Why Yoga? Why Now? Pittsburgh-Based Instructors Share Benefits Of Ancient Practice

Yoga increases strength, flexibility, focus, energy and mood.
Bewell Yoga Factory

PHOTO COURTESY: YOGA FACTORY — PICTURED ARE YOGA FACTORY INSTRUCTORS SHANNON CARNEMOLLA, ANGELICA DANIELE (FOUNDER AND OWNER), YULIYA CHARNYSHOVA AND MICHAEL LUBBERT.

The origins of yoga can be traced to Northern India more than 5,000 years ago.

For centuries, students and teachers alike have practiced the art of healing their bodies, minds and spirits — a science of self-realization. The Pittsburgh region is home to more than two dozen yoga studios with instructors helping each student find their own path to wellness.

We reached out to three local studios for their expert advice for beginners.

Yoga Factory

3418 Penn Ave.

Lawrenceville

The staff of Yoga Factory caters to all levels of practice and always welcomes beginners to the studio.

Owners Zeb Homison, world yoga champion, and Angelica Daniele, semi-retired professional dancer, have transformed their Penn Avenue studio into a welcoming atmosphere for all, and are about to open a second location at 1701 Murray Ave., #2, in Squirrel Hill.

“Some people are scared to start yoga. They think they have to know exactly what they’re doing when they walk in. But every class is a beginner class. You can have someone who’s been practicing for 12 years next to someone who just started yesterday in class,” says instructor Myra Aronson. 

Homison notes on a physical level, those who practice yoga experience increased flexibility, strength and oxygen levels in the bloodstream. 

“Yoga is cross training for everything you need to do for the rest of your life,” he says. “Yoga also gives you more focus and energy. Once we open the body and focus the mind, then we start to look within ourselves to learn who we are and what’s important to us.”

“As we age, our body naturally decays,” adds Daniele. “That mind, body and spirit connection improves our quality of life moving forward and makes these things easier to manage.”

Yoga Factory offers hot yoga, yin yoga (with longer held poses), vinyasa yoga (moving smoothly between poses), slow flow and sound bath classes (while enveloped in ambient sound), as well as a library of online courses.

I previously practiced yoga to help with my arthritis and to improve strength and reduce stress. I highly recommend yoga for beginners. It’s tough, but I found it to be extremely beneficial.

Schoolhouse Yoga

2239 Railroad St., Strip District

7210 McKnight Road, North Hills

Be Well Schoolhouse Yoga

PHOTO BY OLIVIA KISSEL — STUDENTS AT SCHOOLHOUSE YOGA IN THE STRIP DISTRICT PRACTICE TREE POSE.

Leta Koontz, owner of Schoolhouse Yoga in the Strip District and North Hills, says yoga is perfect for beginners because it can be a low- to no-impact method of conditioning and is perfect for students who have arthritis or are obese.

Koontz began practicing yoga in the late 1990s to focus on the traditional aspects of breathing and meditation. Today, she sees more students reaching out for help with stress reduction and focus.

“One of the most important things yoga does is it shifts your body from fight or flight mode to a more relaxed mode — a state where your body is able to heal, and improve digestion, immune system functions and hormone regulation,” notes Koontz.

Koontz recommends first-time students begin their journey with one of Schoolhouse’s gentle yoga classes. These meditation-focused practices incorporate stretching and seated poses, perfect for the less flexible students or even someone recovering from an injury or surgery.

Schoolhouse Yoga also offers a number of classes that are tailored for each skill level, including yin yoga, introduction to ashtanga yoga (focusing on muscle strength) and prenatal yoga. 

Yoga Innovations

102 Broughton Road, Bethel Park

Yoga Innovations

PHOTO BY REDFORD PHOTOGRAPHY

Claire Baer, owner of Yoga Innovations in Bethel Park, discovered the practice when she was 12 at a school book fair in Michigan. She purchased a book and began practicing at home.

“I followed the steps with how to move my body and which ways to breathe… and by the end, I felt incredible. As an athlete and dancer, I immediately saw the physical impact the few movements had on my body,” she says.

Baer notes Yoga Innovations “is a community that is warm, open and inviting. We encourage others to be their weird, unbound, spirited selves and to plant roots with us and grow.  We have a class for everyone, and if we don’t have what they need, we help them find who does.”

Her studio offers heated and unheated yoga, as well as candlelight to restorative yoga. Yoga for Motherhood is designed for those who need pre/postnatal classes, as well as mothers at any stage. Mommy & Me Yoga is yoga for moms and kids. Kids Yoga will begin again in 2023. 

“Find the ‘right’ class to begin with,” Baer advises beginners to call studios, talk to the owner and ask questions. “Yoga is like ice cream — there are lots and lots of varieties, flavors and styles. If you don’t enjoy the first taste, try again. Yoga makes everything better — for scientific reasons — and the results happen quickly.”

Categories: BeWell