Life causes stresses from school, work and daily crises. Yoga offers people a way to deal with these issues while also providing a great workout.
The fitness practice, which is thousands of years old, attempts to connect the mind, body and spirit. Its combination of deep breathing, muscle stretching, inner focus and meditation helps the people who practice it reach states of total harmony.
Since there are many different types of yoga, I combed through Center City and found three of the best studios that Philadelphia has to offer.
BIKRAM YOGA COLLEGE OF INDIA OF PHILADELPHIA
Bikram Choudary founded the Bikram Yoga College of India in California in 1974. There are now Bikram studios on several continents. No matter which studio you attend, classes are 90 minutes long and include two sets of 24 hatha yoga postures and two breathing exercises. Even today, Choudary certifies every Bikram instructor himself.
This yoga is also known as “hot yoga” because the temperature of the room hovers at about 105 degrees. The extreme heat is meant to help release toxins from the body. Be sure to wear as little clothing as possible, bring a towel and drink lots of water.
The studio features a comfortable common area with large pillows to sit on. There was even a table with food set out. The studio also has two yoga rooms, small stained glass pieces of Hindu gods, and a beautiful mural of the Hindu god Krishna and hero Arjun on their way to battle.
For the first week, you can take unlimited classes at the Bikram studio for only $20.
“You don’t need to worry about the money,” instructor James Pfeffer said. You can pay along the way, but if you can’t pay for classes, the studio will arrange some kind of work-study agreement.
Owner Dhyana opened her first Kundalini yoga studio five years ago, and recently opened her second. I met with Dhyana and her yogi guru of many years, Hari Nam Singh, so they could explain Kundalini yoga to me. This type of yoga focuses on spiritual development and self-exploration.
“Once I found Kundalini yoga, my life changed completely,” Dhyana said.
Dhyana means “meditation,” which is a larger focus of Kundalini. Singh said this is very helpful for college-aged students who are questioning who they are and what life is all about. Dhyana said she hopes with the aid of Kundalini yoga, her students will gain spiritual insight and enlightenment.
This studio has two convenient locations: one in Rittenhouse Square and the other in Old City. The warm and cozy Old City studio has a heated floor and living plants, along with a golden glow from the orange curtains. Dhyana Yoga is even frequented by celebrities: Russell Simmons, Michael Franti and Eagles football player Jon Runyan take classes when they are in the Philadelphia area.
Your first four classes at this studio will only cost you $30.
THE YOGA LOFT
The Yoga Loft owner Sheila Pasupathy teaches Ashtanga yoga, which creates a flowing movement by synchronizing the breath and different yoga positions. This may seem physically challenging at first.
“The mind and body connection has a positive impact on everybody,” Pasupathy said.
The Yoga Loft’s mission statement explains their intention: “Strive For Balance. Alleviate Stress. Clear Your Mind.”
The studio is located between the Urban Outfitters and American Apparel on the 1600 block of Walnut Street. The lobby is dingy and the elevator is creaky. Once I walked into the studio, however, I was amazed that I was still in the same building. The room smelled like incense, and Indian music played softly in the background.
Pasupathy also holds charity classes, the proceeds of which go towards local organizations that help students in Northern Africa and India. “We try to do something with the energy gained from yoga,” she said.
Classes at The Yoga Loft cost $15 each, but the price drops when you buy larger packages.
Ilana Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.