[NOTE: With this piece, the Argus-Courier kicks off a four-week series looking at local Health and Fitness Innovators. Focusing on individuals and organizations in our community, who are using creativity and invention employ older practices in new ways, the series will next week look at the owners of Acorn Chiropractic Club, bringing a new business model – and some fresh ideas – to the practice of chiropractic.]
“It’s 10:30, so let’s get started,” says Hannah Yurth, yoga instructor, addressing a group of nine casually-attired class members inside the top secret “Yoga Den,” a large, funkily-furnished side-room at Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Company. It’s the morning before New Year’s Day, and this is another in Yurth’s weekly Downyard Dog Yoga Sunday series.
“As we go, listen to your body,” she tells the class, who’ve dropped down to their mats on a floor covered in rugs, the walls adorned with black light posters and prints depicting various Lagunitas brews. “Be as gentle as your body requires. Take care of yourself,” she says, adding, “And most of all, have fun. That’s why we’re here.”
Downward Dog Yoga Sundays was started in October, a suggestion from the management at Lagunitas, for which Yurth once worked.
“It’s already a great place for community gathering,” Yurth explains. “It’s a hub, where friends gather over beer. We’ve just slipped in a yoga class first.”
When the class first began, the sessions were held outdoors in Laguntas’ open air amphitheater. The class has since moved indoors for the winter months, but will be back outside as soon as whether permits. For a 15 dollar fee, participants enjoys a breezy hour-long Power Vinyasa class, led by Yurth, helpfully calling out directions and encouragements, as an energizing playlist of hip hop, jazz, and pop plays in the background. The cost of the class includes a glass of beer afterwards in the Taproom.
This yoga-and-a-beer format is unique to the Sunday series, in this area anyway. According to Yurth, the first Downward Dog class drew five participants, all employees of Lagunitas. But as word has spread, Yurth has noticed a steady growth from week to week.
“It’s been going really well,” she says. “We have a solid group of people who come every time, and between two to four new people appear each week. The most we’ve had so far is twenty people. That’s starting to be a little crowded, in our indoor space. But once the weather warms up and we move outside, I’m hoping we have up to fifty or sixty people every Sunday.”
Yurth, who’s been practicing yoga about eight years, has been conducting yoga classes elsewhere in Petaluma for about two years. She’s a regular teacher at Petaluma’s Bikram Yoga studio – aka Yoga Hell - in addition to teaching Pilates classes there as well. She also conducts classes for local businesses, overseeing lunchtime Pilates sessions for employees.
The appeal of the Sunday classes at Lagunitas, she surmises, is that they take a practice often conducted with formality and seriousness, and infuses it with fun, thus making it more attractive to newcomers and those intimidated by more traditional yoga-teaching structures.
“So many Yoga people take it so seriously,” she allows. “They can be so, ‘There’s one way or the highway.’ But Yoga can be fun. With these classes, we’re all about lightening up and just enjoying the experience.”