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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Hudson Valley Yogis: Updates from the Local Yoga Community

Feb 28, 2023 09:31AM ● By Wesley Dennis

In an unexpected way, the pandemic introduced yoga to the masses and opened new avenues to be explored, as it closed the doors to many beloved studios. Since then, with the past few years bringing all sorts of transitions and uncertainty, it is not surprising that many have turned to yoga and meditation to alleviate anxiety. New styles and trends will be gracing local studios this year, and many techniques and offerings can help us stay sane and grounded no matter what is in store from here.

An Evolving Landscape

While some local businesses have closed their doors permanently since 2020, several studios have opened since that time, a testament to the resiliency of yogis in the region with a love for this time-honored practice. Recent openings include Lilac Soul Yoga in Lagrangeville, Viale Yoga in Bedford Hills, Hastings Yoga, opened last month in Hastings-On-Hudson, and Rooted Yoga in the village of Wappingers Falls, slated to open within the next few weeks.

“Last year, the time seemed right to open a new studio,” shares Toni Feimer, owner of Lilac Soul. Feimer, who previously owned Prema Yoga Studio, explained that yoga has helped her handle stress and aches due to Lyme disease, and she wanted to help others experience the benefits at an affordable price.  

Several studio owners have transitioned to new venues as well. Yoga Haven, which originally had two locations in lower Westchester, was forced to close during the pandemic, but owner Betsy Kase now collaborates with Steffi Nossen to offer yoga at her School of Dance and Center for Movement, in White Plains. Al Bingham, a beloved teacher in Croton, closed his brick-and-mortar studio—Encourage Yoga—in 2020, and now offers yoga classes and retreats online. Additionally, Firefly Yoga moved to a new location, in Fishkill.

Still many others, such as RedTail Power Yoga, in Hopewell Junction, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last month, have weathered challenges and continue to adapt to changing times—some even with expanded services. RedTail’s owner Maureen Benedict enthuses, “Be on the lookout for our new Runners’ and Hikers’ Club plus many local events offering opportunities for personal growth.”

Beginners Welcome

While it can often feel intimidating to begin something new, the studio owners we spoke to seem to be on a mission, to not only make everyone feel at home, but also incentivize new participants. Cate Bartilucci, owner of Luna Power Yoga, in Mahopac, describes their New Member Intro Special, including access to one week of unlimited yoga with free Lululemon mat rental, as something that is really getting noticed. Several studios offering specific classes geared toward first-timers are also seeing increased numbers. At Back2Health Yoga, in Wappingers Falls, their Beginner’s Yoga is a great match for someone just starting out.

“The hardest part about yoga is walking into your first class,” explains Christine M. Dodge, owner of Baldwin Place’s Putnam Yoga. “But once you do, you begin to realize that it is all about listening to your body and what it wants in the present moment.” Benedict (RedTail) adds, “Come as you are, and see what’s possible! Our expert instructors and ‘no-levels’ classes will meet you where you are.”

Current Trends

“Gentle yoga seems to be trending and has been since before the pandemic,” notes Betsy Ceva, co-owner of Shamani Yoga. “It seems there are many elders/retirees who are committed to maintaining healthy, strong bodies through yoga, but wish to avoid a vigorous practice.” Chris Glover, owner of Sacred Spirit Yoga and Healing Arts Center, in Dobbs Ferry, concurs—describing their Gentle Yoga as encouraging mindfulness while promoting flexibility, strengthening and relaxation. AmeniaYoga – A Place for Wellness, in the town of Amenia, is introducing a new class called Slow & Steady, beginning March 7. “It is perfect for anyone that wants to move at a slower pace,” shares owner Sarah Wallace.

Along with gentle styles, many studios are fostering a “yoga for every body” environment, with more folks feeling accepted into the community regardless of any perceived limitations. At several studios, such as TulaYoga for Wellness, in Brewster, poses are made accessible for everyone through the use of props and modifications. Lilac Soul caters to all body types—especially larger bodies—first-time students, and those recovering from injuries or illnesses. Deb Proscher, owner of BlueLotus Yoga & Healing, in Dover Plains, adds, “We want our studio to be a place where everyone feels welcomed and supported no matter their age or ability.”

More Kundalini classes are popping up lately, and it is a style now recognized as a means to self-awareness. According to the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, it may also help ease stress and anxiety, improve cognitive functioning and boost self-appreciation. Classes can be found locally through Bedford Post’s Golden Prana Kundalini Yoga, now held at The Yoga Loft, and Blue Lotus offers classes on a monthly basis, too. Golden Prana’s owner Carrie Hari Sangat Kane describes it as unique, saying, “At first glance, it may not look like any yoga you’ve seen or practiced. It works on physical and subtle levels to help balance the mind, body and emotions.”

"Trending overall right now is a return to health and well-being,” observes Benedict (RedTail). “We’ve never stopped delivering strength of mind through the physical practice of yoga, so it is inspiring to see many people returning to themselves now along the way.”

Honoring Self-Discovery and Well-Being

“We’re definitely seeing a renewed interest in the many benefits of yoga and the awareness yoga brings us to listen to our bodies,” says Dodge (Putnam). “Yoga is so much more than the poses we do on the mat.” Owner of PranaMoon Yoga, in Peekskill, Ellen Forman, agrees and tells us she creates a nurturing environment for students to explore healing and creative arts. “Our space is dedicated to encourage self-expression, spiritual awakening, emotional growth and physical unfolding.”                 

Vitalah Simon, owner of YogaShine, in Valhalla, describes her outlook: “We offer you the opportunity to go deeper in your yoga practice, to delve into the more subtle benefits of asanas, breathing, and meditation.” Bartilucci (Luna Power) shares a similar approach, saying she aims to guide individuals as they listen to what their body has to say, whether in moments of stillness or movement. “Learning to care for and respect our own bodies is fundamental to experiencing the unity that is yoga,” adds Simon (YogaShine).

Online Classes Still Abound

Virtual classes and workshops reach more people and offer a greater pool of presenters, and there are still numerous opportunities to participate in this way. “People continue to prefer Zoom classes for the time being,” reports Simon (YogaShine). “We have students from all over the world, and Zoom makes this possible. Also, locals are glad they don’t have to navigate unpredictable weather to attend.”

Workshops from the Yoga Teachers Association (YTA) were strictly online through 2021 and have slowly progressed to being hybrid. YTA has offered workshops with Dianne Bondy, from Canada; Nina Crist, from Costa Rica; Tias Little, from New Mexico; and recently, James Knight, from California. “Using an online format has actually allowed us to connect with more experts from near and far to lead our workshops,” explains Lorraine Burton, YTA Treasurer.

Yoga for Special Populations

Classes focused on relieving stress are paramount, along with trauma-informed series, Yoga for Recovery and options for those with chronic conditions.

Donna Bernstein, owner of Laughter Yoga, serving Westchester County, offers classes for people with special needs and seniors, among others. Lilac Soul; Beth Bierko Yoga, in Yorktown Heights; and several others offer Chair Yoga geared toward seniors and those recovering from injuries. Look for classes curated for the over-50 crowd at YogaShine and a Back Care Basics class at Beth Bierko’s. Amenia Yoga  specializes in Yoga for Osteoporosis.

Still Mind Yoga, operated under Integrated Peace Arts, in Scarsdale, structures its activities to support yoga teachers following post-pandemic losses. They also offer classes for children with special needs, yoga for thyroid conditions, and more. YogaShine specializes in serving children on the autism spectrum and their parents, providing dance/movement/yoga therapy.

Tula Yoga is coordinating clinics/programs with local companies and corporations. They are also working with local athletic teams to develop yoga skills that enhance performance. Luna Power honors first responders, educators, mental health professionals and those in the military/veterans with a discounted monthly unlimited package, while Blue Lotus has reduced rates for seniors and children.

Children and teen classes are also more prevalent than they used to be. Studios offering classes to young and growing yogis include Blue Lotus: Budding Buddhas Kids Yoga; in New Rochelle; Yogashine; Still Mind; and Nossen’s School of Dance. It is important that kids learn tools for managing stress, plus mindfulness, yoga and meditation can help with concentration, emotional reactivity and also instill positivity, which enhances overall resilience.

Private and Customized Instruction

Daigneault (Tula) tells us that private sessions are gaining interest as students work on personal development. Putnam Yoga holds private classes and parties for things like a girls’ night out. “There’s always the option to schedule a private session,” says Bartilucci (Luna Power), and even suggests a chat on the phone to put anyone with questions or concerns at ease.

Unique Options

Many studios we spoke to shared a plethora of available classes and events to nurture the mind, body and soul. It is a beautiful fusion of modalities. From sound baths to reiki-infused candlelight restorative yoga, breathwork classes, yoga teacher training opportunities and more, it is clear that local studio owners stand at the ready with welcoming arms.

Wesley Dennis is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

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