by Meredith Montgomery
The local yoga scene is thriving, with studios offering full schedules of wide-ranging classes all along the Gulf Coast. As teachers think outside of the box more and more, specialty classes are popping up in unconventional locations with fascinating features that cater to the unique interests of their diverse students.
For the Love of Animals
Dana and Chris Garrett, owners of Synergy Yoga & Pilates in Mobile, have brought their love for cats to the studio with Yoga for Cats, a quarterly class that brings friendly, adoptable cats and kittens to play during event. Once they learned of Project Purr Animal Rescue’s work, the studio owners wanted to help raise funds and awareness for all the felines that need loving homes. “We see many events on social media and the news supporting rescued and abandoned dogs, but very few for cats,” notes Chris. “We know the fun energy kittens can bring, and we figured if goat yoga can become popular, why not yoga with the cats?”
Yes, goat yoga is a national trend, but in Silverhill, Alabama, Humming Star Alpaca Farm hosts Alpaca Yoga. “The alpacas pair well with yoga as they foster a calm, peaceful atmosphere,” says farm owner Cheryl Bowen. “The alpacas meander around, stopping at each yogi’s mat for a bit of grain. The teacher Joy Larsen integrates the yoga practice with alpaca interaction in an amazing way.” Yoga with the alpacas is offered monthly and like Yoga for Cats, is accessible to people with all levels of yoga experience.
A Brain Boost
Kelly Laurendine, owner of Alabama Healing Arts, has researched diet and yoga for stress and anxiety for years, but recently her emphasis shifted to brain health. “I lost my father to Alzheimer’s and now my mom’s memory is in decline, so memory loss is of great concern,” she says.
After doing extensive research on the benefits of exercise, yoga, meditation and breath practices for the brain, she created Brain Boost Yoga. This weekly class, offered on Thursday mornings, teaches 30 minutes of mindful movement and yoga, followed by a 20-minute meditation practice. “This class stimulates the brain, both rounding out the week and prepping you for the weekend,” says Laurendine, who believes that yoga can provide an amazing preventative healthcare plan.
Worship in the Studio
Pneuma is a Greek word meaning “breath of God” and, appropriately, Pneuma Yoga Studio in Daphne offers Outstretched, a donation-based community class which features yoga and devotion. “Come as you are, give what you can and be blessed by this gift of worship and yoga,” owner Kara Palmer says of the class, which is offered every Wednesday morning. Outstretched is also the name of the studio’s nonprofit, which was founded by Susan Bordenkircher, who wrote the book Yoga for Christians and produced yoga DVDs called Outstretched in Worship.
Inspired by the live worship music yoga classes at her teacher training, Palmer also offers Acoustic Gentle Yoga once a month. This candlelight class is taught to live Christian music played by Angel Thrash of 3 Circle Church. Palmer says, “This is an intimate worship experience, so come to your yoga mat ready to connect your mind, body and spirit to God.”
Live Music, Bars and Yogis
Orange Beach Yoga owner Jamie Robertson also enjoys having live music at her yoga classes. “So many talented musicians have moved to the area and I love to share their talent with our yoga students,” says Robertson, who invites a range of artists to accompany her classes about once a month. Most of the musicians she works with are upbeat, playing southern rock, light country and beach music. “I don’t want to stress the musicians by telling them what to play. I just ask that they start slow, peak and then end slow, and we teach a general vinyasa flow class.”
Flora-Bama Flow is another unique class offered by Orange Beach Yoga. Every Friday morning yogis practice at the Flora-Bama Ole River Grill under the large covered porch with a waterfront view. “Because we attract a lot of tourists, this is an extremely diverse class—it’s exciting to see such a wide range of fitness levels. There may be a first time yoga student right next to someone in a headstand. I love seeing the diversity and people that are comfortable doing just what their body needs that day,” says Robertson. Attendees arrive by both land and water (sometimes on a jet ski or in a boat) and after class the bar opens for mimosas and bloody marys.
Yoga in bars is not a new concept for the area—Soul Shine’s Yoga on Tap at Fairhope Brewing Company is another popular class. The monthly $5 community class is taught by a rotation of teachers and followed by beer specials. “We started the events to make yoga more accessible in price and location around Fairhope. By extending the yoga community outside of the studio, more people can experience the energy you get from practicing with a large group while meeting new friends with similar interests,” says Soul Shine owner Emily Sommerville.
Some Like it Hot
If you attend Sterling Hot Yoga and Wellness’ Original Hot Yoga classes in Mobile, you’ll be practicing in a room regulated to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. “Our heating system was specially designed to do this because it’s very important to have proper ventilation and controls to achieve this environment,” says owner David Roberts. The heat allows muscles to stretch more deeply and more safely while the sweating helps cleanse and detox the body. Unlike most yoga classes, Original Hot Yoga (also called 26 and 2 or Bikram Hot Yoga) guides students through the same series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in each class. The comprehensive series helps restore and maintain natural range of motion, improves flexibility, reduces stress and sheds pounds.
Soul Shine Yoga in Fairhope uses infrared radiant heat to maintain a temperature of 90 degrees in its heated room. Hot Restore: Hips & Hamstrings focuses on poses that will deeply open the hips, hamstrings, quads, low back and side body—perfect for runners, cyclists and golfers and those wanting to acclimate to a hot class at a slower pace. “Our students love this class,” says Sommerville. “It’s perfect for recovery, whether a student is recovering from an illness, injury or an intense workout. The evening classes offer the extra bonus of promoting a deep night's sleep.”
As the yoga world embraces these innovative approaches to an ancient tradition, it’s giving experienced yogis an opportunity to spice up their regular routines while also attracting an even broader audience. Yoga is for everybody, now more than ever.