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How a Free Week of Yoga Changed My Fitness Routine

I signed up for a free trial week at my local yoga studio: unlimited yoga classes for 7 days. Here’s what I learned.

The author demonstrating stretch and balance in eagle pose.The author demonstrating eagle pose
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Let me preface this by saying I’m not a beginner — I’ve been practicing yoga for years. That being said, going to yoga classes has never been constant for me.

I usually end up practicing in my home, or in my gym after another workout. I’ll go to a yoga studio with a group of friends or if I’m traveling, but it’s not part of my routine.

So for one week, I decided to change it up.

Free Yoga Classes: The Offerings

The local studio I signed up at offers a good variety of classes. All the classes I tried would be fine for beginners, but some were definitely less instruction-oriented than others. Here’s a list of the types of classes I tried:

  • Yoga 1 is the only class offered by this studio that isn’t in a “hot yoga” room. It has a Vinyasa flow with a focus on yoga foundations, great for beginners. For someone with a busy schedule who likes to do yoga before or after work, a non-heated option is nice to have.
  • Yoga 2 is a class in a heated room focusing on strength, balance, breathing, and more challenging postures. Each instructor adds their own twist and focus.
  • Hot Power Fusion is a class in a heated room (up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit) focusing on balance, core strength, and flexibility. It involves lots of core work and “yogi’s choice” — meaning you choose your own personal focus for the class.
  • Yoga Sculpt is a more advanced sequencing of poses with free weights added in. With a focus on strength and cardio, this class is definitely a bit less of yoga practice and a bit more of a fast-paced group workout.

Out of the four class types I took with six different instructors, I enjoyed all of them. But like anyone who does yoga knows, you’re bound to have a favorite in terms of class focus, the way an instructor paces the class, and their guidance on specific things like breathing.

Mary doing yoga
The author demonstrating half pigeon

At the studio I went to, there was definitely a balance in the community of regulars versus occasional class-goers. I even met some regulars who opt to do back-to-back classes for a deeper workout. As one yogi commented, this is only possible with certain instructors who pace the classes just right.

If you’re looking for help with a certain style (core, inverted, etc.) or progression of poses, don’t be afraid to ask the instructor. They’re there to help — whether it’s one-on-one instruction or yelling out alternative options for poses during class.

What I Liked

The majority of classes I participated in had a strong core workout element, which I really enjoyed. (Because who doesn’t like low planks or pushups mixed into their yoga?)

The yoga network I joined has hundreds of locations, but my neighborhood studio was fairly small. I liked the community element and the fact that I quickly recognized my instructors when I walked in the door.

The “hot yoga” did not disappoint, as it added another element of fitness to the standard-format yoga class. However, it was an adjustment knowing I couldn’t go straight from a class to work, or a class to somewhere else, dripping with sweat. I found some days yearning for a more mindful practice, without the addition of loud music and the swirl of 98-plus-degree heat.

Over the course of the week, I noticed that I went to my local climbing gym much less — which I expected, honestly. If I was going to do a free full week of yoga, I was going to do as much of it as possible. While I was climbing less, I surprisingly still found time to get outside — a couple of trail runs here and there and a short paddleboarding trip over the weekend.

I would argue that the yoga, while a different routine, still helped me stay active.

Mary yoga warrior looking back
The author working through a warrior flow

How a Week of Yoga Changed My Perspective

I consider myself an active person. I like waking up early. Unless I’m struggling with sleep, I find it easy to roll out of bed at 6 a.m. and make my way through the dark to the climbing gym (or yoga studio). But sometimes I forget to rest. By no means is yoga “resting,” but it both mentally and physically challenged me to slow my routine of pushing myself in crowded, sporty activities and environments.

Yoga is as challenging as you make it: you can bend a little deeper in a pose or skip a pose to focus on breathing. No one is going to yell at you, although instructors will usually offer up their support.

After a week of free yoga classes, I realized that relying on my one or two go-to flows at home probably isn’t enough. It’s not providing me the tools to challenge myself in my practice. It reminded me to diversify my yoga routine.

Sometimes, having an instructor and a group of other motivated, sweaty people in a room can give you what you’re missing. It changed my perspective on my personal yoga routine and has motivated me to join in group practices more often.

So if you’re new to yoga, definitely take advantage of free classes to try it out and see if it’s for you. And if you’re an experienced yogi like me — check it out too. What you learn may surprise you.

Some national studios that offer free yoga classes in the form of free-trials or free first classes are:

  • YogaWorks (California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Texas)
  • CorePower Yoga (Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah)
  • Yoga at Equinox (Illinois, New Jersey, New York, California, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan)
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