Local Yoga Teachers Offer Unique Classes

BEYOND TRADITION

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?”

Alpaca Yoga

Alpaca Yoga

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

Flora-Bama Flow

Flora-Bama Flow

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 on Tap

Yoga on Tap

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

Original Hot Yoga

Original Hot Yoga

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.

Health Food Store Renovations Embrace Nature

Wellness by Design

Health Food Store Renovations Foster Health and Embrace Nature

by Meredith Montgomery

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Fairhope Health Foods employees smile when they hear customers say, “We love your new expansion!” When you walk through the new double-door entrance, the updated space does feel bigger, but in reality, it’s not.

“It shows you how much good lighting, fresh color and views to the outdoors can transform your experience of a space,” says architect and owner of WATERSHED, Rebecca Bryant, who guided the design of the store’s recent renovations. 

Fairhope Health Foods, the first health food store in Lower Alabama, opened in 1975. Along with Virginia’s Health Foods (their sister store in Mobile), they are known for excellent customer service and expansive product inventory. In addition to supplements and health foods (including fresh, organic produce), the stores stock a variety of products that include natural cosmetics, natural pet food and products, eco-friendly cleaning supplies and fair trade gifts. Bryant has been working on plans for their remodel with owner Lynnora Ash since 2017 and construction started around Thanksgiving of last year.

Lynnora Ash, owner

Lynnora Ash, owner

“It’s like we do with our bodies—you say you want a healthier, newer you. That’s what we wanted for our store,” says Ash. This health-centered mission inspired Bryant to focus on two strategies—active design (which promotes physical, mental and social well-being) and biophilia design (which connects people to nature).


Healthy Design

WATERSHED used the Fitwel guidelines, created by the Center for Active Design, to inspire the design. Custom bike racks are being installed to accommodate customers and employees who wish to take advantage of the sidewalks and bike lanes that are accessible from the store. Inside they used certified low-emitting materials for the floor, ceiling, paints and adhesives, and care was taken to protect the store from indoor air contaminants during construction. The implementation of a green cleaning program for after construction is also required by the certification.

To foster the health of their staff, the break room was made more private and includes an area for breastfeeding employees that need to pump, plus space for everyone to store their own fresh foods. Better ergonomics is a priority that influenced the addition of sit-to-stand desks.

Accessibility upgrades for disabled customers and employees (including restrooms) is a part of Fitwel’s standards and something Ash emphasized early in the process. Since moving to their current location in 2001, they have expanded several times. “That’s why there were poles in the middle of some of the aisles—the current space used to be three separate stores. Lynnora started in one of the spaces and expanded her store into two more,” explains Bryant. By shifting the aisles so the poles are no longer blocking the path, they appear wider and are now more accessible for wheelchairs.


Connecting With Nature

Biophilia, a term coined by Alabama native E. O. Wilson, describes our innate affinity with nature. When applied to design, biophilia tries to connect people to nature using spatial relationships, materials, lighting, ventilation, views and actual nature (often in the form of plants). 

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To open the store to outside views, the mirrored tint on the storefront windows was replaced with a transparent, energy efficient window film that reflects heat. A louvered screen wall made out of naturally weathered cedar is also being installed. “The west-facing windows act as an oven in the afternoon and the wooden screen filters the strong afternoon light while still allowing people to see in and out of the store,” says Bryant. “We also looked for opportunities to introduce natural materials because people respond physically and emotionally to them like they respond to views of nature.”

The base of the checkout counter will mimic the window screen with the same maple and the top is granite. To reduce waste they used existing shelving but updated their look by painting the backboards black and enlisting a local cabinet maker to build endcaps with another natural material—maple. 

In addition to switching to highly efficient LED light fixtures that are closer to the color temperature of sunlight, highly-reflective paint colors were used on the walls. Compared to the previous earth tones, the color palette is simpler but the walls are more dynamic, since they react to natural light as it changes throughout the day.

A green screen of vines outside the store will soften the views of the parking lot and create better outdoor seating for the Sunflower Café next door. This element will also establish a visual identity for the store so they are more easily identifiable in the long retail strip.

Additional standard practice environmental improvements include enhanced energy efficiency via new insulation that is formaldehyde-free and high in recycled content, plus the installation of Water Sense certified plumbing fixtures. Ash was immediately rewarded for the energy and water conserving updates with a savings of approximately $1,000 on her monthly utility bill.

Supporting Community

Bryant acknowledges the community that Ash has built around the store and café, noting, “Her customers really feel at home here—someone said walking into the store was like walking into ‘Cheers’ and I love that. It was important that this renovation was more than retail design; it was design to support that community.”

The store remained open during the entire renovation process and Ash expresses immense gratitude for the patience of everyone involved. “Our customers have been so supportive and complimentary along the way. They appreciate the green choices we made and were impressed that there were no toxic smells with all that was going on,” she says. “Some came into the store even when they didn’t need anything, just to see what was new since their last visit.”

Ash and her staff have prioritized the health of their customers for more than four decades. This renovation not only supports that commitment, it demonstrates an elevation in their wellness standards that will likely have an impact beyond the store’s walls. Fairhope Health Foods has raised the bar for smart design, and we look forward to seeing how their actions and intentions inspire others community-wide.

Location: 280 Eastern Shore Shopping Center, Fairhope, AL. For more information, call 251-928-0644 or visit Va-FairhopeHealthFoods.com.

How Alkaline Water Can Help Diabetes

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Peak Alkalinity, in Fairhope, offers a simple solution for the prevention and management of diabetes—alkaline water. Because the body thrives on an alkaline pH as opposed to a lower acidic pH, drinking alkaline water can boost the body’s natural detoxification process, improve immunity, facilitate weight management and slow aging.

Alkaline water can also help the body manage insulin production (and therefore manage diabetes) by neutralizing acidic conditions. A healthy pancreas helps maintain alkalinity in the body but poor dietary habits that cause fluctuating blood sugar levels can exhaust the pancreas and lead to diabetes. The smaller clusters of water molecules in alkaline water are easily absorbed by cells to help hydrate and flush acidic toxins, plus it contains ionized calcium that the pancreas can efficiently use to do its job.

“As you replace the ordinary water you drink with alkaline water, you will start to see the many benefits available to you,” says Missy Guitterrez, owner of Peak Alkalinity. “Over time, the alkaline water will help to balance your system out.” For even faster results, Guitterrez also recommends a more alkaline diet, which includes more fruits and vegetables and less meat and dairy.

“We are passionate about helping customers reach peak alkalinity,” says Guitterrez. “Our mission is optimal health, from the inside out.”

For more information, visit peakalkalinity.com.