Friday, April 21, 2006

Studio Y is hot for yoga

Express Staff Writer

Photo by David N. Seelig

In search of flexibility, strength, balance and cardiovascular fitness, many members of the community are welcoming the return of hot yoga to the Wood River Valley.

"You don't have the time not to," said Brenda Powell, the YMCA's consulting director. A former professional marathon runner and Ironman triathlete, Powell understands first hand how the hot yoga practice can benefit active lifestyles.

Hot yoga is a style of Hatha yoga born in Calcutta, India. The practice includes sequences of yoga postures practiced in a heated room. The YMCA opened the Ketchum-based Studio Y in March to offer hot yoga sessions. The Y's newest addition also offers other yoga varieties, Pilates and body-sculpting classes.

Studio Y moved into the space previously occupied by Bikram Yoga. Moving into a space previously occupied by Bikram Yoga, a form of "hot yoga," provided the infrastructure, like heat panels and radiant heat, to offer hot yoga classes.

In hot yoga, the heat differentiates the practices from other yoga sessions. At Studio Y, the room heats to 95 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. The body sweats, sweats and sweats some more. Surprisingly, after a few postures the body adjusts to the warm air.

"It won't feel that hot when you get going," Powell said.

The sensation is invigorating. The heat element increases the physical output infusing an athletic approach to the series of movements, which vary from class to class.

Some days the tension rests in the hips or the shoulders. Other weeks the feet or the back hold the stress. Powell encourages participants to listen to their bodies, emphasizing the individual nature of yoga. One body moves very differently than another. It's acceptable if tight hips inhibit certain poses.

"That's the beauty of yoga. There is no right or wrong, it just is," Powell said.

Despite the differences in physical structure, hot yogis share in the benefits. Physical benefits range from building core strength to boosting the immune system, from detoxifying the body to improving flexibility. The postures also enhance cardiovascular fitness. The heart rate tends to increase in the postures.

"The postures are designed in a specific sequence to make sure all the muscle groups are being hit, and the immune system and internal organs," Powell said. Powell paces the room making minor adjustments to participants' postures that drastically change the feeling of certain motions. The calm encouragement infuses confidence in those yogis of all levels. Of course, there are also mental and spiritual advantages.

"I want people to feel like they completely benefited, and really understand the benefits," Powell said.

The facility's managers have listened to feedback and adjusted class times to work with residents' schedules. Below the front desk, patrons can place florescent sticky notes to request classes at specific times of the day.

Since opening, the studio has adjusted the pricing structure.

"It is accessible and affordable to everyone, no matter their situation," Powell said.

The facility eliminated membership costs, switching to a drop-in and punch-card rate. Financial assistance is available. To sample class offerings, the studio offers a $20 unlimited card for 10 days.

The introductory offer inspires patrons to fit in as many classes as possible. Not only is the offer a "deal," but a good way to jump-start a diligent yoga practice.



The YMCA will host a business appreciation gathering from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at Studio Y, 221 Northwood Way, in Ketchum. The event is an opportunity for businesses and residents to learn more about how the YMCA can benefit the community. Hors d'oeuvres and drinks will be served.

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