More Hudson Valley folks than ever before are rolling out their yoga mats as the art and science launched in India 5,000 years ago continues to gain devoted followers.
A 2015 survey from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association determined that more than 24 million US adults practice yoga — putting it slightly below golf in terms of popularity. And no wonder— the regular practice of yoga is credited with reducing stress; lowering heart rate and blood pressure; helping to relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia; as well as improving overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility.
Both the White House and the United Nations have jumped on the yoga bandwagon — or, shall we say, the yoga mat, too; The annual Easter Egg Roll festivities on the presidential lawn now include yoga as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. And in December 2014, the UN General Assembly proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. Even Medicare too has given a nod to yoga: Since 2012, it’s been covering cardiac rehab programs that include yoga as a key component.
Another reason for yoga’s soaring popularity — its accessibility, as the number of yoga classes and studios has mushroomed.
Thanks to a high-tech spin on this ancient practice, smartphone apps (Simply Yoga, FitStar Yoga, or 5 Minute Yoga are three) can offer a taste of yoga. But the best introduction is a hands-on class. While there are many types to choose from, Hatha yoga is likely the best-known in America — it involves holding the body in various postures (called poses) while focusing on conscious, smooth breathing. Some say that it would be tough to get bored practicing Hatha yoga, since it offers nearly 200 poses, with fun-loving names you’ve likely heard before, including Downward-Facing Dog, Cobra, and Warrior. Gentle stretching, alignment, and balance are also at the heart of Hatha yoga.
These five different types of yoga continue to attract new adherents. Many Valley studios host classes in more than one method, and welcome everyone from absolute beginners to longtime practitioners. Namaste.
Sometimes called inversion or AntiGravity yoga, aerial yoga adds an acrobatic and dance component — think simple Cirque de Soleil-style moves — to traditional yoga exercises, with plenty of guidance from instructors. A hammock — it’s actually a swath of fabric suspended in the air, something like a gymnastic apparatus — supports the body while you perform poses, such as forward and backward bends, with no compression on the spine.
Is it for you? Aerial yoga may appeal to those seeking a free-form, unconventional way to boost balance, strength, and flexibility.
Try these studios: Flexibility In Flight in Chester (www.aerialyogaorangecountyny.com), Soul Flyte in Nyack (www.soulflyte.com)
Get set to sweat: Hot yoga refers to a practive offered in a studio that’s heated to between 90-105 degrees. It’s also known as Bikram yoga when the class uses the flowing, Hatha yoga-based technique created by contemporary master Bikram Choudhury.
Is it for you? Bikram yoga is said to help stretch and tone the body; relieve stress; and help relieve joint, knee, and back problems. Since extreme heat is involved, it’s generally suggested that Bikram is best for students who are in good health. Check with your doctor first if you have any concerns.
Try these studios: Bikram Yoga Yorktown Heights in Yorktown Heights (www.bikramyorktown.com), Hot Yoga Spot in Albany and other upstate locations (www.thehotyogaspot.com)
This style was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, who died in 2014. Iyengar brought the practice to the West in the 1970s and launched hundreds of yoga centers. It focuses on careful, correct alignment of the body during each pose, with the aid of straps, wooden blocks, and other props.
Is it for you? Since particular attention is focused on proper form, people who appreciate subtle movement, as well as anatomy, may be drawn to Iyengar-style practice.
Try these studios: Woodstock Yoga Center in Woodstock (www.woodstockyogacenter.com), Warwick Yoga Center in Warwick (www.warwickyoga.com)
One of the first hybrid yoga styles to emerge in the US, the now-international Jivamukti method has a strong link to New York City and the Hudson Valley. Its founders, David Life and Sharon Gannon, met in Manhattan in the 1980s; both were involved in the art, music, and counterculture scene. They practiced yoga together, and in 1984 created Jivamukti classes in the East Village; the name is inspired by a Sanskrit word meaning “liberation while living.” It is a Vinyasa-style practice in which movements and breathing are coordinated to flow smoothly from one pose to the next. Each Jivamukti class has a theme and a short discussion of yogic philosophy; meditation and chanting/singing is usually included. Life and Gannon also established the Wild Woodstock Forest Sanctuary in Shady, near Woodstock, as the country ashram for the Jivamukti Yoga School, where retreats are held periodically (www.jivamuktiyoga.com).
Is it for you? Practitioners eager to explore yogic principles, and who enjoy meditation and music in addition to exercise, may be attracted to Jivamukti yoga.
Try these studios: Sadhana Center for Yoga & Meditation in Hudson (www.sadhanayogahudson.com), Satya Yoga Center in Rhinebeck (www.satyayogacenter.us)
A physically demanding workout focusing on strength and flexibility, power yoga is based on a philosophy known as Ashtanga, introduced to the US in the 1960s. Three concepts anchor the practice: proper movement, proper breathing, and clearing negative thoughts and emotions. Power yoga is sometimes called Baptiste yoga, after a method taught by modern-day expert Baron Baptiste; or “gym yoga,” due to its fitness-based approach.
Is it for you? Since power yoga classes are fast-moving, students who are fit, enjoy exercising, and want to work up a sweat tend to gravitate to this style.
Try these studios: Hudson River Yoga in Poughkeepsie (www.hudsonriveryoga.com), SkyBaby Yoga & Pilates Studio in Cold Spring (www.skybabyyoga.com).