How To Have A *Real* Yoga Practice At That *Really* Purple Gym

Posted by   Annette on    October 3, 2018


‘Wait a sec,’ I’m sure you’re thinking. ‘Is there yoga at Planet Fitness? I didn’t think there was. Pretty sure there isn’t. Yep. Definitely not.’

Heh. Well. Yes there is-- the thing is, you have to BYO.

I should know. During the course of completing the first fifty-state skydiving road trip ever accomplished in a single journey, I’ve taken my daily yoga practice to something on the order of sixty Planet Fitness locations around the country. I’ve been the weirdo in the corner doing headstand splits and triangles under the baleful gaze of twenty different television monitors, the insistent signage (NO JUDGEMENT! NO JUDGEMENT! NO JUDGEMENT!) and the baffled glances of lookers-on.

It is weird. Yes. But it has worked. 

I can, without reservation, say that choosing to get a Planet Fitness Black Card membership was the best travel planning decision we made when we were charting out Down For 50. For people like us (and, perhaps, you?) a daily fitness practice equals sanity. Doing without--or piecemealing it here and there--was never an option. For this epic quest, we knew we would be quite literally everywhere in the country. And Planet Fitness is, quite literally, everywhere in the country, with its giant buckets of Tootsie Rolls (?!) and its bagel Mondays (?!) and its pizza Fridays (?!) and its big purple shadow looming large.

Did the purple everything take getting used to? Yes. But now I dream in purple. I bleed purple. Hah. So there.

For all its ‘Murican idiosyncrasies, Planet Fitness offers a lot of value. If you’re a digital nomad in America--or regular travel is a part of your lifestyle--it’s a pretty obvious fit. However: this ain’t just for us rootless ones. Indeed: If the idea of situating a daily yoga practice at a $10-a-month gym finally pushes you to unroll your mat and rise to the occasion of that long-ago New Years resolution, so much the better. It just takes a little hacking.

I’m’a tell you how it works.


Your new--uh--yoga studio?

1. Get the Black Card membership.

Right, so, yeah... It’s $20 a month instead of $10. The extra ten bucks, however--IMHO--is well worth it. First, with a Black Card you get access to all the Planet Fitness locations (which, for us, is the entire point). Secondly, you get to bring a guest whenever you go, so you can split the cost with a partner. Thirdly, you get access to the Red Light Jiggle Booth. (Okay, the official title is Body Enhancement something-or-other.) The listed benefits of the contraption are almost certainly tantamount to bullshit, but it feels fantastic--and it magically erases my morning just-woke-up-in-an-RV-bed creaks, which is entirely worth the trouble.

2. Find a YouTube teacher you love.

There are no yoga teachers at Planet Fitness (unless a rogue instructor has posted up next to you in the “Abs & Stretching” corner). You’re going to need to find your own. Luckily, YouTube is full of remarkably solid yoga teachers--and the videos are, y’know, free. A few of my go-to favorites among the teeming fray:

Heart Alchemy Yoga

Leigha Butler Yoga

Do Yoga With Me

Cat Meffan

Five Parks Yoga

3. Use wireless Bluetooth earbuds to hear the instruction.

The music Planet Fitness has chosen for you is not--shall we say--meditative. If you don’t want Ke$ha drowning out your kundalini (or if you don’t want to be constantly answering the questions of curious weightlifters), you’re going to need a way to get your YouTube yoga teacher’s instructions directly into your brain without a tether. I use these SoundPEATS wireless earbuds. I can vouch for how well they stay in, chaturanga after chaturanga.

4. Bring your own (plushy, please) mat.

Planet Fitness does not stock yoga mats. They have short little gym mats made out of shiny vinyl. These are useful for no yogi/ni. Plus: If you take off your shoes without your own mat under those naked feet, you won’t get five minutes into your practice before you have a teenager in a purple shirt bashfully telling you to put them the h*ck back on.

Add to that the issue of comfort. PF gym floors are reliably very hard. Do yourself a favor and use some of the money you’re saving on a very nice yoga mat. This professional mat by Manduka is my choice. It costs about as much as a ten-class punch card at a poshity-poo yoga studio, and it will last you for about a hundred years of dedicated vinyasa flowin’.

5. Bring your own props.

Yoga is so much better with blocks and a strap. Planet Fitness has neither. Bring your own blocks and strap, in your own capacious mat bag (big enough to hold the pro mat, the blocks, the strap, a towel and a big water bottle -- here’s mine).

6. Close your eyes and turn up your breath.

Planet Fitness is not a yoga studio. Not at all. That said: Practicing yoga at a loud franchise gym is just about the best breath-focus practice I’ve ever had. If you can practice here, you can practice anywhere. Pretty soon, you’ll find that you don’t need bamboo floors, perfect sound insulation and the soft plucking of a mandoline to get you into the zone. You’ll just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and be exactly where you need to be--even if where you are is in the middle of a fluorescent purple haze.

And that, my friends, is definitely worth $10 a month.

Planet Fitness exterior photo credit: jjbers: Planet Fitness (Rhode Island Mall) via photopin (license)