For each budding yogi, it is hard to find your perfect fit. One is too big, too small, too hot or too cold. My foray into the world of spiritual discipline (aka yoga) began sporadically - as most people's practice begins, a dabble here, a toe in the water there. Mine was a little more hardcore. I began by delving headfirst into pilates, taught by the smallest and most compact - and ripped - drill sargeant/female instructor. She saw my determination and eventually had me be the "model" for the class, elevating me to level 5 by the time the pain peaked. A shooting pain down my leg here, lower back cramps there and I was ripped but in pain while exercising. I remember a modeling photo from the era I had done all oiled up in a bikini and nowadays don't even recognize myself!
To her disdain (and disarray I think), I stopped going to pilates and began yoga (which shares some of the basic principles, poses and mindset). I found my cramps being stretched and worked out, the pain easing with each de-stressing breath and a new place to call home - my yoga mat. Thus began a lifelong love affair and journey through many area yoga practices. Below I will share my experience for each and why. Maybe one will speak to you!
• Roxborough YMCA - This is my current home for yoga with teacher Joe and sometimes the more mellow Shandra. Joe does a lot of core strengthening moves and stretching that leaves my back - and spirit - humming afterwards. When I need more of a meditative yoga, I go to Shandra's class when I can.
• HotBox Yoga - Located on Main Street, this is my go-to place in the colder months. When I feel like I just can't warm my bones, their 90 degree plus studio does the trick. I would not suggest this vinyasa place to beginners unless they are offering a beginners class, pay-what-you-can or a community class which move slower and offer more hands-on training and less people. Expect some advanced headstands and poses in the other classes.
• Yoga on Main - There is usually an older crowd here and lots of seminars and workshops with well-traveled yogis. My favorite class is with Kiki because she will very slowly teach you advanced poses until you perfect your posture. I first met Shandra (also from the YMCA, above) here when she filled in one week and really kicked my butt (so she does have it in her!).
• Dana Hot Yoga - In the basement of a Bala Cynwyd corner store, this is an eclectic, artsy-fartsy studio full of colorful types who will take you on a medley of vinyasa journeys. You can feel a cool breeze closer to the ground and try to get there early for a good spot - or stare at a cement post. Also, try to pick a less busy time or you may find your head in someone else's butt - and make fast, funny friends.
• 12th Street Gym - The gay mecca of downtown, I did a brief stint here when I was beginning my yoga practice. I enjoyed the class and the cool air but ended up moving my head while in a headstand and promptly having to take pain pills for a good chunk of time afterward. Certainly not the gym's fault but my own, I would go back if it were closer to home.
• Bikram Yoga Manayunk - This was my first foray into Bikram yoga, which is even hotter than HotBox - probably about 100 degrees which technically is not supposed to burn any more calories than regular yoga. It is supposed to help warm up your muscles but I find you just sweat water weight out. I was corrected with tree pose (foot in front of standing leg?) and was not a fan of shavasana, then back up for more, another shavasana, then back up again and so on. It's great they watch children for yogi parents but the crying is a bit distracting.
• Yoga on the Ridge - Beer and yoga? Oh my! Theresa and her hubby Joe Sickpack offer "real yoga for real people." Once located behind the 7-11 on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough, it now resides near SuperFresh which is not walkable for me anymore. But there was a time where I went there very frequently and found the calm, collective yoga practice healing and rejuvenating. You will never be pushed or judged here and sometimes can enjoy craft beer after class if you sign up!
Trying something new makes your brain continue to grow! If these classes seem a little intimidating, I would suggest trying some of yoga guru Rodney Yee's DVDs at home. And if you're not ready to make an investment, try renting some of his videos at the Free Library.
And remember, when you are traveling there is usually a yoga studio around each corner. Not only will you expand your practice and learn new things, the townies will teach you more about the area too. Namaste!