In an effort to encourage Austinites to test out their yoga aptitude at various studios around Austin, the Free Day of Yoga caters to yoga newbies and self-proclaimed yogis alike.
Here is The Daily Texan’s definitive ranking of the good, the bad and the sweaty at this year’s Free Yoga Day.
Studio: Castle Hill Fitness
Class: “Forrest Yoga”
I went into the Forrest Yoga class at Castle Hill Fitness thinking I was fit and pretty advanced in yoga. Sure, I hadn’t worked out or done any yoga all summer, but it couldn’t be that strenuous. I was wrong. Tracey, our instructor, had us twisting ourselves into knots in the first five minutes, and my body was not prepared.
Forrest Yoga, as it turns out, has nothing to do with tree poses or pretending to be in a wooded area. It was named after one of the instructors at Castle Hill Fitness, and it’s designed to work out the stress and tension in your back and shoulders. It was created for the 21st-century office worker, who’s always slumped over a computer.
While I’m definitely spending most of my time slumped in front of my computer, Forrest Yoga was not designed for me. It was an advanced class, and I don’t think I was the only one surprised by how advanced yoga can actually be. As I struggled to keep my balance, others in the packed classroom fell, and I wasn’t the only one sweating up a storm. I actually really appreciated it when our instructor reminded us to breathe.
Tracey worked through each of the moves quickly but stopped to demonstrate some of the more difficult ones before making us try them. Even with all the extra help and instruction, I left the class with the knowledge that I had definitely gotten most of the moves wrong. Maybe this was the wake up call that I needed to never attempt to be physically fit ever again.
Studio: Yoga Yoga Westlake
Class: “Yoga for Core Strength”
When I drove up to Yoga Yoga Westlake on Austin’s Free Day of Yoga, I was expecting the class, “Yoga for Core Strength,” to be a calm and slow-paced course that focused on strengthening your body. What I did not know is that for the next 60 minutes, I would be enduring one of the most difficult and agonizing, yet strangely satisfying, workouts I had ever put myself through.
The first thing I noticed before Annick, my vibrant South African instructor, started the class was the sheer beauty of the facility. Yoga Yoga Westlake, off of Capital of Texas Highway 360, borders a small patch of woods, and they use this to their advantage. The downstairs yoga room is big, bright and has large windows overlooking trees. For a moment, it felt like I was not in the middle of a city.
When Annick started the class, she went right to business. There was no warm-up about it. Almost immediately, she started us on agonizing ab workouts with a yoga twist. I’ve done some pilates and Piyo — a mix of pilates and yoga — before, and a lot of the moves she wanted us to do were reminiscent of those classes.
In the first five minutes, I was sweating like a pig, but so was everyone else. I could hear grunts and laughing from the rest of the attendees, indicating I was not alone in my struggles. We did everything from planks to burpees — yes, burpees. By the time it was all over, half of the class was lying on their backs and intentionally ignoring Annick’s continuing demands.
Although this was one of the hardest workouts I’ve done in a while — we did a two minute plank, for reference — I felt not only refreshed at the end of the class but proud of myself. I pushed myself as much as I could and gave my body a nice treat.
Studio: Yoga Con Amor
Class: Vinyasa and Yoga Con Barre
Instructors: Eliz Perez and Kim Harrison
“Begin with the child’s pose,” said our instructor Eliz. She made her way between mats, correcting poses with quiet words and suggestions.
At 9 a.m., the “Vinyasa” class started with 15 people arranged in a small room with a wall-to-wall mirror and candles lining the front. A playlist cycled through peaceful songs as she told us to breathe in and out and also to switch sides on our revolved child’s pose. I tried to do it all and began to hyperventilate from the struggle.
My roommate looked serene next to me, changing from cat to cow to downward dog to happy baby with ease. Yoga positions are both descriptive and hilarious. My glasses misted from sweat, and my wrists hurt from an improper downward dog.
“Yoga Con Barre” is next. The name scared me, especially after hearing how intense it is. The presence of an elderly man in the back of the class quietly reassured me about the level of this class.
Kim introduced herself and told us to take a tutu from the colorful pile in the corner. Half the class put them on, and the other half watched with lofty expressions, since they are clearly not this childish.
Kim took us through 10 minutes of yoga poses, then “barre” work. We practiced first and second ballet positions and point our toes. My knee did not stop bending.
Kim gushed about our great balance while Eliz snapped photos of our feet and conveniently kept me out of frame.
We ended with the corpse pose, a savasana. We laid on our backs and breathed deeply. This was definitely my favorite pose.