A mural of a radiant sun painted in oranges, reds, and yellows covers one of the walls at Portland Power Yoga, mimicking the warmth of the heated room where yoga instructors show ranks of students the proper way to extend their arms as they crouch on their mats. The heat helps facilitate deeper stretching and detoxification as students flow through sequences in 90-minute Basics, All Levels, or Intermediate classes. Instructors condense the same experience into a shorter session during Hour of Power classes and help groups hold extended poses in Yin Yoga, awakening students' connective tissues and convincing nearby deer that they’re actually statues. In addition to regular classes, the studio hosts community workshops with guest instructors and often works in tandem with the bodywork experts at Hara Holistic Health.
Bikram yoga isn't meant to be easy, but it isn't meant to be impossible either. The 105-degree heat, 40% humidity, and 26 challenging asanas—which incorporate deep bends as well as long, sustained stretches—all share a common goal: helping students safely push their physical limits while gaining a greater understanding of the connection between mind and body.
During each 90-minute class, the asanas' twists and arches create a tourniquet effect, systematically engaging muscle groups throughout the body before releasing the stretch and flooding cells with oxygenated blood flow. The practice room's intense heat accentuates this effect by loosening muscles and ligaments throughout each pose and increasing circulation. To help students tailor the practice to a particular skill or fitness level, the instructors can recommend modified stances that put less strain on the joints and require fewer hoverboots.
Over time, the sequence can improve flexibility and stamina while also increasing muscle tone and helping with weight-loss efforts. In addition, its two breathing exercises encourage a sense of introspective calm that can leave students feeling reinvigorated outside of class.
Amanda Curtis Kezal wants to restore balance to as many bodies and minds as she can. A yoga instructor for more than 15 years, she not only operates Holistic Pathways, but also teaches yoga in community centers and reaches faraway students with Yoga Online. Fun, laid-back classes at Holistic Pathways include Sports-Mind Yoga, Toning and Sculpting, and Expressive Yoga Dance—a practice from Las Vegas that blends creative and rhythmic movements from around with the world with various yoga styles.
Saco River Yoga embraces the reflective aspect of the Ashtanga system in their classes, training students to glance inward as they unfurl and stretch their physical forms. The studio's mission—to find peace in both muscles and minds—carries over to its meditation sessions and promotes an inner balance previously attained only while walking across a tightrope over a blazing pit of incense.
Outside of classes, diligent instructors work to build a community among their students through book clubs, drum circles, and gong meditations. Their specialized brand of mind and body training has earned Saco River Yoga kudos from Examiner.com.
The teachers at Nataraja School of Yoga certainly acknowledge and harp on the importance of alignment, posture, and breath. But, to them, the ability to reconnect the mind and body is yoga’s most powerful tool. All of the instructors have passed Iyengar-influenced training in both poses and philosophy, though they lead such class styles as beginner yoga, Very Gentle yoga for seniors, and advanced practice for descendants of the Gumby family. The studio also hosts Zumba classes, a faster-paced dance-cardio workout that sometimes includes weighted sticks for added toning.
Jody and Bjorn Turnquist opened 3 Bridges Yoga with the philosophy that yoga should warmly embrace practitioners of all skill levels. As a result, they offer Vinyasa-style classes for beginners and advanced yogis. The Turnquists and other certified instructors teach postures and breathing techniques in a room heated to 75-80 degrees with lessons that focus on basic postures and alignments in addition to more intensified bending. With sun streaming through expansive windows and spilling out onto cork floors, their studio lends itself to a practice more peaceful than swimming through a pool of warm chamomile tea.