Some Like It Hot
Yoga in the Sandhills
By Crissy Neville » Photos by Melissa Souto
Muscles flex and stretch as limbs reach upward, downward and to the side position. Necks crane. Toes point. Knees bend. Hips hover. Sweat streams as bodies bend, heads turn, minds clear and breath ebbs and flows. Inhale.
What is this beautiful posturing of physique and psyche? Ballet? Gymnastics? Synchronized swimming?
Try yoga, and not your grandmother's armchair practice, either. Flipped on its head, sometimes literally, today's yoga can be the traditional Hatha — slow, static and full of stealth — or the Vinyasa variety — often hot but always fast and flowful — a mixture of the two or a new take on a centuries-old regime. The practices tend to be as creative as yoga's language itself.
There are the asanas, body poses, and the yogis and yoginis, male and female master teachers who perfect them. The terms also reference spiritually enlightened leaders, traditionally from the Indian subcontinent, Greater Tibet or Southeast Asia, and Hindu or Buddhist faiths — from where the original discipline derives. These maestros of yoga methodology and moves are rare instruments, so American — and Sandhills — participants should expect to take tutelage from a yogabhyasi, yoga practitioner, instead.
From Sanskrit, the pronounced practices are also audio artistry: Tadasana, Mountain Pose; Utkatasana, Chair Pose; Phalakasana, Plank Position; Navasana: Boat Pose; Trikonasana, Triangle Pose; and probably the most famous, Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog, just to name a few of the many moves classic to yoga.
If not flowing off your tongue, yoga will undoubtedly flow from your body — or not — depending on the variation, venue and type you like best. And with yoga's popularity, there's time and space, your body willing, to figure all that out.
A survey conducted by the Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal found that the number of Americans doing yoga rose from 20.4 million to 36 million between 2012 and 2016. A subsequent study predicted 80 more million Americans would try yoga for the first time, something 15% of the U.S. population did in the last six months alone.
An EYR-T 500, i.e., 500-hour experienced yoga teacher registered with Yoga Alliance, Lisa Youngclaus, teaches at Hot Asana Southern Pines and understands these statistics.
"Yoga is a burgeoning form of exercise, involving a large percentage of Americans, and nowhere is it growing more than here in Moore County. A big part is due to the work of Hot Asana owner Virginia Gallagher. Hot yoga was above the Sunrise Theater for about five years under a few different owners but really took off when Virginia took over the space. Her vision and passion for the practice have made all the difference." she said.
Youngclaus admits to having her doubts about yoga at first. As a triathlon competitor and runner, she discounted the value of what she deemed to be just a lot of stretching.
"I did not think much of yoga," she quipped. "I thought yoga was easy and not a real workout. But I heard hot yoga was happening above the Sunrise Theater, so I went to give it a try. That was about 15 years ago, and after the first workout, I was hooked. I loved the heat component and was astonished at the anxiety- and stress-lowering benefits. It is such an intensive workout — a complete endeavor of body, mind and spirit — that I stopped doing triathlons and running. I realized this was something I do for a lifetime and even went from being a student to a teacher — in my 50s!"
Much like Youngclaus’ growth in the discipline, Hot Asana Southern Pines has also grown and expanded, opening its new location at 10 Camelia Way behind the Jefferson Inn in early December. With a second Moore County studio in West End — the home of Hot Asana University for teacher training and studio classes — a virtual On-Demand studio and ZOOM classes created during the pandemic and her other locations in Colorado and New Hampshire, Gallagher has created a yoga network for her clients and a yoga brand loved by thousands.
Make that tens of thousands. According to Youngclaus, studio records show that 38,230 people have come to Gallagher's Yoga Alliance Registered studio and school in the last decade. Many take the hot Vinyasa classes, but others like Yin Yoga's gentle long-held postures or the flow-eliminating Bikram-rooted style of Hot Holds. Gravity defiers dig Aerial Silks yoga.
Another Sandhills studio yielding yoga success is the new Workhorse Fitness & Yoga facility at 1605 Central Drive in Southern Pines, across from Reservoir Lake. Opening in November, 2019, owner and military-spouse Tiffany Fleeman Little had no idea her timetable would put her smack dab in the middle of the pandemic her first year in business. Still, she found a loyal community, got creative — moving classes online at first and then outside when allowed — and now operates at about 60% capacity, class-dependent.
"I cannot imagine having gone through this anywhere else; our clients have stuck by us," Fleeman said.
The stress of the pandemic relates to the draw of yoga, she explained, which for her business involves about 75% of the membership.
Elaborating, she said, "Our society has grown more stressful every day, especially this past year, but even before that, too. We have a high military presence in the Sandhills; those are some stressful jobs, among many others. I think people now understand the science and health behind the mental recovery yoga provides. Clients, especially the men who are a huge part of our membership, also appreciate the enhanced mobility and strength — and longevity of these — that yoga gives. It has incredible physical and mental benefits."
Yoga is a cornerstone of Workhorse's recovery component through its Mobility Flow and Flow to Foam Roll classes. In contrast, endurance, strength and recovery come into play into the studio's Hatha, Vinyasa, Aerial Yoga and unique Rocket Yoga — a more athletic yoga all about inversions, handstands and "finding crow," for you real yogis out there.
Ready to strike a pose? You'll feel stronger and less stressed by practicing yoga at any of these Sandhills' fitness centers quicker than you can say ‘namaste’.
Beyond Bikram Yoga Southern Pines
190 Bell Ave., Southern Pines
Bikram; Yin; and Gentle Flow Yoga
Dream Catcher: Yoga & Mindful Learning
138 W Pennsylvania Ave., Southern Pines
Pre-K through age 12 kids' classes; Our Kids Yoga & Mindfulness teacher training
Andrea Bridger Yoga and Om Shanti Healing
150 W. Vermont, Southern Pines
Yoga instruction; Sound Healing with Gentle Yoga; Inclusive Classes for Children, ages 5-12
Indigo Yoga & Healing Arts
131 Talbooth St., Aberdeen
Yoga; Shamanic Healing; Reiki; Massage Therapy; and Thai Massage
Workhorse Fitness & Yoga
1605 Central Dr., Southern Pines
Full yoga services; Cycling; Boxing; Strength Training; Massage Therapy; Nutrition
Hot Asana Southern Pines
10 Camelia Way, Southern Pines
Hot Asana West End
2065 Juniper Lake Rd., West End
A full-service yoga studio with diverse classes; Reiki sessions; Teacher training
175 Midland Rd., Southern Pines
Hatha; Slow Flow yoga
The Village of Pinehurst Parks and Recreation Dept.
Cannon Park Community Center
210 Rattlesnake Dr. Pinehurst, and other locations
Prenatal Yoga; Slow Flow Yoga; Chair Yoga; Gentle Flow Yoga; Sound Baths
Village Yoga, now closed at its Pinehurst site, instructs at the center, too.