By NORA HESTON TARTE
Business Journal Writer
“I’m very impressed with what yoga has done for my life,” said Judy Hayashida, 62. “Every time I walked away from a yoga studio I felt better.”
The avid biker, runner and all-around fitness-focused practicing Buddhist said yoga added something to her fitness routine, and her life, that she wasn’t getting anywhere else.“Yoga was a really positive piece that I really didn’t have … It centers your thoughts for the day,” Hayashida said. She’s been practicing yoga for six months. “There’s no question that it’s going to be part of my every day.”
Hayashida works out at Flow + Function Yoga in Lodi, opened by family friend Jennifer Kupka.
“She really has hired some very skilled teachers and she is, too,” Hayashida said, adding the facility itself with its minimalistic décor, is very conducive to the practice.
“Yoga isn’t just a workout. People are finally realizing it’s a place where they can come and handle their inner turmoil. It is meditative, even when you’re getting in a great power flow,” Kupka said.
Kupka opened her practice in December 2016, after receiving her degree in integrative nutrition. With a longtime passion for yoga and wellness, a studio seemed like the best place to combine her skills and interests in one place.
“We’re still pretty new and growing,” she said.From 2012 to 2016, yoga practitioners in the U.S. grew by 16.3 million, according to a Yoga Alliance study, and 74 percent of all practitioners have been studying for five years or less.
Kupka has noticed the rise in the yoga trend in the Central Valley, as well.
“I think that people in the Central Valley are finally taking note from bigger cities that yoga is actually a great workout, especially if you are in an environment where you sit all day or you participate in workouts like CrossFit or other weight-bearing exercise. (Yoga) gives your body the time to relax, recalibrate and stretch,” Kupka said.
“Stocktonians are waking up to the fact that yoga is an incredibly smart way to release stress in the body,” said Helena Monica, owner of True You Hot Yoga in Stockton.
She added that the constantly evolving yoga offerings keep the practice fresh, and keep people coming back.
For seven years, Monica focused on one kind of yoga — Bikram, a popular practice that requires participants to complete their routine in a heated room. “It’s highly therapeutic,” Monica said, but it’s also repetitive. “I wanted something more.”
From there she started teaching hot Pilates and then hot Vinyasa. Today, her studio has added Yoga Nidra, a meditative practice, and Yin Yoga to round out its offerings.
“People love the variety,” she said.
“I think there are so many studios opening up because they can cater to one type of yoga,” Angelina Gervasi, a certified yoga instructor who teaches out of Nick Diaz Academy in Stockton, said.
The variety and frequently emerging trends keep yoga fresh so people don’t get bored, ready to move on to the next exercise fad.
Monica said the desire for pain relief or weight loss are usually the driving force that get people into a yoga studio, but the way yoga affects the mood is often what keeps them coming back.
While there, yogis often find a sense of community.
“It’s a different scene, it’s a different vibe than the gym,” Monica said.
While the number of yoga practitioners and studios is on the rise, its important that those interested in trying the practice are visiting a qualified instructor. Gervasi said instructors should get certified through the Yoga Alliance (YA), and many teachers like Monica, who has been teaching yoga for ten years and practicing for 16, are able to certify other instructors.
For the first 10 years, Gervasi said instructors are supposed to refer to themselves as such, and after ten years they can call themselves yoga teachers.
“I’m ok with not calling myself a teacher right now,” Gervasi said. “I’m still learning.”
Gervasi said the most important lesson for instructors is to keep up on their own practice.
“If you’re feeling inflexible or you’re feeling bad about yourself or you’re feeling junky … it’s really hard to go to a podium or the front of the classroom and teach people what you’re not living,” she said. “If you continue to educate yourself, you become an even better teacher.”
Classes range in price from studio to studio, with discounts typically given for memberships or a bulk purchase of classes. At True You Hot Yoga, participants can drop into any class for $16, but if they purchase a multi-class option, the cost comes down to about $10 per class. At Flow + Function, beginners can purchase a 30-day pass for $30. After, five and ten class passes are $65 or $120 respectively. A monthly membership is $95.