Expy and Source offer local yoga class for all skill levels

According to Yoga Journal, yoga has become America’s fastest growing form of exercise. Around 15 million people practice, which is a 225 percent increase since 2001. Spending on classes and gear has nearly doubled in the last few years.

The trend is certainly reflected by Puget Sound students; Tiffany Fields’ beginning yoga classes are some of the most quickly-filling classes on campus. You can hardly make it through the S.U.B. without colliding with sticky mats peeking out of students’ backpacks.

Luckily, as student interest in yoga has risen, so have opportunities for on-campus practice. Although student-led classes have been facilitated by the yoga club for the past few years, they didn’t gain campus-wide popularity until recently. In September 2010, the club teamed up with PSO and the Expeditionary to offer more accessible practice accommodations.

Yogis fill the Expy every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. for hour-long sessions led by seniors Micaela Cooley and Abi Phillips. “[Classes] are shockingly well-attended,” Cooley said. “I would say last semester we consistently had 30-40 kids show up per class.”

Phillips, who recently began a 200-hour yoga instruction training program in Seattle, brings some instruction experience, but admits that she hasn’t needed to use much of it. “The yoga club is so casual (and I think attendees like it that way) that I actually don’t bring in much of what I’ve learned.”

Attendees appreciate the laid-back vibe and dedication of class leaders. “The Expy classes are at a good skill level, in that beginners and intermediates alike are challenged,” junior Caitlin Bovard said. “[They] are always enjoyable and you can tell the girls running it love doing so.”

Leaders are always open to student input as well. “We’re eager to help anyone start leading a session,” Phillips said. “Any of the students with a comfortable practice are just as qualified as we are to lead yoga on campus.”

Generally, classes begin with brief meditation followed by breath work, sun salutations, various standing and floor poses and final relaxation. But Cooley and Phillips acknowledge that it is all about improvisation.

“It’s fun to tailor the class to the general mood of everybody there,” Cooley said. “Sometimes we’re craving something more athletic, sometimes more relaxing, and we ask about pose requests and specific areas of the body that students would like to focus on.”

Students are taking advantage of many opportunities off-campus to liberate their inner yogis as well. Samdhana-Karana Yoga, located near 6th and Cedar, is a unique, non-profit studio aimed at making yoga practice accessible to persons of all incomes and abilities. Class prices are on a sliding-scale basis based on income. They also offer two completely free community classes each week.

“The community class was well-attended with about 20 people…and the instructor was very knowledgeable,” Bovard said. “They also have yoga mats, straps, blocks and blankets there for you to use.”

Another nearby option is Source Yoga, which was voted best studio in the South Sound two years in a row. They offer a more private atmosphere, with an intimate studio and caps on class size. “The space is small, but all of the classes I attended were only 6 people maximum,” sophomore Ellen Want explained. “There were always people coming in for the class afterwards though – it seemed to be a busy place.”

Their closest location, at 21st and Pine, is a fifteen minute walk from campus, and offers a wide variety of class styles, from relaxation-based to strength-building.

Classes at Source can be pricey for college kids, costing $15 for drop-ins or $70 for a five-class package. However, students are given a 10 percent discount, and Source offers $7 community classes every Sunday evening.

“The atmosphere is relaxed and the studio seems to be very connected to the Tacoma community. I would definitely recommend it!” Want said.

For practitioners with a bit more experience, Hot Yoga Tacoma offers more intense Bikram-style yoga classes. These 90 minute sessions consist of a 26 pose cycle and take place in their 100 degree studio. The intense heat is meant to facilitate deeper stretching and to detoxify the body through sweating.

First-timers be aware that dehydration can be common after classes like this. Instructors advise attendees to drink plenty of water and eat light, healthy meals at least two hours before class. Alcohol and coffee should be avoided the day before class as well.

However, students don’t seem to be discouraged by the disclaimers. “Hot Yoga is great,” senior Jeni Oppenheimer said. “They are very westernized, but give you a good workout and you leave without feeling exhausted.”

A large towel and ample water supply are recommended, as well as tight-fitting workout wear. Changing rooms and showers are available. Classes cost $18 each, but a one-week unlimited pass is available to students and locals for the same price.