Five Cool Places to do Downward Facing Dog

by Carrie Havranek

This week’s installment of “Five Cool Places” is near and dear to my heart.

Anyone who knows me knows I love, love, love yoga. It has the power to change the world. This is not an overblown statement. When practiced regularly and with mindfulness, yoga can transform you: it opens you up, gives you patience and calms your mind. It’s not a panacea for all of the world’s problems, but sometimes it feels like it comes pretty darned close. If you’ve been curious, most studios offer free classes periodically (usually once a month) to those who want to give it a shot but aren’t sure if they want to invest in a class card or become members.

1. Easton Yoga: Established in 2001 in downtown Easton in a beautifully renovated space that continues to evolve under the nurturing of co-owners Alica Rambo Wozniak and Rob Wozniak, the studio offers classes every day of the week in a range of styles. The calendar is chockablock with workshops, visiting master teachers, yoga-minded massage, and special events/classes/guests that can involve anything from Tibetan monks to kirtan to hooping to belly dancing. It’s one-stop shopping for all your mind-body needs, literally–there’s a storefront with groovy clothing, mats and accessories.

2. Lehigh Valley Yoga: This studio used to be situated in the old Silk Werks building in Allentown, in an open, loft-like space, and has recently moved to Union Boulevard in Allentown, not too far away. As one of the first studios in the area, LV Yoga was started by Erica McHugh but is now run by Jacque Porterfield. Although it’s Ashtanga-heavy in its offerings, you’ll also find Kripalu and Kundalini yoga on the menu, too. What distinguishes this studio are the specific classes tailored toward athletes, mom-and-babies, and kids. It’s also the only place in the Lehigh Valley to offer classes in Bikram, or “hot” yoga–practicing in an 85 degree room. (Sweating purges toxins from the body and can feel intensely therapeutic.)

3. Jai Yoga of Bethlehem: Founded by Holly Walck in 2004, this studio is a great addition to the Valley’s yoga community, because it specializes in Iyengar. Never heard of it? Oh, it’s a wonderfully precise yoga that emphasizes proper alignment. You will make ample use of props such as blocks and straps to support the body in the postures. You stay in poses a bit longer than you might think is possible. It’s great for someone new because you can learn about where your feet need to go and how you square your hips in Warrior 1 and where your drishti (gaze) should be and all those details that eventually you’ll just internalize and do.

4. Olde Mill Yoga: Studio owner Midi Johnson calls Svaroopa “yummy yoga.” The first time I took Svaroopa I brought my mat and got there ten minutes before class started. Those were my first two errors. You practice Svaroopa with lots and lots of blankets, which take time to set up and are used as props to encourage the spine open gently. If you’re like me, you’ll wonder afterward if anything really happened. However, Svaroopa works; it’s beautifully suited for those with back pain or nagging injuries. Or someone who just wants to really relax. It’s subtle, meditative, and precise. The studio has a dedicated following of Svaroopa practitioners, but it also offers challenging vinyasa classes, gentler restorative classes and yoga fusion classes in a space that is just what it sounds–an old mill. For those with children, OM offers child care for select classes.

5. The Yoga Loft of Bethlehem:  Owned by Jessie Thompson, the Yoga Loft is in an unsuspecting place: the second floor of the same building as Cantelmi’s Ace Hardware in SouthSide. However, this makes for an open, airy space, with light wood floors and lots of natural light. The teachers hail from nearly every corner of the globe, with a diverse range of experiences and styles, resulting in a schedule that runs the gamut of yoga to Pilates, tai chi, kundalini, chakra, belly dance, and more. The prenatal yoga class taught me something called “yoga sleep,” which was extremely useful during the hazy, tired days after my twins were born.

Carrie Havranek is a writer in Easton who is working on handstand and shoulder balances.

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