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A Look at Yoga In and Around Bellingham

Aug 01, 2017 12:08PM ● Published by David Dunbar

Practicing yoga together, sharing energy & good vibes...

story & photo by Dave Dunbar, Contributing Writer

Across America, some 37 million men and women regularly practice yoga, and this ancient path to wellness is travelled regularly by approximately 1,100 yogis and yoginis in Bellingham.
“I first tried yoga in my late 40s,” says Enzo Carrara, a long-time Bellingham resident. “Being a tennis player, I was told it would help improve my flexibility and also the mental aspect of my game.”  He now practices yoga up to four times a week.

“I do yoga for vitality and longevity,” says Danielle Hafers, co-owner of USMMA, the first yoga studio in Bellingham. “I want to feel like this when I’m 80 years old!”

When yoga originated in India some 5,000 years ago, it was more about meditation than muscles.  Today, one can find all sorts of yoga classes—104-degree temperature and physically aggressive, practitioners suspended from ceilings with straps, “paddleboard yoga,” classes with animals like goats and dogs, and something called Laughter Yoga. The old yogis would shudder.

As one Bellingham yoga teacher recently joked, “Yoga isn't about getting a tight butt—it’s about getting your head out of it.”

Look around, and you will find a variety of options to practice yoga in Bellingham and nearby towns.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, USMMA (United States Mixed Martial Arts), on Hartford Avenue, offers martial arts classes and 18-20 yoga classes every week. “Martial arts is all the things yoga is not,” explains Hafers. Yoga, she says, provides an important balance to martial arts with its stretching, breath enhancement and muscle relaxation.

“There was a need for heated yoga in Bellingham when we opened the studio,” said Hafers.  USMMA now has about a dozen teachers with “thousands of hours of experience and certifications beyond just yoga.” They teach in an environment that is usually heated to 85-90 degrees.

Practitioners include hikers, runners, college students, football players (including Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski), retired people, and many more. Approximately one third of all who come to USMMA are from Bellingham.

Google “yoga near me” and you’ll find a dozen yoga studios and gyms nearby. In south Bellingham, Work Out World offers four classes per week, and the Senior Center offers one. You will also find, among others, the YMCA in Franklin and the Adirondack Club, where 10 classes a week are available.  (Full disclosure, this writer actually teaches yoga there.) See the Yoga Resource box for more ideas to help you explore yoga options.

At the Adirondack Club, co-owner Bob Hinrichs says, “Yoga is one of the fastest growing disciplines, and our members tell us over and over how important yoga is to their overall wellness.”

The facility on Chestnut Street was recently awarded the local Reader’s Choice Award for #1 Health Club. “It’s something we have received numerous times and are very proud of,” noted Hinrichs.

He said that as they “look to the future,” they have “identified yoga as an offering that they believe will continue to grow in popularity.” He added, “We are constantly looking at trends within yoga in order to better our program, facilities and staff.”

Chelsea Comfort, who teaches two classes each week at the Adirondack Club, said, “The evening participants are looking for a way to wind down from a busy workday, while the morning class participants are seeking physical challenge to energize their day. Many of them have families, are pursuing a healthy lifestyle and utilize the Club for their fitness goals.”

Taking yoga “off the mat” is beneficial as well.  “I’ve found it helpful in the dentist’s chair, where you’re all tensed up and expecting at any moment to experience a painful jab,” explained Enzo Carrara. “By concentrating on slowing down my breathing and relaxing all other parts of the body, the anxiety quickly subsides.”

For Chelsea Comfort, “Yoga means engaging skillfully with the world, learning to find peace in challenging moments, and being in union with life.”

For Danielle Hafers, “Yoga makes everything better.”

YOGA RESOURCES

There are many places to turn in your exploration of yoga. Here are a few:

Books:

  • Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann;
  • Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda;
  • Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope.
Sports, Seniors, Life+Leisure, Today, Community In the August 2017 print edition USMMA Dave Dunbar Yoga

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