Post#1 in Series of Where to Yoga, Where not to! – The Experience, perspective, and reflections on 12 Yoga Studios in North Carolina.
Even though I still continue to work hard to build a disciplined home yoga practice, there is sometimes nothing like the energy of your fellow yoginis in class next to you, and the motivation of a knowledgeable and favorite instructor pushing us through the poses and inspiring us to be our very best in that moment, in that class, on that day. Starting in 2009, I have been regularly attending a studio and loving the practice in that space, nonetheless, I am always exploring the variety of studios around my home town. Here is an account of all those studios, and my impressions of the yoga instructors, techniques, styles, and even the intangibles of the ambiance.
1. Namaste Yoga Center (Cary, NC) : Highly recommended, hands down a place full of love and challenge to all levels. This is my own hometown studio. This is where I truly fell in love with yoga, within these four walls of faux-finish light color paint, the skylights, candles, silence, warmth, love, challenge, and growth.I loved Miche Federico’s Power Vinyasa and was first introduced to Ashtanga by Carrington. The vibe from this studio is particularly welcoming and powerful in dark and cold winter evenings. It is situated at the heart of Cary, and has a variety of classes and teachers, although cancellations are likely at times. At $15 for drop-in, I think the rate is just average and pass-cards make it more affordable.
Time spent @ Namaste: Regularly 2002-2006 and sporadically 2007. I have now returned to the studio for regular sessions in 2009.
2. Triangle Yoga (ChapelHill, NC): Highly recommended. This is a lovely studio in the heart of Chapel Hill, with its excellent variety of classes. The space for the beautiful 3-room studio is decorated with colorful drapes, heaps of lighting, light hardwoods and tall ceilings. They offer many yoga workshops, none of which I have yet attended, and they manage to recruit some nationally well-known instructors. The staff is very nice. My favorite instructor here is Mike Lyons. There have been some one-off mediocre classes but I feel confident saying the caliber of instructors here combined with variety of yoga classes and schedule makes it one of the best studios in all of NC.
Time spent @ Triangle Yoga: Random classes taken 1x or 2x / yr since 2004.
3. Carrboro Yoga Company (Carrboro, NC): I am thrilled to report that Stephanie Keach workshop was delicious and fabulous. Carrboro Yoga Company did a very organized job of setting up the workshop, and even though the studio space for the attendance was quite tight, we managed beautifully. A full day of vinyasa flow with 6 hours of yoga, music, breathing, and releasing. I loved her style, her voice, her energy, her adjustments and her approach to yoga. She challenged without hesitation, she expected you to do your best, not more but not less. I was in nirvana after the 6-hour workshop. The inspiration stayed with me for days afterward. I look forward to visiting her studio in Asheville, NC.
Time spent @ Stephanie Keach workshop: All day workshop, June 17th, 2006
4. Gateway Yoga (Raleigh, NC): The space is beautiful and owned by my friend Lela Pierce. I finally made it down for a soothing and challenging Anusara class taught my dear friend Cristina. This studio is located off Oberlin Road in the old Raleigh area, next to established neighborhoods and shops. The studio has new bamboo hardwood floors exactly like my house, and I immediately felt at home. The studio size is small and for larger classes, it could be tight. The staff is incredibly warm, the studio has a very warm and inviting space, the drop-in rate of $15 is average. Classes are 90 minutes which is the right length. Cristina’s class was extremely well-taught. Studio focus is on Anusara style of yoga, taught widely by John Friend.
I returned to Gateway for a second visit on a cold spring morning in April to take advantage of the kind Free Yoga week. It was Lydia’s class on Tuesday, April 7th. She was extremely kind and welcoming towards me. I was in the mood for a strong practice today. We started 5 minutes late, and ended 10 minutes over, and the office phone kept ringing throughout the class. The practice of Anusara feels different to me now that I have been going back to stronger, power yoga, flow and Ashtanga-type classes. It felt incredibly slow while meticulous and precise. I more than appreciated Lydia’s instructions and adjustments, and realized during this class that it is during Anusara where my mind wanders and is least focused on yoga because I tend to get bored. While this was a strange awareness for me, I am going to respect it. Lydia is a great instructor with a sense of humor. Anusara at the slow pace is, however, not what my body needs in its most fit and strong stage in my life. With that in mind, I will be focusing on other styles of yoga.
Time spent @ Gateway Yoga: August 2008 and April 7th, 2009.
5. Blue Point Yoga (Durham, NC): This studio is near Duke University, and upon entrance, my first instic was its heavenly aroma. It was serene, with plenty of space made for 2 rooms for yoga. I arrived Saturday morning for Ashtanga full primary series by Vera. As no one else showed up, Vera proceeded to do a class just for the two of us. The studio was around 71 degrees and felt nice, the rooms were clean and the hardwood and colors diffused such calm energy. We had an informal and fun session where she practiced with me and also adjusted and watched me. The adjustments were very nice. I found myself being rather nervous in a private session with the teacher and oddly enough, did not push myself as much as I would have in a class full of students. I’d love to try the studio again, perhaps along with other fellow yoginis!
Time spent @ Blue Point Yoga: Saturday, Oct 25th, 2008
6. Franklin Street Yoga Center (Chapel Hill, NC): On a cold freezing winter day, I finally made it out to downtown Chapel Hill to try out the Franklin Street Yoga studio, and participate in Matthew’s Chakra Vinyasa flow. The studio is behind a set of shops and faces apartment complexes across the parking lot. The studio welcomes all the light possible through the large windows, and the warmth and welcome by studio owner Lori immediately made me at ease. She welcomed me, had me sign in, and told me about the first free class, and let me to settle in. The layout of the lounge is perfect – serene, soft colors, warm furniture – just perfect. I settled into a spot inside the large studio. The heaters were going, and students slowly filing in. Matthew was early. I love when teachers are early. We started with meditation, Om, and setting intention. His voice carried confidence and humility. I immediately liked him. He started class in inversions – to remove all anticipations of a standard vinyasa. I went right into sirsasana, so relaxed I was after the meditation. The flow was one of the best sequences, at the most perfect pace. I appreciated the kundalini segments, to clean the breath and the throat and the lungs – and was pleasantly surprised for the advanced poses. A perfect 90 minutes, followed by a compliment – “You have a beautiful practice”. I can’t wait to go back.
After Kathryn Budig’s phenomenal workshops, I did return to Franklin Street yoga who hosted her, first to take Lori’s class and then to enjoy a free 9:15am Monday class by Elizabeth. The flow was smooth and rhythmic and the studio packed with over 40 students. I thoroughly enjoyed the classes, would have liked more adjustments, and possibly a more challenging flow, nonetheless, I was very happy to be doing yoga.
Time spent @ Franklin Street Yoga: Sunday, Jan 17th, Sat Dec 5th & Mon, Dec 7th, 2009
Time spent @ Triangle Pilates & Cary Yoga: One class on June 8th, 2009
9. Bikram Yoga Raleigh (Raleigh, NC): When I first heard about Bikram yoga, or otherwise known as “hot yoga”, I was instantly curious. Doing yoga in a room where temperatures start at around 105 and go up to about 108 seemed like the type of borderline crazy idea that I can get on board with. For years though, the warnings from my friends and yoga teachers alike combined with worries about fainting and the preconceived notions about the “military style” of Bikram yoga kept me at bay. The lovers of Bikram yoga are devoted to it, similar to lovers of Ashtanga yoga. Yesterday, I decided to go take my first Bikram yoga class, with caution but without hesitation. Bikram Yoga Raleigh gave me the warmest welcome. Cindy explained the expectations from class, gave me permission to drink water but only at times instructed by her, and to take it easy if I needed to but try to stay in the room for entire session to get my body used to the heat. Lucky for me, I had my friend Daniel trying out the studio with me. We went into the room and for a few minutes before class, settled slowly into the 105 degree sauna! Then we started class, with clear yet mildly commanding pose sequence call-outs by Cindy. I dig discipline and love a strong instruction so it suited me fine. The 26 pose series, each done twice, slowly build up the heat, but you start sweating profusely right away. I learned that there are no downward facing dogs and no binds in asanas of Bikram yoga, and the breathing is very different. I kept my body at a good pace, and caution was my best friend – I did not push my limits and I felt extremely balanced. Following class, I left Savasana rather quickly and went into the bathroom to literally splash handfuls of water to my red face. I changed out of my drenched top into something dry and left the studio feeling elated, strangely happy, with a quiet mind but unfortunately a headache that lasted much of the evening. Hydration and caution were my allies as I made it to my first, but certainly not my last, Bikram yoga class in a beautiful, warm, and welcoming studio in North Raleigh.
Time spent @ Bikram Yoga Raleigh: June 9th and June 13th, 2009 – and many subsequent classes.
10. Moving Mantra Yoga (Raleigh NC): Today, I needed a mellow class after 4 days of intense yoga. I had heard about Moving Mantro through 2 friends, neither of whom do yoga or have tried the place, funny enough. The 5:45 class put me in the height of traffic going into Raleigh. I had been bitterly sore all day and it seemed like a sign that I should turn around and soak in the bath. I made it in class a minute before start. The studio is located behind some office complexes with large windows, hard carpet, a beautiful drape over several bamboo sticks hanging from the ceiling, giving the impression of a zen temple more than a yoga studio. Cyndi welcomed me and asked my name. Everyone was warm towards me. We started in a relaxed meditation. For the first 15 minutes, we were first in Savasana, and then in seated poses moving very slowly. She then led us through several other easy poses, all in basic asana forms, taught very precisely and correctly. The class make-up was mostly beginners but dedicated regulars. The 90-min session was spent mainly in slow motion. I think the name fits the studio perfectly. This happened to be exactly what I needed tonight. On other occasions though, I would have been confused and disappointed if I had come to this class which is identified as a Level 2-3 (with flow). Overall, this seems best suited for those seeking yoga for relaxation and meditation.
Time spent @ Bikram Asheville Yoga: November 8th, 2009.