Bending the rules to offer yoga with a beer chaser

New York Times News ServiceJune 11, 2014 

YOGA BEER

Rob Rice, standing, leads a Sunday morning yoga class at Angel City Brewery in downtown Los Angeles. Rice’s “Detox Retox” classes have gained a following for participants eager to cap off their yoga with a post-practice brew — a trend born in Charleston, a few years ago that has since spread to other cities.

STEPHANIE DIANI — NYT

A chef, 24 yogis and a dog walk into an Art Deco bar. It’s 10:30 a.m. on a recent Sunday, and most of the yogis have just completed a 2.3-mile run through downtown Los Angeles, led by a chef, Rob Rice, who is a certified yoga instructor.

Rice fires up his latest Detox Retox Spotify playlist and guides the class through a series of sun salutations, including a handful of downward dog poses, which arouse the canine into shaming the human yogis when he completes the namesake move perfectly.

Ninety minutes later, the beginner/intermediate class is over. But instead of his traditional signoff of “namaste and cheers,” Rice extends gratitude to attendees at this inaugural class at Angel City Brewery, which follows Detox Retox’s yearlong success with a Saturday class at Golden Road, a nearby brewery.

Ten minutes later, most participants have paid the $10 fee and traded the drink ticket for a beer at the bar.

Detox Retox is part of a growing trend of yoga paired with post-practice beer. These classes, often placed in breweries, are popping up across the country, and some have cheeky names like Happy Hour Yoga with Joe Sixpack in Philadelphia, BrewAsanas in Colorado (Boulder and Denver) and Three Sheets to the Warrior Pose in Wilmington, Delaware.

The trend was started two and a half years ago in Charleston, South Carolina, by Beth Cosi, a restaurant worker turned yoga instructor. Cosi regularly invited her friends to take her class, but few actually made it to the studio. After connecting with a local brewery, she extended another invitation to her non-yoga-practicing friends to attend a beginner’s class that was followed by a beer tasting.

Cosi, whose friends showed up, learned that beer is an effective carrot on a stick.

“The biggest surprise is how it’s taken on a life of its own,” she said. “I never envisioned for these classes to grow larger than the one brewery, Holy City, and need to move into other.”

Bendy Brewski classes regularly have more than 50 attendees, so Cosi added an assistant to help with student adjustments. Cosi’s most popular class in Charleston’s largest studio? Less than 40, the maximum occupancy of the studio.

Cosi recently added a class — Bendy Boozey — at a distillery.

The post-class beer adds a social element to yoga. “The largest component is connection: They get permission to hang out,” she said. “People talk and laugh. It’s very social. It’s totally about community. The yoga is secondary. It’s a way to bring people together.”

These classes often include more men than in Cosi’s traditional classes.

But some purists frown upon adding alcohol to the ancient practice of yoga. Ashtanga Yoga Boston states on its website: “We consider the consumption of alcohol, being both an intoxicant and a poison, to be inconsistent with the practice of Ashtanga yoga. We expect that all students will make a good-faith effort to reduce to a minimum and ideally curtail their consumption of alcohol while enrolled in the school.”

Rhonda Hobgood, the owner of Salt Room Yoga in Seattle, said: “It depends on what your goal is. If your goal is to live yogic lifestyle, paring those two, alcohol and yoga, don’t go together.” She added: “If you’re drinking, you’re detracting from that very subtle process of fine-tuning your consciousness. Alcohol is a toxin. It creates its own state of mental being, which typically people use as an escape. The practice of yoga is the exactly the opposite of escaping yourself. You want to go full into whatever you’re experiencing, without altering it with an external substance.”

Before being lured to Detox Retox with the promise of a post-class beer, Mark Roden had taken about six yoga classes in the last 14 years. In the last 12 months, Roden has completed about 30 classes and compares the experience to the rise in popularity of atheist megachurches.

“A place for people without spiritual beliefs to get the community aspect of a church,” he said. “That’s what we have at Detox Retox.”

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