YOGA: WHERE TO START & WHERE TO STAY
By: Mark Phillips, Certified Yoga Instructor & Personal Trainer
Yoga is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind in the best shape of your life but where do I start and where do I stay to get the best yoga practice for me?
I have been practicing yoga in the North Dallas and Plano areas for the past fourteen plus years and I have personally practiced in each of the locations that I reference in this article. In this time, and you may too have noticed, yoga studios are popping up all over town. Even our local gyms are adding yoga classes to their daily group schedules. All these studios and gyms that offer yoga have websites that can provide you with information and most advertise to newcomers on Groupon so that is a great and reasonable way to give yoga a try.
You may be asking yourself with all these options, how do I know what’s best for me and my body?
Let’s start with what I call Gym Yoga and as you might have guessed from the name is yoga is taught in the big gyms. Gym yoga classes are normally taught in the group exercise room on a hardwood floor. In most cases, some type of a mat will be available for you to use but if you have a yoga mat I would bring it with some water and maybe a hand towel. Gym Yoga is normally taught by someone that knows the yoga poses and has developed a yoga flow for the one hour yoga classes that they teach. The instructor will lead the yoga class from the front of the room while they call out the queues and poses. There are a lot of advantages to Gym Yoga and one major plus is the cost is included in your gym membership and it is an easy way to take your first class. Based on your fitness goals, Gym Yoga can be incorporated into your existing workout routine. I have to also add that I have encountered many very practiced yogis and very talented instructors in the Gym Yoga classes I have attended in the big gyms over the years.
You might say that this is the “hottest” thing to do these days and if you want to do it you have a lot of choices in the DFW area. There are a number of these classes offered and I will focus on Hot Yoga Formatted classes first. The two studio’s I am looking at in this category is Bikram Yoga and Sunstone Yoga. Sunstone and Bikram are the bigger yoga studios and they are both nationwide and both are franchise type operations.
If you like it really hot… then Bikram might be the place to start. Bikram yoga may be the hottest yoga you can do anywhere. It’s well-known for its hot yoga and the studios are heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. The classes are 90 minutes long with a series of 26 poses that are always done in the same order and for the same amount of time in every class. If you want or like to sweat then Bikram is a place you might consider. It’s a proven practice and has been around a long time. You might want to bring your mat and an extra towel as all classes are done on a mat with a large bath towel or a yoga mat towel on top of your mat. Don’t forget your water, and I always take a dry set of clothes to change into after. Bikram has men and women’s locker rooms with showers and cubbies for your gym or yoga bag. They can also supply a bath towel and mat for an extra charge based on your membership level.
If you prefer a slightly cooler option, at around the 90 degree range, then Sunstone yoga might be a place you want to start. Sunstone has been around the metroplex since 2002. They now have eight uniquely formatted yoga classes that are 60 minutes long. They also offer classes that are shorter (this may be good for the newcomer) and some are longer. The different formats offer both Hatha and Vinyasa (flow) yoga. A few of the formats are now including a cross fit type of yoga. This style incorporates yoga with a gym type workout and sometimes includes equipment. The classes are done at 90 and 98 degrees temperatures with 40/60 percent humidity depending on the format you attend. With the eight different fixed formats you have more variety for your hot yoga practice. Like most studios these days all classes are listed online.
Most of the Sunstone Studios have both men and women’s locker rooms with showers. The first thing I do when looking for a new studio is check to see if the location works for me and if the class time fits my schedule, then I start looking at the other details of the studio facility. Sunstone supplies a mat at no extra charge. If you are a 90 degree type yogi and the different formats keep you engaged in your practice, then Sunstone might be a great place for you.
These studios vary quite a bit so choosing one that is close to where you live is always a great idea. There are many independent studios to choose from and I could list several just in the area where I live. But as far as my personal yoga practice and experience goes let’s look at Suze’s Yoga Studio and The Yoga Factory. Both studios focus the mind body connection within the Vinyasa flow and both studios teach breathing techniques to help you empower your practice.
SUZE’S SAMSTONE YOGA
If you are up for a balancing challenge and you are looking for a different or new yoga experience you might want to start at Suze’s Yoga Studio. Suze’s Samatone Yoga practiced is done in a heated room and combines Power Vinyasa Flow with Organic Ultrasound (internal tonal vibration). The studio floor is semi-soft rubber thus the balance challenge is your mat on a rubber floor – steady now don’t fall but if you do it’s a soft landing.
Suze has recorded several classes on DVD and when she’s not teaching, the class host/adjuster plays one of Suze’s DVD along with a music DVD. The classes teacher verbally and sometime physically adjusts the members in-between Suze’s queues on the recorded DVD. This is very different from many other yoga studios but I have to say it has been a satisfying yoga experience. The studio offers locker rooms with showers and several classes offer babysitting.
You will want to bring along your mat, water, a hand towel, and if you sweat a lot like I do, a dry set of clothes. If the idea of a different delivery of a yoga class is appealing to you along with a semi-soft rubber floor, Suze’s might be the place you want to stay.
If you know or have heard of Baptiste Yoga or just want a ramp up with a very powerful Vinyasa flow that challenges the mind and body, then you may want to start at the Yoga Factory of Dallas. The Factory is owned and operated by Stacy Shepherd. The studio offers a wide range of classes and convenient times for the beginner as well as the practiced yogi. This Vinyasa flow is taught in a five section sequence and is dressed up in different fashions by the yoga instructor. In other words, you will be experiencing many of the same poses in the same sequence most of the time with a variation of different poses that the instructors add along the way for variety within the flow. This Vinyasa flow is based on a science developed by the Baptiste Institute to help you develop and connect your mind and body to help transform your life to where you want to be. In addition to classes the studio offers Events, Workshops, Teacher Training, one-on-one training and you can also retain a personal adjuster to adjust you for a whole class. Some classes have an adjuster moving around the studio adjusting members as the instructor guides the class.
The only sound you will hear in the Yoga Factory classes is the instructor’s voice no music here… just you and your mat. The practice is done in a heated room on a finished concrete floor with very few mirrors. This yoga setting was developed to help aid you in developing focus in your practice, but like all yoga it all boils down to you. The Factory supplies water, towels, blocks, and mats with your membership. In addition at the end of class, the instructor passes out a small cold wet towel and it feels great on the face after a hot yoga class.
There are two bathrooms and two dressing areas along with cubbies are available to some members based on your membership. If you are thinking you want to start going deeper into your yoga practice then the Yoga Factory might be the place you want to stay.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER OF DALLAS
I cannot finish this yoga article without including the Jewish Community Center of Dallas, better known as the JCC or simply the J. This facility offers all yogis at any level a challenge in what Terri Arends,
the Group Fitness Director, calls the Specialty Yoga Experience. These extreme experiences include Paddleboard yoga, Yoga Staycation, and Dog Yoga Hike. These Specialty classes are offered in a series or package over a month or two time frame and can be purchased in a package or by a single class, both member and non-member pricing is available on the website. So, if you want to shake up your yoga practice a little or a lot you might want to add a Specialty Yoga class at the J to your yoga practice schedule.
Regular yoga classes are offered by an array of experienced teachers including one of the most popular classes on Sunday mornings at 10:30am by Debbie Levy. Each of her classes have a twist and no two are ever the same. Debbie reads a message at the beginning of class for everyone to ponder before the class starts. She believes in modifying poses to fit your needs and walks around the class and adjusts postures. Her class ends with a guided relaxation meditation that results in you not wanting to get up when it’s over.
Chanook is another talented yoga instructor you can find at The JCC. His Sunday afternoon class is challenging and he will push you both mentally and physically. He guides the class by walking throughout and will adjust, stretch or push to assist you in obtaining a better practice. Be prepared to hold your poses a little longer…just a little more…almost done…OK…rest.
About the author:
Mark has one fitness philosophy – GET MOVING! His fun and no nonsense approach to working out invites all levels of exercisers to achieve their personal best. Mark is currently employed and has taught GX classes at the following gyms and corporate providers in Dallas area including Gold’s, Just Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, The JCC, Anytime Fitness, the YMCA, The Texas Club, Medifit, Healthways Flex, HealthFitness, Plus One, Sunrise, and the DAPS of Dallas. Mark is 200 hour Yoga Alliance Certified, a certified Personal Trainer and has certification in Group training, Indoor Cycling, Indoor Rowing, Group Circuit training, Boot Camp training, Aqua training, and Silver Sneakers training of all formats. Mark currently teaches 8 to 15 classes a week in different locations and different formats and practices yoga six to seven times a week.
You can contact Mark Phillips: [email protected]