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Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 12:11 am

Yoga in the Land of Lincoln

Over the past several years, the practice of yoga – derived from a broad range of ancient Indian mental, physical and spiritual practices – has been on the rise as a form of exercise throughout the West. Several dedicated studios and gyms in Springfield offer a variety of yoga options, ranging from introductory programs to more challenging courses for seasoned yogi. One-off yoga sessions at unconventional venues such as Washington Park, It’s All About Wine and Engrained are also on the rise as opportunities to practice yoga as well as socialize.

An anatomy workshop at Ahh Yoga.
PHOTO COURTESY AHH YOGA

 

Ahh Yoga
1051 Wabash Ave, 725-2373 www.ahhyoga.net

Betsy Link has been operating Ahh Yoga for 12 years and reports a gradual increase in interest over that time. “I would describe our studio as a very open place with a lot of variety of classes,” she said, noting that the studio offers classes for all ages and experience levels, including adaptive yoga and chair yoga, which are designed for the elderly and people with various disabilities or injuries. Link says there is a variety of reasons people seek out yoga classes. “Some are drawn to it for relaxation, really working on the breathing while some are drawn to it for the physical aspect – the stretching and getting in shape.” She describes the practice of yoga as “a moving meditation. Even though you’re moving and physically working – and getting in shape if that’s what you’re wanting – you are actually relaxing the body at the same time.” She acknowledges that some people seem nervous about the spiritual aspects of yoga but believes this should not be a barrier to participation. “I think that can scare people off, especially religious people – the chanting and all of that. Not all of our classes do that, we have a wide variety of classes, it’s just about finding what works for you.”

Majeeda Tatum-Anderson is owner and instructor at Half Moon Yoga.
PHOTO BY CAROL WEEMS

 

Half Moon Yoga
315 Chatham Rd #106, 725-0140 halfmoonyogafit.com

“Being a small city, Springfield has a pretty limited yoga scene,” observed Half Moon Yoga owner and instructor Majeeda Tatum-Anderson. “At my studio I have a focus on power yoga and more strength-oriented forms of yoga. People who come to my studio are looking for more of a challenge.” Tatum-Anderson describes her clientele as often consisting of transplants to the area. “Usually it’s people who aren’t from Springfield who are accustomed to a little bit more of a physical, muscular, challenging style of yoga.” She describes the focus at Half Moon as being on strength and alignment, which she says is the basis for progressing towards more advanced poses such as handstands. She scoffs at the idea of yoga being strictly a gentle practice. “People look at me and ask what I do because I look like I lift weights. I don’t, I just do yoga. My physical appearance proves that yoga is not only about flexibility – it’s a very rounded form of fitness where you can get strong and work on your mobility at the same time.” She does not consider yoga to be a trendy thing. “It’s a lifestyle and it should be respected as such. It shouldn’t be combined with wine and beer, it should be a very inward-focused practice that you commit to. When it was created, yoga wasn’t intended to be a form of fitness, it was intended to prepare the body to be in a state of meditation.”

Yoga 7even
605 E. Washington St., (303) 882-1225 www.yoga7even.com

Michele Wilkerson opened Yoga 7even in downtown Springfield this past August as a result of some fairly enthusiastic demand. She had been operating the original Yoga 7even location in Quincy and was surprised to find that some of her regular students were making regular drives from Springfield in order to attend. “I was like, why on earth are you guys doing this? They told me there wasn’t really a space in Springfield to practice vinyasa yoga, which is my specialty. They asked me why don’t I just come over and set up a shop in Springfield? And that’s exactly what happened.” In addition to providing instruction, Wilkerson – a member of Downtown Springfield, Inc. – is happy to be part of the downtown Springfield community. “Part of living downtown, regardless of the size of your city, is that you don’t want to have to drive anywhere. So having a place for yoga – a place for meditation which people who live and work downtown can attend without having to travel – just that decompression of daily life is incredibly important.”

PHOTO COURTESY TRAILHEAD HEALING ARTS CENTER
Trailhead Healing Arts Center Fall 2016 200-hour Certified Yoga Teacher Training Class.

 

Trailhead Healing Arts Center
801 S. Grand Ave. W., 698-8177 www.trailheadcenter.org

“It’s easy to think one can just walk into a yoga class and just do all the postures but really there is a lot of adjustment that’s needed,” said Justina Schacht, owner and trainer at Trailhead Healing Arts Center. “We have more of a therapeutic approach to yoga and we focus on the restorative relaxation part of the practice.” Schacht says a lot of people come to yoga to reduce stress but if you’re just stretching your body in a yoga fitness class you may not actually achieve that goal of reducing stress. “At that point it’s just exercise,” she said. “Our mission is to help people feel better, just in general, through all parts of their body, mind and spirit.”

FitClub North
2701 E. Sangamon Ave., 788-8250; FitClub South, 3631 South 6th Street, 787-8348; FitClub West, 2811 W. Lawrence, 787-1111, www.fitclub.net

Renee Clausner is a yoga trainer at FitClub, who taught a variety of fitness classes over the years before falling into yoga as a supplement to what she was already doing. “The more I’ve learned about it and the more I practice it,” she said, “it’s really become a primary practice along with cardio.” She says one of the most important aspects of yoga is the way it creates self-awareness and acceptance of the practitioner’s body just as it is. “At FitClub we have a lot of hatha or beginning classes, to learn the basic postures or asanas before you move on to something more powerful.” Having originally come to yoga from a more physical angle, Clausner has learned to appreciate how the practice of yoga encompasses a mind-body-spirit connection. “In my class we focus on the pranayama, the breath, which I think is one of the greatest benefits of yoga, the energy and the relaxation that comes from respiratory efficiency and capacity. We do all sorts of different breath practices,” she said. “I think it’s a very internal practice – wellness from the inside out.”

YMCA
Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA,
4550 W. Iles Ave., 679-1625 ;
YMCA Downtown, 701 S. 4th St.,
544-9846. springfieldymca.org

According to Cindy De Leon Kropid, health and wellness director for both Springfield YMCA locations, the Y offers a wide variety of yoga options, from beginning hasah classes to the more intense hot yoga sessions recently added to the schedule. “All teachers are different so it all depends on what people are looking for,” she said. “We have power yoga all the way to Silver Sneakers classes for seniors.” There are 15 yoga instructors between the two Y locations, meaning that there are classes virtually every day, with sessions in the daytime and evening during the week, with weekend classes available as well. The most recent addition to their roster is prenatal yoga, a seven-week course, offered at the Kerasotes location and administered through Memorial Medical Center. For schedules visit springfieldymca.org.

Additional yoga studios in town:

FitYoga, 1000 S. Durkin Dr., 726-0422 springfieldyoga.com

Yoga by Lynsey Monroe, 435 W. Washington St., 691-8710, facebook.com/YOGA-with-Lynsey-Monroe

Wise Body Massage and Yoga Studio, 560 North St., 698-6410

Scott Faingold can be reached at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com

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