Try These Yoga Hybrids

The Sanskrit aphorism, “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah,” means that yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind. But for many people, yoga postures aren’t enough. To really soothe those fluctuations, it works better to combine yoga with beer. Or goats. Around the Northwest, yoga teachers are coming up with more and more hybrids to lure unlikely groups to this ancient Indian form of mind-body awareness.   

Cheers and Namaste On a Wednesday night at Gilgamesh Brewing in Salem, more than a hundred people have found space between bottling lines. Pint glasses sit at the corner of yoga mats. “Option to stay here, option to drink beer, option to roll onto the balls of your feet,” Mikki Trowbridge instructs her class, modifying for all levels of yoga experience and beer enthusiasm. Trowbridge is the founder of Yoga + Beer, a crew of teachers who lead classes in craft breweries, cideries and wineries from Albany to Portland. In India, yogis devote themselves to a lifetime of disciplined practice. Trowbridge brings an Americanized philosophy to her teaching. As stated on the Cheers and Namaste website, “Our mantra is simple. Do what feels good.”

Yoga and Cats If cat videos improve people’s computer experiences— and they must, since YouTube’s 2 million cat videos have more than 25 billion combined views—then the four-legged cuties will make yoga better, too. So goes the thinking behind cat yoga classes, which are proliferating in shelters and cat cafes around the country. From Feline Flow at Seattle’s Meowtropolitan Café to Cat Yoga at Boise’s Simply Cats shelter, yogis are stepping back into lunges carefully, in case a stealthy kitten has crept onto their mat. At Purrington’s Cat Lounge in Portland, the last 30 minutes of the 90-minute class are devoted to playing with resident kitties.

Doom Metal Yoga “I think this one’s going to be really heavy,” Kali Giaritta warns her class as she presses play. The studio fills with the strains of “Silk Spiders Underwater” by Swiss metal band Zatokrev. “I started to think about people who weren’t accessing yoga because the environment was not drawing them in,” Giaritta says. Her alternative soundtrack draws more men than the average yoga class. Students eagerly suggest songs for next week’s playlist. Giaritta gets the volume just right, perfect for meditating on the intricacies of metal without being deafened.

Snowga In January, a group of snowshoers set out through the Echo Ridge Nordic Area to do yoga poses by Lake Chelan. Yogachelan is just one studio that is embracing the challenges of balancing on slippery, uneven snow while wearing snow boots and 10 layers of clothes. Snowga has also popped up in Bozeman, Montana, and British Columbia resort areas like Revelstoke and Fernie. Weather permitting, of course.

Yoga and Rafting Several Idaho outfitters combine yoga and rafting, including Far & Away Adventures’ adults-only trips. Each morning, glampers start with an hour-long yoga class. Whether in a forest or on a beach, owner Steve Lentz promises “the background symphony of water and nature.” Guest instructors have included such celebrities as Mariel Hemingway. “It’s so well received. Far & Away has been offering yoga as part of the trip for nearly 10 years, on every departure,” Lentz says.

SUP Yoga An even more popular uneven surface for yogis, standup paddleboards have been taking over the Northwest’s lakes and rivers for the last decade. For the most exclusive SUP yoga experience, Compass Heli Tours flies yogis and paddleboards from Abbotsford, British Columbia, to a remote mountain lake. A gourmet picnic lunch follows the yoga session.

Goat Yoga In Corvallis, Oregon, yogis spread mats on a messy bed of hay. While goats are very cute and friendly, they are neither predictable nor housebroken. Goats wander at will while teacher Heather Davis leads students through an easy series of poses, with lots of breaks to laugh at goat hijinks. “They bring a note of playfulness,” Davis says. “They distract you from all the hard things about yoga, but at the same time they really bring your focus all here.” Goat Yoga founder Lainey Morse decided to share her goats with the public after they consoled her through her divorce and autoimmune disease diagnosis. The classes have proven so popular that copygoats are springing up around the country.

Cowgirl Yoga Margaret Burns Vap started teaching cowgirl yoga in 2008, to “Add a little Yeehaw to your Namaste” as her company’s motto goes. Women come to Montana from all over to experience Vap’s Big Sky Yoga Retreats. “We explore the link between yoga and riding to improve not only your saddle skills, but also your overall well-being,” she says. “Best of all, we experience how the horse-human connection deepens as you practice yoga.” Don’t worry. Cowgirl yogis aren’t expected to do poses on the horses, just near them. Southwestern Montana’s 360-degree mountain views add awe to what participants describe as a spiritual experience.