address the issue of difficult language and explain that "For a beginning student, these terms are often confusing and not terribly descriptive." (Musgrave, Hanzlik) They make sure that not only their website doesn't scare beginners away from yoga, but they also make sure to use simpler words during the practice itself as well. Overall, Ganesha Yoga is the most beginner friendly out of both CorePower and Chi-Town Shakti. The studio makes sure to address both comfortableness and easiness for a beginner.

Opinion and Suggestion

As an opinion and a suggestion, yoga studios should be more beginner level accessible for the sake of their own business! Being beginner level accessible allows for a the business to grow by obtaining more clients, specifically ones that are beginners and are just starting out for the first time. Studios can easily accommodate to this change simply by adding yoga classes to their schedules that a beginner would be able and comfortable participating in. This is beneficial for the studio because it also creates long lasting clients. By taking in beginner level yogis, they can then upgrade to a more difficult level class within that studio instead of having to jump from yoga studio to yoga studio in search of finding specific classes that fit their needs. In other words, instead the client could just stick with that same yoga studio and make progress within only that studio. This idea benefits both the client and the studio by giving the studio more business and also allowing the client to stay secure with one yoga studio. It's a win-win situation!


Even with all the positives that come with creating a more beginner level accessible yoga studio, it is understandable why some yoga studios wouldn't want to. It is understandable that some yoga instructors simply just prefer to teach more difficult classes. It would be odd to judge a college professor for not wanting to teach a kindergarten level class. Also, some instructors are so advanced in their knowledge on the background of yoga, such as Chi-Town with their very traditional background, who would prefer to teach students of the same interests of their traditional style.


So even though becoming beginner level accessible in a yoga studio has many positives, some instructors do have their reasons for not wanting to! But I would definitely suggest that it is something to consider for the sake of expansion on their businesses, and for simply allowing more people of Chicago to try out the wonderful practice of yoga!

works cited

Kelley, Tracey. "Beginner Yoga Stances." LoveToKnow. Lovetoknow Yoga, n.d. Web. 16 Mar.

2016.


Messianic, Midwest. "Chicago-Skyline." Flickr. Yahoo!, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.


Shambhava Yoga. "Chi-Town Shakti." About Yoga Studio. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.


MindBody. "CorePower Yoga." CorePower Yoga. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.


Musgrave, Jane R., and Mindy Hanzlik. "Classes." Ganesha Yoga. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar.

2016.


Brahinsky, Rachel. "Beginner's Mind - Yoga Journal." Yoga Journal. Cruz Bay Publishing, 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.


Heagberg, Kat. "6 Tips For Teaching Yoga To Beginners." Yoga International. N.p., 31 Aug. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.