How to spot it: You arrive in a lobby with all the charm of a Starbucks location and need a scan card to get into class. Two or three simple class types, like “slow” or “flow,” align with corporate schedules and soccer practices. In the studio, ripped young instructors dictate postures—in English, not Sanksrit—at a quick clip, and walls of mirrors reflect your scrawny biceps. The rows are mat-to-mat, with lots of sweat-drenched 20-somethings doing extra chaturanga pushups.
Expect to: Sweat any lingering alcohol or garlic out of your system to the soundtrack of sitar-infused Top 40 hits or John Mayer. Avoid the already dripping shower line and locker-room chatter by dislodging your shoes from the lobby’s mountain of Uggs and sitting on your towel to drive home. Do not—do not—forget your towel.
Try: Some yoga/boot camp hybrid because it’ll be the hardest workout you ever do without socks on.
How to spot it: Sandwich boards out front welcome groups and hesitant couples with new-student specials. Your instructor works at the tea shop next door and is happy to explain why purvottanasana is practical.
Expect to: Match half the class with your Target yoga mat and share meaningful glances with some PSU students if things get too new age-y.
Try: An intro workshop because it’ll explain utthita hasta padangusthasana in plain English and prevent future embarrassments.
The Sacred Space
How to spot it: Your future guru buzzes you through the nondescript door to begin a class series—inconsistent students taking the occasional drop-in classes are frowned upon in this sacred practice. Any instruction over the hum of enlightening breath techniques sounds like a Sanskrit immersion course. There’s probably a harmonium.
Expect to: Practice daily before dawn with the same group of mature yogis. This is your new tribe.
Try: A funky chakra or mythology series because these yogis know the real ancient stories and can relay them while standing on their heads.
How to spot it: Welcome to a Zenned-out urban spa. There’s polished bamboo, calming sage walls, an acupuncture menu and leggings priced as if Lycra was semiprecious. Your instructor moonlights as a yogi-philanthropist, spokesmodel or fashion designer, and classes fill with perfectly manicured West Hills moms seeking sanity midday in the middle of the Pearl...hence the massage and steam rooms.
Expect to: Discover the true price of enlightenment.
Try: A benefit class or event, if only for the raffle, plush goodie bags and opportunity to sweat on local yogalebrities. Giving back in a yoga studio counts as double karma points, right?
The Hippie Haven
How to spot it: The aroma of sandalwood and a dreadlocked volunteer in hemp gauchos welcome you into a lobby that’s part arboretum, part kombucha lounge and entirely compostable. Classes are less uniform, at the mercy of each instructor’s free spirit. Post-practice, community garden potlucks are not unheard of.
Expect to: Encounter everything from an hour of seated chanting to circus acrobatics. Instructors may suggest sparking your inner Shakti flames toward the waning moon (translation: reach up).
Try: Laughter yoga or acro-yoga, or join the monthly kirtan circle to chant your way to enlightenment. And ditch the Lululemon for some organic fibers.