Fitness Health + Wellness

Yoga: Stretching To New Lengths

March 21, 2016

Yoga offers many options to find your balance.

By Andrea Zarczynski

The ancient tradition of yoga took root in northern India more than 5,000 years ago. Millennia later, local studios continue to explore fresh twists on a tried-and-true practice.

Julie Cook, owner of Empower Yoga in Northville, said the prevalence of yoga studios has caused students to become selective shoppers, seeking classes that fit their unique schedules and wellness goals. To meet the demand, she diversified her programming to include everything from Hot Vinyasa and Ashtanga, to Slow Burn and Candlelight Yin. Special new engagements include a 30-day beginner program, 21-day wellness cleanse workshop and youth class.

“The upward trend in yoga is that now the benefits speak for themselves — people are gravitating toward it,” Cook said. “We cover the gamut so that everyone can walk in and find the class they are looking for.”
     Cook said today’s yoga students have goals, such as athletes working to enhance performance and new mothers hoping to find higher-quality sleep.

Locally, yoga has evolved from a class into a lifestyle and community. In response, Empower Yoga now offers support groups with private social media groups, weekly face-to-face meetings, journaling sessions and goal achievement celebrations to help students release unhealthy habits.

Traditional And Trendy

Northville Yoga Center has grown to welcome individuals referred by their doctors, chiropractors and other health professionals. Studio co-operator Carolyne Brown said that though trends like Acroyoga, a blend of yoga and acrobatics, have popped up in recent years, she chooses to keep classes traditional.

Brown’s center is expanding to offer new space for private yoga instruction. Also in demand are classes for kids as more adults are bringing their children with them to class.

Emily Peters, a teacher at Updog Yoga in Rochester, said that fun, new variations like stand-up paddle board yoga, gong immersion and restorative yin classes have attracted new people to yoga. Still, posture, breathing, mindfulness and meditation remain at the core.

Friday evening workshops are growing in demand at Peters’ studio. New topics this year include
Kundalini energy awakening, incorporating essential oils and sandbags into practice, deep slow flow, Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep, as well as the studio’s popular restorative yin practice. UpDog Yoga also offers children’s yoga classes as well as teacher and Thai yoga massage training.

“A year ago, we had one or two yin classes per week; compare that to our current schedule with seven,” Peters said. “There’s a desire to slow down and be more introspective, and a more meditative practice is just the ticket to help balance a busy day-to-day life.”

Mind And Body Balance

Rochester Hills Yoga Planet Studio instructor Doreen Lang said that students are seeking mental and physical balance through yoga. With modern-day work, family and social pressures, reflection and self-care have become first priority.

“Yoga is ageless,” Lang said. “Unfortunately, it has also become trendy, and some studios have altered the genuine and concrete basis of yoga to draw attention to the latest and greatest.”
     For true health and wellness benefits, Lang recommends traditional practice that supports steady weight loss, mental clarity, improved breathing and self-control.

Bloomfield Hills Karma Yoga owner Katherine Austin said that practice has grown to incorporate the use of hand weights and resistance and ball work to increase strength during poses. Her studio recently introduced Karma Fusion classes to reflect the trend, while continuing to offer popular healing and meditation sessions as well as yin, baby and prenatal practice. 

“It’s been fun to watch the evolution of the studio as a whole,” Blue Yoga Birmingham co-owner Niki Fink said. “Needs change as longtime students get older and we welcome new, younger beginning students.”

The diversification of Blue Yoga’s community has presented the need for classes that challenge multiple skill levels. Fink said that instruction has returned to the roots of practice, including shorter sequencing, or flows of poses, to foster a more cohesive class experience. The strategy still leaves room for pose modifications while developing a greater sense of community and support. 

“We have a very sophisticated student base with many newcomers,” Fink said. “All students can get deeper into their practice if they are not so deep in their own minds thinking about what poses they should be doing.” 

Local sourcing is another initiative at Blue Yoga. New products sold in the studio include Namaspray mat cleaner as well as juices and other food products made by Be Well Lifestyle Cafe of Birmingham. Developing closer ties with surrounding athletic shops, including Lululemon Athletica Inc., is another initiative this year, as many teachers also serve as ambassadors of the brand. 

Younger Students Welcome

Center for Yoga founder Jonny Kest has practiced yoga for more than 36 years. He said the focus at his studios has turned to meditation and pranayama, or breathing exercises, to relieve the stresses of modern-day life. 

“We are putting on a lot of meditation retreats,” Kest said. “People are finding immediate relief from anxiety-
related conditions.”

Center for Yoga in Birmingham has evolved to be more kid-friendly in response to the opening of kids-only yoga studios like Born Yoga. Teenagers are also practicing more frequently, to the point that Kest’s Birmingham studio totals more than 30 youth visits per class, several times each week. 

Music is also shaking up traditional yoga practice, and Kest said that hip hop, in particular, can help students discover new energy and movement.

“Breathing and meditation are still the foundation of yoga,” Kest said. “I tell students, ‘My classes are breathing classes. Everything else is optional.’”

On a deeper level, yoga today is promoting social change. I Use Yoga (iuseyoga.com) is working to redefine stereotypes surrounding mental illness and substance abuse by way of “positive addiction” messaging.

The brand’s chic athletic apparel and accessory line is inspiring — and outfitting — local yogis with positive “addiction with intention” T-shirt slogans like “Detroit Inhales.” 

Deeply threaded in the local yoga community, I Use Yoga continues to sponsor various community and nonprofit events, including the Homies Detroit yoga fundraiser. 

“There are outlets to find balance in our lives, ways to overcome whatever is going on in your life,” Jesse Fenton, president of I Use Yoga, said. “Yoga keeps us balanced, and there are many different types of practices. Our message is: find yours.” NS

Local Studios

Blue Yoga: 161 Townsend St., Birmingham, (248) 792-9053, blueyogabirmingham.com

Center for Yoga: 555 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham, (248) 258-9642, centerforyoga.com

Empower Yoga Studio: 41620 Six Mile Road, Northville, (248) 719-7520, empower-yoga.net

Karma Yoga: 3683 W. Maple Road, Bloomfield Hills, (248) 723-9168, karma-yoga.net

Northville Yoga Center: 133 W. Main St. #261, Northville, (248) 449-9642, northvilleyogacenter.com

Updog Yoga: 210 W. University Drive, Rochester, (248) 608-6668, updogyoga.com

Yoga Planet Studio: 3062 Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills, (248) 375-3070, yogaplanetstudio.com

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