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Stretch your body, calm your spirit: from working up a sweat with a powerful Vinyasa class (“flow” classes that incorporate sun salutations and often-challenging transitions between postures) to tapping deep into mindfulness in a slow, ultra-stretchy Yin class, to relaxing mind, body and spirit in an ultra-chill Restorative class, Southwest Michigan boasts an impressive selection of highly-trained, skilled yoga instructors and several cozy spaces where you can hone your practice. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite people and places in the Yoga community on Michigan’s Sunset Coast:

Yoga Life, 2629 Cleveland Ave., St. Joseph 

Yoga Life, St. Joseph, MI Photo: Nicole Bates Photography

 
I’ve been attending Yoga Life since the studio was bursting at the seams in a little space above 221 Main; the popularity of this studio has only increased since they moved into their beautifully renovated home in what used to be Roxy’s restaurant next to Kelley’s Bowl (but luckily they now have a LOT more space to spread out.) Yoga Life truly has something for everyone, from meditation and chanting sessions, to Chair Yoga for those with limited mobility, to powerful Vinyasa flow classes, to Yoga Nidra, or “yoga sleep” (a blissful way to start your Sunday afternoon.) 
 
Each month the studio follows a different theme, and whether it’s “contentment” or “self-discipline”, you’re sure to find it consistently incorporated by each instructor, across each class – creating a feeling of cohesiveness throughout the whole studio and each experience. Last January and February, I did a 60-classes-in-two-months challenge at Yoga Life and tried almost every single one of their classes, and was consistently impressed by the level of instruction. “Our guidance will take you to those spaces that aren’t always easy to access on your own and we do so with grace and integrity. We can do this because we practice daily and dedicate our lives to sharing the Yoga tradition authentically,” says Brooke Margherone, owner.

Brooke Margherone, Yoga Life, St. Joseph MI. Photo: Nicole Bates Photography

 
With a boutique where you can purchase everything from mats and gear to aromatherapy supplies and more, a huge selection of high-quality props and mats you can use for free at each session, and a variety of events and workshops, Yoga Life is truly a place where you can create a new, more mindful way of life through the practice of yoga. “If you are looking for the therapeutic benefits, a strong and supple body in which to live your fullest life, a clear mind and connection to yourself, and ultimately more peace that emanates from your being, Yoga Life is the perfect place for you to practice,” says Margherone.
 
Yoga Life offers several ways to pay for classes, from drop-in options at $18/class, to class passes that can drop that per-class rate to as low as $11. Yoga Life offers unlimited annual passes that allow students to practice for under $4/day, and high school students can attend a free class every Wednesday at 3:30 PM. Yoga Life also offers a free Community class every Wednesday at 4 PM, and a $5 Vinyasa class on Thursdays at 4:45pm, both open to the public. You can also purchase unlimited monthly memberships, and brand-new students can try unlimited classes for two weeks for $25.
 

The Collective, 234 Territorial Rd. Benton Harbor

The Collective, Benton Harbor, MI

 
I first got hooked on traditional “flow” yoga – you know, the sweaty, active, aerobic style – in a class taught by Adrienne White. At the time, Adrienne was teaching at the Renaissance Athletic Club (RAC), and I loved her approach to teaching because, as I remember telling a friend, “It’s hard, but somehow it doesn’t suck.”
 
Since then, Adrienne has gone on to open The Collective, a studio that combines yoga, strength training, meditation, nutrition and more. Adrienne and her partner Luke, who heads up a unique strength training program, offer up a wide variety of classes and workshops including traditional flow, Yin, and restorative classes, as well as some unexpected options, like Aerial yoga, which performed in suspended hammocks to increase mobility and make it easier to access certain postures (plus, Aerial is just straight-up fun, like fulfilling a lifelong dream of joining the circus). 
 

Adrienne White, Aerial Yoga, The Collective in Benton Harbor

The overall philosophy? A sense of community and wholeness that each individual can apply to their own lives. “This is a space where all are welcome and the individual is honored for their personal journey,” explains White.  “Wellness takes precedent over gymnastic style yoga poses. Here we want to slow down. We take time to learn the practices of yoga, strength, meditation- not just instructing, but truly teaching these practices to our students.”

Combine your practice with a trip to their on-site organic cafe for a delicious, handcrafted organic juice, or take advantage of The Collective’s free health coaching…their mission is to be there for the community in a variety of ways, and it shows. “Karma Yoga is another important tenet of The Collective; selfless service and giving back to the community,” says White. “We have given thousands of dollars back to the community through our annual Karma Yoga Fest, and we will celebrate our 10th year of this event starting on June 19th. To us this is not just a business, it’s personal.”

The Collective offers drop-in rates starting at $15, discounted class passes, and unlimited yoga and strength classes for $108 per month. 
 
 

Mindful Living & Yoga, St. Joseph & Surrounding Areas 

Mindful Living & Yoga, St. Joseph, MI

 
Yoga and Mindfulness teacher Kathleen Belonga has long been a staple of the yoga community in Southwest Michigan. While she’s still available for health and wellness coaching, or to do private yoga instruction for corporate events and retreats (I can personally recommend her highly for both of these offerings!) Belonga has recently shifted her focus to specializing in an often-overlooked segment of the population: kids and teens.
 
Belonga is a national teacher trainer for ChildLight Yoga, and regularly holds Mindful Parenting and Mindfulness for Teens workshops in the area. Her mobile business brings yoga and mindfulness to schools, organizations and homes, with offerings like Mindfulness in the Workplace, after-school yoga clubs, staff Yoga & Mindfulness classes, and even training in in-classroom mindfulness practices for teachers.

Keep an eye on Mindful Living & Yoga’s Facebook page to learn about new workshops and offerings. 

Other Places To Try Yoga: 

 

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

 
If you belong to a gym or fitness club, chances are good they offer a handful of yoga classes. While “gym yoga” is often focused more on physical benefits than a spiritual and mental practice, it can be a good opportunity to try out a class or two, get in a good stretch, and maybe work up a mean sweat. If you aren’t sure you’re ready to try a studio, check out the yoga offerings at these area gyms and clubs:
 
  • South Shore Health & Racquet Club – offers a selection of yoga classes, from gentle to PiYo Live, a combination of yoga and pilates. 
  • Renaissance Athletic Club – One of the more robust yoga offerings at a local gym – try Happy Hour Flow on Friday evenings for a healthy way to start your weekend. 
  • Maddog 5/1 – Maddog’s Hot 60 class goes beyond most local studios’ “heated” offerings with a truly HOT room, between 95 and 100 degrees F, for the fitness-minded practitioner who wants to work up a serious sweat.
  • YMCA of Southwest Michigan – with two locations (Benton Harbor/St. Joseph and Niles/Buchanan), the local “Y” offers a variety of yoga options for all ages and ability levels. Check the catalog at your local branch. 
  • St. Joseph Pilates – this studio near downtown St. Joe offers Yin, Power Vinyasa, and Yoga Barre classes, among others. 

We’d love to hear about your favorite yoga offerings in and around Southwest Michigan. Be part of the conversation on our Facebook page!

 
Meagan Francis