Once considered the go-to practice of hippies, gurus, and other fringe groups, yoga has gone mainstream. Soccer moms flaunt Lululemon pants. Men flex chaturanga-chiseled biceps. But there’s more to yoga than form-fitting duds and tongue-twisting lingo. We decided the time had come to slay assumptions and break down the practice, style by style, studio by studio. What follows are 10 classes offered at some of the area’s top-notch independent studios, each revealing a different side of this versatile workout for both mind and body.
STRETCH IT OUT
WHO IT’S FOR: Anyone looking for a good stretch
WHAT TO EXPECT: YogaFresh instructor Jill Carey calls Yin “a great way to cool the body while focusing the mind.” A complement to fast-paced, flowing Asana practices, poses in Yin are held for five minutes and focus on stretching the connective tissues that usually get overlooked during exercise, specifically the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. Props such as blankets, bolsters (large, heavy pillows), and blocks help maintain postures, making them more comfortable and allowing muscles to completely release. They also make Yin accessible to anyone, factoring out age, weight, flexibility, and previous yoga experience. At YogaFresh, the Yin crowd ranges from teen-aged to middle-aged, firm-bodied to heavier-set. As long as you’re willing to take the time to sit still, dig deep, and let go, Yin is the yoga for you.
WHAT TO KNOW: Bring water and a mat. Don’t eat anything too heavy before class. Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes.
AMENITIES: Mats are available to rent for $1. Props are provided.
LOCATION: YogaFresh, 1125 Woodbury Dr., Woodbury, 651-436-5906, yoga-fresh.com
TIME: 60 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $15 (first week of classes is free)
TYPE: Moksha Yoga 60-minute Class
WHO IT’S FOR: Anyone looking to sweat—a lot
WHAT TO EXPECT: During a Moksha yoga class, you’ll sweat more in an hour than you have in your life—and you’ll leave feeling invincible. The studio is simple and comfortable with a cork floor, mirrors along one wall, and radiant heat panels on the ceiling that warm the room to 105 degrees. But don’t be intimidated: dim lighting and a relaxed pace create a calm rather than overwhelming environment, and the warmth helps detoxify the body through—you guessed it—sweat. Every class follows a set of postures specifically designed for the heat, including a standing series, a floor series, and multiple Savasanas (resting poses). Another thing that sets Moksha apart from other studios? Teachers and students practice to benefit themselves and their communities, most notably by raising money for charities through weekly Karma classes. “When you strip it down,” says Ryann Doucette, co-owner of Moksha Yoga, “yoga is simply breathing and moving.” So what are you waiting for? You can breathe, you can move….
WHAT TO KNOW: Bring water, a mat, and two towels (one for your mat, one for you). Don’t eat anything heavy before class. Arrive 15 minutes early and dress light.
AMENITIES: Mats and towels are available to rent. Locker rooms with cubbies, showers, and grooming tools (hair-dryers, Q-tips,
lotion) are available.
LOCATION: Moksha Yoga, 3252-B W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-920-3004, mokshayogaminneapolis.com
TIME: 60 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $17
NO PLACE LIKE OM
WHO IT’S FOR: Anyone in search of meditation, their own “pocket of peace,” and an emotional and spiritual yoga experience minus the intense poses
WHAT TO EXPECT: Considered the mother of all yoga, Kundalini marries chanting and meditation with corresponding poses (called kriyas) in order to activate energy from each chakra, promoting healing and well being. According to YogaSoul owner Tarisa Parrish, practicing Kundalini will allow you to accomplish an intense amount of spiritual and physical work in just a year’s time, as compared to years or decades of other yoga practice—yet people of any experience or ability level can complete the class. Since each kriya is different, be prepared to practice just a few poses at a time (with little to no movement) as well as complementary breathing techniques. Classes are practiced almost entirely with closed eyes, begin and end with a chant, and include meditation time, during which Parrish plays the symphonic gong.
WHAT TO KNOW: Arrive early and come with an open mind. Avid practitioners often wear loose, all-white clothing with a white headpiece.
AMENITIES: Blankets and other props are provided as needed.
LOCATION: YogaSoul Center, 1121 Town Center Dr., Suite 100, Eagan, 651-452-5789, yogasoul-center.com
TIME: 60 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $17 (first week of classes is free)
TYPE: Beginner’s Yoga
WHO IT’S FOR: Anyone looking to learn or revisit the basics
WHAT TO EXPECT: Before you can run, you must learn to walk. So it is with yoga. At Yoga Prairie’s beginner’s class, studio owner Karen Kinnard introduces new students to the postures essential to all yoga practices. Since classes are typically small, Kinnard is able to take the time to give one-on-one instruction, first demonstrating the poses herself then offering hands-on adjustments to ensure and explain proper alignment. The pace and focus of each class differs based on the students’ needs and ability levels, but the central goal remains the same: to give students the confidence and skills needed to move on to more advanced classes.
WHAT TO KNOW: Arrive 10 minutes early and dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes.
AMENITIES: Mats available to use free-of-charge or to purchase.
LOCATION: Yoga Prairie, 8783 Columbine Rd., Eden Prairie, 952-944-6096, yogaprairie.com
TIME: 60 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $15
GO WITH THE FLOW
TYPE: Heated Morning Vinyasa
WHO IT’S FOR: Early risers, or anyone who would like to be
WHAT TO EXPECT: Do sun salutations the way they were meant to be done—in unison with the sun as it streaks across the early-morning sky. You’ll even feel as though the sun’s rays are reaching you through
SIGH YOGA’S WINDOW: the room is heated, allowing you to detox and helping increase flexibility. Instructors also offer adjustments to maximize each posture. Vinyasa is all about syncing up the breath with postures and moving with grace. The main thing to remember is inhale up, exhale down. After targeting all the major muscle groups, you’ll leave class feeling detoxed and calm, armed with a day’s worth of focus and a cup of coffee’s worth of energy. You’ll also likely get a nice neck rub during Final Savasana, leaving you relaxed and ready to roll.
WHAT TO KNOW: Bring a mat, two towels (one for you and one for your mat), and water.
AMENITIES: Mat and towels are available to rent for $1 each. Locker rooms are outfitted with showers and organic personal-care products. Snacks and hot tea are provided. Retail area out front.
LOCATION: Sigh Yoga, 612 W. 54th St., Mpls., 612-824-1317, sighyoga.com
TIME: 60 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $17
WHO IT’S FOR: Anyone looking to build a sustainable life-long practice
WHAT TO EXPECT: BKS Iyengar developed Iyengar in order to make the higher purpose of yoga accessible to us mere mortals. Iyengar incorporates Hatha poses—downward dog, bow, spinal twists—but uses props such as blankets, blocks, and straps to allow even brand-new students to reach precise poses. Housed in the pretty River Garden studio, featuring high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and hardwood floors, Iyengar focuses on building a womb-to-tomb sustainable practice. It also concentrates on perfecting postures, which often involves students receiving multiple corrections per pose. Although it moves at a slower pace, don’t discredit Iyengar as a hard workout: tomorrow’s soreness will prove you wrong.
WHAT TO KNOW: River Garden has a beautiful garden and many free community classes.
AMENITIES: Mats and props are provided.
LOCATION: River Garden Yoga Center, 455 W. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-270-6643, rivergardenyoga.com
TIME: 60 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $15 (free first class)
WHO IT’S FOR: Anyone looking for a deeper understanding about yoga as a practice
WHAT TO EXPECT: For those looking for a holistic and scholarly approach to yoga, Tanya Boigenzahn Sowards’s class is the ticket. Sowards, one of the first certified teachers in this particular tradition, begins each class with a short lesson explaining a particular aspect of the yogic practice of channeling one’s full potential. The rest of the time is spent coordinating poses and instruction to illustrate those points. Classes include a variety of elements taken from Hatha, Pranayama, Mantra, Ayurveda, and even astrology to create an atmosphere of expansion and growth. The practice is challenging but not impossible, and is accessible to students of mixed ability levels. Devanadi was the first certified-green yoga studio in Minnesota, and the atmosphere is at once energizing and calming: a winding garden greets you on your way to class, and the sounds of singing birds float through open windows, accompanying you as you float through your practice. Classes end with meditation and a mist of calming lavender face spray.
WHAT TO KNOW: Bring a mat and a notebook if you want to take notes during the teachings.
AMENITIES: All props are provided.
LOCATION: Devanadi Yoga, 2822 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-926-8250, devanadiyoga.com
TIME: About 90 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $16
WHO IT’S FOR: Anyone looking to dig deep
WHAT TO EXPECT: Meditation seems simple enough. Just focus on your breath: inhale, exhale, inhale (Did I lock my car?), exhale (I wonder what I look like with my eyes closed….), inhale (Ugh, my leg is falling asleep). Okay, maybe not. But with the guidance of Stephanie Wagner at Nokomis Yoga, even the busiest of minds will find a way to slow down for an hour. Beginning with 25 minutes of seated meditation, students are encouraged to focus on one thing at a time: sounds, breath, your body, emotions. Then it’s to your feet for walking meditation, during which you explore what it means to apply meditation to everyday tasks. After discussing and sharing your experience, class ends with a body scan. Lying down, Stephanie talks you through concentrating all your thoughts on one part of your body at a time, from your forehead down to your toes. When she strikes the gong signaling it’s time to go home, you’ll feel relaxed, even-keeled, and ready to take Faith Hill’s advice to “just breathe.”
WHAT TO KNOW: Arrive early. Dress comfortably.
AMENITIES: Props are provided.
LOCATION: Nokomis Yoga, 2722 E. 50th St., Mpls., 612-770-2467, nokomisyoga.com
TIME: 60 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: By donation
FEEL THE BURN
WHO IT’S FOR: Advanced students looking for a boot-camp booty kicking, yoga style
WHAT TO EXPECT: The best word to sum up a class at Bikram’s Yoga College is intense: the heat is intense (105 degrees), the breathing exercises are intense, the studio guidelines are intense (floors must be carpeted, lights can only be dimmed after Final Savasana, instructors must teach from a podium at the front of the room). Intense. Classes are very structured 90-minute sessions involving 26 Hatha postures and two Pranayama breathing exercises, all of which are repeated back-to-back and challenge you to push beyond physical and mental limitations. By the time class ends, every muscle, joint, ligament, tendon, and organ has been targeted, and every ounce of moisture squeezed out, leaving you stretched and thirsty, a bit wobbly, and completely invigorated by one of the most intense workouts out there.
WHAT TO KNOW: Bring plenty of water, a mat, and two towels (one for your mat, one for you). Don’t eat anything heavy two to three hours before class. Arrive 15 minutes early. Dress light.
AMENITIES: Mats, locks, and towels are available to rent. Locker rooms with showers are available.
LOCATION: Bikram’s Yoga College of Minneapolis, 2836 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-9642, bikramyogamn.com
TIME: 90 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $18
TYPE: Candlelight yoga
WHO IT’S FOR: Night owls or anyone looking for a gentle workout to wind down the day
WHAT TO EXPECT: A row of candles and the fading sunset is the only light in this class. Combining elements of Hatha, Vinyasa, and restorative yoga practices, candlelight yoga is a “moving meditation;” an effective wind-down from a stressful day or week. It includes some challenging poses, so students get a workout, but purposely stays simple. Nurturing and calming instruction, plus hands-on adjustments, accompany asanas in Align’s modern, clean space for an ultimate head-clearer. An extra treat comes in the form of a short head-and-face massage during Final Savasana, making you feel relaxed and recharged all at once. From the calming environment of the studio to the soothing flow of the practice, this class should be called “yog-ahhhhh.”
WHAT TO KNOW: Open to all ability levels. Bring a mat and water.
AMENITIES: Locker rooms are available. Locks are included.
LOCATION: Align Pilates, 3021 Holmes Ave. S., Mpls., 612-343-7500, alignpilates.com
TIME: 60 minutes
DROP-IN RATE: $20
JUST FOR YOU
7 yoga classes that fit any and every lifestyle
This 75-minute class for men targets problem areas and provides take-home yoga regimens. $16, Bliss Yoga, 1563 Como Ave., St. Paul, 651-230-6510, blissyogastudiomn.com
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT REWARD
For the 55-plus crowd: increase muscle tone, balance, and energy, all in an hour. OM Collective, 3350 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., theomcollective.com
Bond while you bend in this all-ages family class. $17, St. Paul Yoga Center, 1162 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-644-7141, stpaulyogacenter.com
BABY ON BOARD
Relax your mind, strengthen your body, and connect with other moms-to-be. $18, Blooma Yoga, multiple locations, see website, blooma.com
BIG A#%! YOGA
Designed to work with and benefit all body types, this is a one-size-fits-all class. $16, Yoga Center of Minneapolis, 212 Third Ave. N., Mpls., 612-436-4700, yogacentermpls.com
From toddlers to teens, there’s a class for every age. Rates vary, Learning Tree Yoga, 500 38th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-916-9369, learningtreeyoga.com
BUST A GUT
Giggle, snort, chuckle, and laugh yourself silly with the Linden Hills Laughter Club every Monday night. Free, 5912 Dupont Ave. S., Mpls., 612-708-0927, cometolifeproject.squarespace.com