In today’s fitness-focused culture, there are as many ways to do yoga as there are reasons to engage in this ancient practice. With so much variety, there is something for everyone, from strength and fitness to mindfulness and stress reduction.
For those of us in the know, yoga is a natural path to mind-body wellness. Yet even in Santa Cruz, where yoga studios abound, less than one-third of people have tried it. I get it, when your idea of yoga is super-fit people in spandex bending in ways you can only imagine, it may sound more like torture than self-care. Although if you’re a hot yoga regular, this may well be your version of nirvana. Yet yoga is much more than a physical workout.
One 2017 study in the International Journal of Yoga revealed as little as three months of regular yoga practice can help reduce stress levels. That said, here in the US, the typical yoga studio can feel intimidating, unaffordable or exclusive. Fortunately for Santa Cruz locals, there are so many ways to get acquainted with this age-old tradition whatever your body type, fitness level or experience.
Traditional yoga began as a means of calming the mind using breathwork and meditation techniques. Still today it provides a means of self-exploration and healing, one which local studio owner Megan McCallister, Pleasure Point Yoga founder, is committed to sharing with the community at large. For those seeking a path to self-understanding, Pleasure Point’s Monday morning Satsang offers an inclusive and no-cost opportunity to delve deeper into the teachings of yoga in the company of a caring community. It is a great introduction for anyone curious to get a peek into yoga philosophy and contemplative practice in the supportive space of the sangha, or yoga community.
Pleasure Point Yoga extends an open invitation to experience a morning of learning, translating, and chanting ancient yogic teachings, leaving practitioners with a guided framework for applying the learning to their lives throughout the week. Each session includes breathwork and hand movements for integrating the learning on a deeper level before completing the session with a short meditation, allowing the teachings to settle in.
For those ready to explore yoga postures, known as asanas, to improve strength, balance and increased self-awareness, Pleasure Point offers monthly free classes taught by recent graduates catering to all levels of experience.
Elsewhere in the community, Yoga for All Movement is a nonprofit org dedicated to sharing the benefits of yoga to individuals in recovery from substance abuse, incarceration, domestic violence, as well as isolated seniors, people with mental health needs, people with lower-incomes and other community members who have not historically been a part of the yoga industry. With a goal of increasing accessibility to healing practices by offering free and donation-based classes in the community, as of this writing, the YFAM team provides 22 trauma-sensitive weekly yoga classes for those experiencing hardship in their lives.
Led by changemakers Alicia Green, Bobi Hines and Hannah Muse and driven by the commitment of caring volunteers, YFAM teaches students to tap into the emotional and spiritual benefits that light the path to self-acceptance.
YFAM embraces a well-rounded yoga experience including asana, or physical practice, meditation, pranayama (breathing) and yogic philosophy. Yoga is a means to help foster healing and transformation when taught through a trauma-sensitive lens, using inclusive language and postures.
The accessibly priced $5 classes leave no one turned away for lack of funds. Weekly classes for those looking for a safe and inclusive yoga environment are held in Santa Cruz at London Nelson Community Center, Motion Pacific studio and at the Fellowship Hall of Trinity church.
Learn more about these inclusive yoga classes and communities: