Far out yoga: Grand Valley yoga instructors taking classes to unusual places
We’ve all accepted it by now: Yoga is a thing.
Studios can be found in strip malls and classes are listed in fitness centers across the Grand Valley. Even if we’ve never taken a class, we’re vaguely familiar with the terminology — downward dog, vinyasa, child’s pose, warrior one and warrior two. There’s hot yoga. Yoga flow. Power yoga, prenatal yoga and kids’ yoga.
If all of this is old hat, then read on, because some local yoga instructors are taking their classes in new directions.
Have you heard of yoga with goats? Yoga on stand-up paddle boards? Yoga in prairie dog towns or acrobatic yoga?
These are just a few of the inventive spins you can find around town on the thousands-of-years-old practice of yoga. Here’s the full scoop.
Earlier this year a few videos from the East and West coasts of people doing yoga in the company of baby goats went viral online. And now a local yoga group has brought this sensational spin on the classic yoga class right here to Grand Junction.
“Yoga just mixes with anything that’s joyful,” said Heidi Kitchen, an instructor with Yoga West Community. “We’re just trying to give people a reprieve from daily life.”
Kitchen and the collective of other owners at Yoga West Community, located in downtown Grand Junction, decided to try combining goats and yoga after one of their members spoke in class about an Oregonian goat yoga video she’d seen.
Ben and ShonDale Wagner, also Yoga West Community members, have dairy goats on their family farm in Clifton and volunteered the animals for the special goat yoga class, which took place Monday in the Fruita countryside.
Thirty-five people signed up for the class, packing the farmhouse side-yard where the Wagners had released their young goats.
Class participants held barley in the cups of their hands and spread it on their mats, encouraging the goats to come sniff and nibble while the people performed their stretches and poses.
Kitchen said the intuitive and mindless behavior of the goats remind yoga practitioners to focus and connect with their bodies, quieting the travels of their thoughts.
“That’s what’s so great about animals — they’re always in the present moment,” said Kitchen, who led the goat yoga class.
There may be more goat yoga in store for the Western Slope, depending on how Yoga West Community members, owners and teachers felt about the premier goat yoga class. If it seemed to go well, they’ll likely hold more classes in the future.
Kitchen said her yoga collective is “trying to branch out” and reach a wider swath of the community through nontraditional classes. They’ll be holding a sunset yoga class in Eagle Rim Park and an event called Beer and Yoga on the Lawn at Edgewater Brewery later this month.
For information, find Yoga West Community on Facebook or go to yogawestcommunity.com.
What’s better than doing yoga poses by yourself?
Doing yoga poses with, or on, your friends.
So said acrobatic yoga instructor Jason Reddoch after teaching one of his classes this past Tuesday at Grand Valley Climbing. Reddoch and his class practiced warrior and crow poses, among many other moves, while balanced on the feet and hands of other class members.
Acrobatic yoga, or “acro yoga,” as those hip to the trend call it, is basically “yoga with other people,” Reddoch said. This kind of yoga has its advantages, training students to be mindful even as they communicate and balance with those around them.
“In real life, you have to be present in your body as you interact with the world,” Reddoch said.
Reddoch, who daylights as an English literature teacher at Colorado Mesa University, brought acro yoga to Grand Junction about five years ago. He and his partner, Samantha Sams, instruct various private and public yoga classes around the city through their business Ascent Yoga.
Partner yoga has an edge on traditional yoga because it helps people learn to communicate with efficient precision, often through small finger taps or nudges rather than words. Participants form bonds and have fun, often talking, laughing and joking around.
“Acro yoga creates a community in a way other yoga does not,” Reddoch said.
Anyone interested in acro yoga may want to start with Acro Yoga Jam, a free and open event Reddoch and Sams put on at Hawthorne Park at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through July. The event includes acrobatic yoga instruction as well as yoga on a slackline, a thick piece of webbing strung through the air between two trees.
For information, search for Ascent Yoga on Facebook or go to ascentyoga.ninja.
Stand-up paddle board yoga
If you’re trying to beat the heat this summer but don’t want to stay locked in your house with the swamp cooler on high, this might be the thing for you.
Julie Mauch and her business partner Donna Neste started to teach yoga classes on stand-up paddle boards in the middle of a local lake three summers ago, in 2015, calling their project LifeFlow SUP Yoga.
Mauch moved to Grand Junction from Breckenridge and was inspired to begin teaching stand-up paddle board (SUP) for short—yoga because she was searching for a way to cool off during the hottest months of the year.
“I’m a bit of a polar bear,” Mauch said. “I’m always in search of water since I moved to the desert, because I’m always hot in the summer.”
She originally worried the SUP yoga classes she’d been hearing about in other places might just be a fad, but then she tried it once and got hooked. She finds the mix of the lake’s smells, sounds and sights with the practice of yoga to be a powerful, positive combination.
“Our goal, really, is to get people outside moving and enjoying nature,” Mauch said. “It’s very healing and very therapeutic.”
Mauch added that the balance required to do yoga on paddle boards helps participants be extra mindful.
“You have to be present, or you’ll fall in the water,” she said, adding that class members actually don’t fall in very often. Instead, SUP yoga encourages a deeper understanding between everyone and his or her own body.
Mauch and Neste invite yoga practitioners and paddle boarders of any level to their classes, which are one and half hours long and take place at the James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park, Connected Lakes Section. Class members need their own paddle boards and life jackets, though Mauch and Neste do have a few to rent out.
The two strongly recommend RSVPing for the classes online. Learn more by looking up LifeFlow SUP Yoga on Facebook or going to lifeflowsup.com.
Yoga right in the mess of it
Most of us probably associate yoga with a quiet, darkened studio or at the least a peaceful, meditative space. But Loka Hatha Yoga, a Grand Junction ashram that offers public yoga instruction and retreats, holds yoga classes in more unusual places such as street sides, construction lots, graveyards and prairie dog towns.
“Feeling comfortable in your environment is the first step to feeling at home in it,” said Aaron Brachfeld, a yoga teacher who lives at the ashram.
Loka Hatha Yoga classes take place in carefully chosen locations meant to integrate deeply into the meditations and poses of the yoga, Brachfeld said. An upcoming class at H and 24 roads, for example, will include a street clean-up, poses, sitting and meditation.
“Connecting with the trash and our own waste and the Earth and environment also helps us reflect in ourselves, as well,” said Brachfeld of the class. “The clean-up is part of the practice.”
Although Loka Hatha Yoga is rooted in Hinduism, many of the ashram’s yoga classes are secular and created for public involvement. Even yoga mats aren’t necessary or encouraged.
“If you can practice without the mat, you can always do yoga,” Brachfeld said. “It makes you stronger, both physically and mentally.”
Brachfeld also teaches yoga at the Mesa County Jail, along with Heidi Kitchen from Yoga Community West. Loka Hatha Yoga, which is a nonprofit, offers training to members of the public who would like to teach yoga at the jail, as the classes are in high demand.
For information on all things ashram, go to lokahathayoga.org.