For a small downtown, Harrisonburg has an abundance of yoga classes that feature a wide range of styles and times they are offered. In celebration of International Yoga Day, we decided to take a few classes and give you a round-up of our downtown yoga riches! Ready to try out these studios for yourself? Read about each of studio below and learn how you can win free yoga classes.
While I’m not a full-fledged “beginner,” it’s safe to say I'm not an expert. Fortunately, The Center offers several beginner or mixed-level courses with a “come as you are” attitude where prior experience is encouraged, but not required.
With this in mind, I signed up for a Monday night Yoga I/II class led by owner Suzanne McCahill Perrine. The studio space felt surprisingly comfortable for such a large, open room located on the second floor of the mostly-concrete Ice House. Music drifted from the corner of the room, which helped set the mood as soon as I entered. Suzanne sat on the floor and began by inviting us to join her in three “oms.” This invitation to “om” is pretty indicative of her teaching style as a whole. "The energy is positive and non-competitive," says Suzanne. "I think part of this stems from our teachers and how we relate to each other as a team and our sincere desire to connect with our students."
Suzanne then led us through a series of traditional yoga sequences, with some interesting variations in the ways in which we moved through the poses. These variations were a little tricky, especially considering the studio is completely mirror-less. But she explained the movements in such a visceral way that I immediately felt when I had it right, like the final click on a combination lock you’d long forgotten.
I dropped out of a few poses that I over-committed to, but so did several other students, and nothing ever felt like a competition. By the end of the class, I was more than ready for savasana (resting posture) and fell so deeply into it that I briefly forgot about emails and to-do lists, and just laid there. Which I think is what they call relaxation—and any yoga class that can get me there is definitely worth the effort.
The Center: A Yoga and Pilates Studio: At a Glance
The Ice House
217 S. Liberty Street, Suite 201
Offers a variety of yoga types and levels, including vinyasa, kundalini, heated power yoga, seated yoga, classes for youth, restorative yoga and meditation. Classes are offered throughout the week in the morning, mid-day, and evening. Specialized workshops fill up the schedule with new experiences or deep dives into yoga or meditation. Drop-ins welcome; $8 “community” classes; class passes, unlimited, and studio memberships are available. Student and senior pricing.
Hot Yoga Harrisonburg
The space at Hot Yoga Harrisonburg is minimalistic and clean but comfortable and welcoming. There's always a smiling face to greet me when I visit, and before practice the lobby is usually filled with chatter of daily life. The dimly lit dressing room sets a calming tone to get you prepared for your practice.
Everyone is a beginner at everything at some point in their lives; hot yoga is no different. First-timers are encouraged to try it out. But your instructors have been doing it for years. “I have been practicing Bikram yoga for 30 years and have found it to be the most effective, strengthening and healing yoga to practice, for mind and body,” says the studio’s owner, Anita Yoder. “I love it and was determined to create a studio in my community so I could share the wonderful benefits I found.”
Hot Yoga Harrisonburg is a dedicated hot yoga studio so all the classes offered are heated. A standard class runs about 90 minutes and includes a savasana, or rest, posture at the beginning and end of class. After completing 10 standard classes, you have the option to attend a Silent Class. In a Silent Class, the instructor practices with you but only gives short verbal cues. Occasionally, when a class consists of regulars the instructor will play music during the practice and those classes are my favorite.
People are intimidated by hot yoga primarily because of the heat--but the heat heals! As Yoder explains, “regulated heat and humidity is embracing and nurturing, allowing for more flexibility, gentleness in movement, and cardio-vascular strength. It encourages increased metabolic rate to expend calories.”
You will be on your feet for the first half of class and on your back or belly for the second half of class. The 26 postures, one by one, loosen up and awaken the body. They are done in the same order every single class because each posture prepares your body for the next, slowly building heat and heart rate to a peak and then taking you back down the mountain you just climbed. As I attended session after session, I could see profound changes in my body's ability, flexibility, strength and healing of old wounds. Doing the same postures during each class allows you to really work on each one and to measure your progress, strengths and areas in need of attention.
My advice for yogis new to the hot room: Drink a LOT of water in the 24 hours leading up to your class and don't skimp on meals.
Hot Yoga Harrisonburg
This studio specializes in hot yoga where the room is heated to about 104 degrees & the majority of classes are in the 26&2 bikram style classes, which translates to 26 postures all done 2 times, consecutively. “Silent” classes and hot vinyasa are also on the schedule. Currently, classes are offered throughout the week in the morning and early evening. Drop-ins welcome; class passes, new student packages, and unlimited options are available. Student pricing.
Going to a new yoga studio can be intimidating sometimes. Is everyone going to be hard-core power yogis? Is the place too new-age-y or not enough? But, I found Shenandoah Yoga to be a chill and friendly space from the get-go. You’ll enter through a nondescript door situated between the Shenandoah Bicycle Company and Pulp and go up the stairs to the single-room yoga studio. Leave your shoes outside, gather props from the right-side of the room, and settle into a no-frills but very inviting space that felt like a retreat from its urban surroundings.
There was a warm breeze flowing in from the open windows to bring in fresh air and ceiling fans to keep us cool (The latter became necessary once we started doing a couple of ab-intensive boat poses in a row). The classes here are mostly mixed-level, and the teacher’s modifications will make movements easier or harder so everyone will get what they need out of class. I tried the 90-minute Hatha class where there were a lot of forward folds, some warriors, and other poses that we held for a length of time -- long enough to really sink into them.
What’s cool about this studio is that classes are really small and intimate. As owner and instructor Sue George says, “it’s about the quality over quantity.” The business is also among the original businesses that helped kick off downtown’s renaissance. “When I moved to Harrisonburg in 2006, there was not much yoga happening in the area, so I decided to open a studio that would help serve and grow the local yoga community,” recalls George.
Keep an eye out for an open house celebration in the fall – Shenandoah Yoga is approaching its 10 year anniversary!
Shenandoah Yoga: At a Glance
Offers a variety of yoga types and levels, including hatha, vinyasa, prenatal, gentle & restorative, beginner, as well as specialty yoga for runners & cyclists. Classes are offered throughout the week with a morning and evening sessions. Drop-ins welcome; periodic free “community” classes, new student packages, and class passes & unlimited options are available. Student and senior pricing.
Enter to Win
For a chance to win a week class pass for use this summer at one of these studios, share this link > http://conta.cc/28NlwVA on Facebook and tag Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance by Thursday, June 30th. Everyone who shares the newsletter will be entered into a drawing.