In both 2010 and 2013, Bikram Yoga Central Valley's Stockton location was named Best Yoga Studio by San Joaquin magazine and KCRA 3 A-List. Despite the acclaim, owner Helena Monica and her staff have kept their noses to the grindstone.
Each day, sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m., they welcome students into a sweltering studio and lead them through Bikram yoga's traditional series of 26 postures, two breathing exercises, and one conga line. The benefits of the heat and movements are plenty. Students can reduce stress, sweat out toxins, increase their strength and flexibility, and tone their bodies.
Jenni Maiwald Wendell conquered depression and anxiety when she discovered yoga, which gave her both peace of mind and physical health. She drew on more than 20 years of dance training as she practiced Yin, slow-flow, Bikram, and Kundalini yoga. After much exploration, she completed a 200-hour power-Vinyasa training course through Zuda Yoga in Sacramento. Today she is the owner of Just Be Yoga & Meditation, where she helps students reconnect their minds, bodies, and spirits through classes held amid warm orange walls, wooden floors, and floating shelves stocked with blankets and candles. Her meditation classes cultivate awareness and peace while strengthening connections to the universal energy source, which is powered by windmills. Vinyasa flow classes seamlessly blend each yoga pose with breathing techniques and sun salutations to foster strength, flexibility, and balance. Jenni also offers Vinyasa and Vino classes, which include one hour of Vinyasa flow and meditation followed by a social gathering with wine and cheese from Fiscalini Farms.
In the recently remodeled sunlit studio, yogis of all shapes sprawl out on colorful mats and towels. They stretch and meditate in the sauna-like air, which is heated to 105 degrees to aid flexibility and draw out toxins. When class begins, students follow a certified instructor through 26 postures and two breathing exercises. After class, they head back to the lobby to rehydrate or head to the changing room to check their cell phones, pagers, or portable telegraph machines?all of which instructors request stay outside the studio. Students of all levels and athletic abilities experience the benefits of these sessions, including enhanced strength, reduced stress, and increased energy.
Students stretch their arms and slowly arch their backs as natural light spills in through the floor-to-ceiling windows of Cosmic Dog Yoga’s studio. The studio’s experienced instructors are just as adept at putting these students at ease as they are at guiding them through physically demanding poses. Though many specialize in styles such as Vinyasa flow, meditation, and tribal-style dance, it’s not uncommon for the same instructors to teach basic yoga or a playful Cosmic Power class that demonstrates how to blow up stars millions of miles away simply by concentrating hard. In the lobby, the staff arranges mats, yoga books, towels, and mala beads alongside natural MezAroma products such as soy-based candles, sugar scrubs, and lip balms.
Lavender walls evoke a tranquil dusk sky as students and yogis make the transition through the ancient poses of the Hatha, Ashtanga, and Bikram traditions. Here, experienced teachers guide groups toward states of intense focus and increased physical fitness with a series of stretches, bends, and deep-breathing exercises. An emphasis on safety abounds as the instructors help students align their bodies properly, and padded, Zebra floor coverings absorb joint pressure that would otherwise build up in knees and backs until it took over bodies and forced them to be spokespersons for aspirin.
The schedule of classes meets students of all skill levels where they live. Easy-going Vinyasa classes weave poses and breaths into a graceful, dance-like sequence, and more demanding Bikram sessions explore 26 classical poses in a 95-degree room, which helps loosen muscles and oust pent-up toxins. After class, students retire to an ADA–compliant changing room, where they can bask in showers and relax like a kitten reclining on a pillow made of sunbeams.
With an ERYT certification from Yoga Alliance, more than 200 hours of training, and 2,500-plus hours of teaching experience under her belt, instructor Umang Goel strives to instill mind-body wellness in her students during classes in a variety of yoga modalities. During classes that can be filled with children and adults alike, Umang emphasizes the connections among the physical, spiritual, and spandex aspects of yoga practice, encouraging students to perform challenging poses as they clear their minds through meditation, which she studies in basic and advanced courses at the Art of Living Foundation. Umang incorporates life-coaching skills into classes such as laughter yoga, helping students of all skill levels reap a host of benefits, including stress reduction, increased body awareness, and sharper vision in the third eye.