Naked Men's Yoga
For anyone who goes to yoga to let go, this is the class for you. An exercise in stretching spiritual flexibility to new limits, Naked Men's Yoga removes the last barrier of physical attachment on the way to enlightenment: clothing. Instructor Joe Doherty (one of two teachers in Portland; the other, Charles Airey, teaches downtown and is our cover model) holds class in a cozy studio in the Alberta neighborhood. It's more focused and gentle—and thus slower and easier—than a typical gym class. It raises big questions, though: Why do I need to be naked? Why aren't women allowed to practice naked with me? For his part, Doherty says it's to remove inhibitions and to abandon judgment of ourselves and each other. "We are more than our cocks," he notes on his website.
While a pose or two involves partner work, the talkative and well-educated Doherty makes clear his class is not sexual or erotic. I am not one to leave my clothes on—I sleep naked and frequent nude beaches and hot springs—so resisting the desire to peek at my neighbor's "jewelry" during downward dog is yet another way of focusing my breath and testing the limits of my body. WAYNE BUND. For more information, visit pdxnakedyoga4men.com or portlandnakedmensyoga.com.
The term "bushido" refers to the honor code of the Japanese samurai, but there's nothing particularly austere about Nathan Mills' classes. Mills trained in budokon yoga, a style that draws on the continuous circular rotation of martial arts, and that lineage is clear. His courses, which also draw on qi gong and tai chi, follow a deliberate, meditative flow that's well-suited to North Portland Yoga's huge studio space, a lovely brick-walled room in a converted industrial building by the train tracks.
As peaceful but not overly hippy-dippy music plays, you'll flow from side to side, repeating sequences that link up warrior, triangle and crescent lunge postures, keeping a determined focus on your breath. Full-on budokon yoga classes apparently incorporate actual animal postures, requiring you to walk on your hands and feet like a frog or lion. That, mercifully, is absent here. REBECCA JACOBSON. North Portland Yoga, 55 NE Farragut St., northportlandyoga.com. More information at bushidoyoga.com.
Sometimes the beginning of a yoga class can be the weirdest part—people tiptoe around, carve out mat space and get into their breath. But at Fat Yoga, the vibe is almost rowdy. There's lots of giggling, yogis catching up with each other and gabbing about the new Fat Yoga logo tank tops (the studio has purple camo now; the tight-knit crew at the community class I attended was stoked).
If you are an experienced yogi, Anna Ipox, the founder and main teacher, has a style that might feel a little different: She makes several stops on the way through sun salutations and provides extra tips on how to accommodate a big booty when doing inversions. But in a world where merely being fat and existing in a yoga studio can be a radical act, Fat Yoga is a totally safe, nonjudgmental space for all bodies. Ipox asks that new students complete a three- or six-week intro series before moving on to the all-levels yoga classes, so it's great for someone just starting out, returning to yoga after a hiatus or needing a break from the whole, y'know, culture. The next day my hamstrings were sore and, magically, upon checking myself out in the mirror, my body love was heightened ever so slightly. BRI PRUETT. Fat Yoga, 6340 SE Foster Road, fatyoga.org.
Forget the Lululemon, the incense, the happy baby postures. This free class is just laughing, without warrior poses, jokes or pot (well, maybe some people are on pot). More than anything, it's like acting class. Men and women stand in a circle as instructor Laura Lou Pape-McCarthy leads cheers fitting for Pee-wee's Playhouse, punctuated by clapping and arms waving straight up: "Very good! Very good! Yaaaaayyyy!"
The point of this and the various exercises—playing "bumper cars" and dramatizing characters like Tarzan and Jane—is to force laughter for health benefits. Laughter, of course, releases endorphins, which brighten the mood and decrease stress. But laughter yogis say typical, sporadic laughter won't do the trick. The laughter has to be deep, from the belly and sustained for 10 to 15 minutes. In practice, this looks like a room full of crazy people. It's terrifying, frankly, but the idea is to get back to how we were as children, when we laughed for no reason.
"It's off-putting partially because of all the social conditioning we have against laughter," says Pape-McCarthy. "It's a really valuable thing to practice getting over. It's the kind of thing that can be uncomfortable until you get used to it." AARON SPENCER. Hawthorne Laughter Club, 3942 SE Hawthorne Blvd., portlandlaughteryoga.com and 1laughatatimeonline.com.
If Ludacris and George Balanchine were to design a fitness class, it might look something like Booty Luv. A recent class involved not a single downward-facing dog, but we did place our palms on the floor and, in the words of instructor Heather Craig, "twerk it out." Part of the hourlong class is spent against the wall, doing ballet barre-style exercises, and the rest is on the floor lunging and squatting and "peekaboo rolling." The music, produced by local DJ Danny Corn, tends toward high-energy club mixes, and it's ideal for creating, as Craig says, "clear communication between the brain and the booty."
Class ends with a few yoga postures—sphinx, happy baby, a couple of spinal twists—but on the whole, this is an experience far more aerobic than meditative. As I eavesdropped on a few Grant High School students chattering about their upcoming winter formal, I silently hoped they didn't re-create Craig's moves too closely—I didn't want them ejected from the dance. REBECCA JACOBSON. The People's Yoga, 3016 NE Killingsworth St., the peoplesyoga.org. Find more of Craig's classes at bodyluvfitness.com and 1laughatatimeonline.com.
Habla Yoga is like listening to Rosetta Stone, with an added kick of Zen and loosened hamstrings waiting at the end. The Spanish-English bilingual class leads students through a flow of basic postures that are explained interchangeably in both languages, letting the brain work along with the body in a "two for the price of one" experience. Instructor Alyssa Grant offers me tea as I enter the Float Shoppe studio, cozy with its billowy curtains. Grant spent two years with the Peace Corps in Guatemala sharpening her Spanish, and she's been offering Habla Yoga classes since October at the Float Shoppe and at health and community centers around town, as well as for private groups.
I'm the only attendee on this particularly blustery evening, and so, recognizing my desire to practice mi español, she instructs primarily in Spanish, correcting me in English when it's clear I have not understood—at one point, I return to downward-facing dog (perro a la baja) while Grant has already lunged into a graceful warrior one (guerrero uno). The class is a simple flow of poses focused on solid stretching and long meditative periods; its low-impact nature allows the mind to focus on translations. However, there's potential for more vigor: Grant tailors both the level of yoga practice and Spanish-to-English ratio according to the needs of her students. GRACE STAINBACK. The Float Shoppe, 1515 NW 23rd Ave., floatshoppe.com.
If regular yoga doesn't improve your aches and pains, you might try approaching the problem from a different direction: upside down. That's the philosophy behind anti-gravity or aerial yoga, in which you hang from a 9-foot-wide cut of silk attached to the ceiling. It includes many common yoga positions, slightly altered: half moon, for instance, is done using the fabric for balance, forcing you to use your core. Other moves are more unconventional, particularly everything involving hanging upside down like a bat.
It takes some getting used to—the rush of blood to the head, the pressure of the fabric on your muscles, the fear of having to explain that you're in the emergency room because you crushed your spine doing something called "anti-gravity yoga"—but regulars swear the classes have "restacked" their bodies, solving problems from bad knees to backaches. Plus, being wrapped in the silk cocoon at the end, as if in a giant hammock, beats lying on a yoga mat, hands down. AARON SPENCER. Multiple locations, including Gravitas Studio, 5210 SW Corbett Ave., gravitasstudio.com, and Shakti House, 1401 SE Morrison St., shaktihousepdx.com.
In a country where yoga remains predominantly the domain of women—a 2012 survey by Yoga Journal magazine found that practitioners are 82 percent female—you'd think instructors might ease off the estrogen-filled poses in order to gain a male audience. That's not the case for Sassy Sutra at Tigard's Diva Den Studio, where not only are all the attendees women, but they're also doing a drill almost exclusively associated with the female counterpart: kegel exercises. In a recent class, we all laid on our backs and performed the exercise, tightening our pelvic-floor muscles in unison (presumably, anyway; with this drill, you can't know if everyone is participating).
The walls are adorned with glittery floral stickers and giant photos of instructors dressed in burlesque attire, making the studio feel like a cross between a tween girl's bedroom and a saloon. The instructor, a dark-haired woman who introduced herself as Porsche, has dimmed the lighting, reducing our inhibitions as we stretch, turn and undulate across the room. She also leads some Pilates-style exercises, including one for the butt where we're instructed to "roll our hips like Beyoncé." Whether it all results in a bootylicious bod is up for debate, but as class ends and we rise from our mats, Porsche tells us we're now devoid of "negative energy and toxins." KATHRYN PEIFER. Diva Den Studio, 11959 SW Garden Place, Tigard, divadenstudio.com.
Those who find average yoga classes disappointingly solitary might seek out acro-yoga, where individual mats are abandoned for a single giant one, a thick and spongy thing nearly the size of the room. You'll be grateful for that cushion while attempting the gravity-defying poses of acro-yoga, which aims to introduce a level of playful whimsy—and a healthy dose of trust—to yoga's physical and spiritual sides.
Acro-yoga is built around partnered poses, so expect to take turns being the base, lying on your back and supporting your partner with your feet and hands, and being the flyer, twisting into shapes in the air. For example, you might find yourself wedging one foot between a stranger's thighs and the other beneath her armpit, all before hoisting her up into a pose called Vishnu's Couch. It's a touchy-feely style of yoga that seems fit for Laurelhurst Park or the playa (indeed, do a Google image search and you'll see heaps of Burning Man photos). Try to remember to introduce yourself before you tangle your limbs—it's kind of awkward to learn your partner's name after your sweat has already mingled. REBECCA JACOBSON. Multiple locations, including Shakti House, 1401 SE Morrison St., shaktihousepdx.com, and Yoga Shala, 3808 N Williams Ave., yogashalapdx.com. More information at portlandacro.org.
"Now, just breath and close your eyes," says instructor Heidi McKenna. "Today we are going to move through many frequencies of the universe's wavelengths. So let go." McKenna's intuitive healing class is 90 minutes of undisturbed, motionless meditation—no ridiculous arm balances or spinal contortions here. The class takes place in a spacious downtown studio, white sheets draped across the ceiling providing a calming atmosphere. At the beginning, students form a circle, much like at summer camp, to quiet the mind.
As I joined the circle on a recent Monday afternoon, it struck me how rare it is to do nothing but sit in silence, breathe and set aside the thoughts clouding your mind. The class encourages students to become aware of the body and mind, including their tensions and imbalances, with the goal of eliminating everyday stresses. To this end, you can recline against a pillow, stretch your hips or sit in a child's pose as long as you don't break the circle. At the end of the class, I found my mood improved, and I was hit with a second wind—even if that was just due to my quick catnap. KATHRYN PEIFER. Yoga on Yamhill, 124 SW Yamhill St., yogaonyamhill.com.
The People's Yoga
3016 NE Killingsworth St., 4940 NE 16th St., and 4210 SE Belmont St., the peoplesyoga.org
All classes, $8
The Movement Center
1021 NE 33rd Ave., mcyoga.com
Daily community classes, $5
The Bhaktishop Yoga Center
2500 SE 26th Ave., thebhaktishop.com
Daily donation classes, $5 suggested
3737 N Mississippi Ave., chiropdx.com
Donation classes Mondays and Wednesdays, $5-$10 suggested
The Yoga Space
2857 SE Stark St. and 210 NW 17th St., theyogaspace.com
Weekday happy-hour classes, $7
Yoga on Yamhill
124 SW Yamhill St., yogaonyamhill.com
All classes by donation, $8-$12 suggested
North Portland Yoga
55 NE Farragut St., northportlandyoga.com
Daily community classes, $7-$13 sliding scale
Sun Gate Studio
2215 NE Alberta St., sungatestudio.com
Happy-hour classes Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, $5-$12 sliding scale
Woodstock Wellness Center
4512 SE Woodstock Blvd., woodstockwellnesscenter.com
All classes, $10
Yoga Shala Wellness
3808 N Williams Ave., yogashalawellness.com
Daily donation classes, $5-$12 suggested
Prana Retail Store
635 NW 23rd Ave., prana.com
Free weekend classes
2043 SE 50th Ave., yogaunioncwc.com
Free or $5 classes daily
1901 NW 26th Ave., yoganwpdx.com
Community classes Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, $5 or donation
3235 SE 39th Ave., stumptownyoga.com
All classes, $10-$12 sliding scale