Yoga abounds in C-U

Photos by Greg Gancarz | Scenic country vistas provide an idyllic, relaxing backdrop for Alto Vineyard’s evening ‘wine and yoga’ classes, just a short drive north of Parkland.

Photos by Greg Gancarz |
Scenic country vistas provide an idyllic, relaxing backdrop for Alto Vineyard’s evening ‘wine and yoga’ classes, just a short drive north of Parkland.

Greg Gancarz


Area locals will have numerous ways of balancing their inner chi this year, thanks to an abundance of local yoga programs.

Yoga classes will continue to be available through the Urbana Park District for the near future.

The University of Illinois’ Krannert Art Museum will be hosting yoga in the museum every Friday all year as well. For those of the appropriate age, local vineyard and wine producer Alto Vineyards will also continue holding its bi-monthly “Wine and Yoga” events on-location throughout the winter.

The Urbana Park District currently offers the most variety in terms of class schedules and yoga style, regularly scheduling three distinct yoga classes in addition to a limited schedule of specialized yoga workshops throughout the coming fall.

The Park District’s “Flow Yoga” is held every Tuesday and Thursday morning at the Phillips Recreation Center from 8–9:15 a.m. A “gentle” yoga class called “Yoga for Every Body” is held every Monday and Wednesday evening at the Anita Purves Nature Center from 5:30–6:45 p.m.. Lastly, “Yoga Fusion” a yoga-Pilates hybrid class is scheduled every Monday and Wednesday afternoon at the Phillips Recreation Center from 1–2:15 p.m.

In addition to the three regularly scheduled yoga classes, Elsie Hedgspeth, the Urbana Park District’s outreach and wellness manager, says four specialized “Happy Hour” Yoga Workshops will meet one Friday each month over the fall. Topics range from specializations including partnered yoga to practicing yoga in an effort to “find a good night’s sleep,” according to a course description.

Most of the “Happy Hour” Yoga Workshops cost $25 to participate while the regularly scheduled classes generally cost $60 for residents to register for a full 8 week class session. Participants are not required to bring any of their own gear and all ages above 15 years old are encouraged to come.

“Yoga is a personalized experience with a multitude of mental, physical, and emotional benefits,” Hedgspeth said. “Yoga can improve strength, flexibility, breathing, focus, balance, posture, and much more.”

Hedgspeth also says that the best way to understand the art and grasp its possible impact is to experience it for one’s self.

Those seeking even further mental relaxation and physical unwinding are welcome to attend Alto Vineyard’s “Wine and Yoga” classes, just a brief drive north of Parkland’s campus. Initiated last spring, the classes generally focus on gentle yoga according to Sue Sharp, Alto’s retail manager.

“Several of our customers have not experienced yoga before,” Sharp said. “This class is structure[d] for beginners.”

“Five or six [participants] out of the 25 that are brand new,” said Jolene Wright, one of the chief instructors. “As long as they’re capable of being on the ground and standing up on their own, it’s pretty easy.”

“We start sitting down or laying down,” Wright said. “We connect with the breath, make the flow of the breath even and slowly start to build from that, checking the body from the wrist to the ankles, getting a little bit away from the floor.

Then we bring it up into our standing poses, working on our balance, into the warrior poses [and] tree-poles. A teeny tiny bit of core work; we do small inversions with the head below the heart. Then we end with a resting pose where you completely lay still and you allow the body to reset, and then people come [inside] and they hang out.”

The sessions cost $20 a piece and are scheduled to be continued every other Wednesday from 6–7 p.m. throughout the winter this year. They will be inside the vineyard’s festival hall due to the weather.

Sharp believes the duo of wine and yoga go together well due to their complementary effects.

“A part of doing yoga is for relaxation after a long day and finding your inter peace,” Sharp said. “Wine is also known for providing relaxation after a long day. What better way to relax than to combine the two?”

For Wright,  it’s about balance.

“I teach a lot of ‘everything in moderation,’ ” Wright said. “When people go home, obviously wine is a great way to sit down and destress. But, sometimes when you get home and you drink a glass of wine, then you’re not motivated to actually take care of yourself. So, it’s actually a good way just to allow people to be mindful of their body, mindful of their breath. And also the relaxation aspect and the properties that wine [has].”

Another local option to experience the exercise is with Yoga at the Krannert Art Museum, a free public yoga session for participants of all skill levels held each Friday at noon, year-round. It is in the CRL Gallery on Krannert’s lower level. The instructor is Jody Adams.

Although the classes are free, those attending are expected to bring their own mat and appropriate clothing.

Generally, about 20 participants from all skill levels attend each session, according to KAM Office Administrator Chris Schaede. The one-hour classes are not specialized and are focused on general instruction.

“The KAM education department felt there was a need and a pilot program was launched a few years ago,” Schaede said. “That program’s success has led to many subsequent semesters, and the expansion into the summer months.”