Yoga is flourishing in the Port Washington area as women and increasing numbers of men flock to classes for the ancient discipline’s physical and mental benefits.
Kathy LeMahieu believes the benefits of yoga are endless.
“It’s extremely peaceful and mindful,” the Port Washington resident said. “I’m very proud of myself because some of the things I’m doing now I couldn’t do in the beginning.”
LeMahieu started doing yoga in October when ZuZu Pedals in Port Washington began offering classes.
Not only is yoga a physical workout, instructor Debbie Leonard said, it’s also a way to get in touch with your mind and body.
For many yoga lovers, the week is hectic, filled with work, appointments, meetings, getting kids to school and practices on time, cooking dinner and squeezing in a little bit of sleep is commonplace.
Leonard, who teaches three yoga classes a week at ZuZu Pedals, believes yoga is a way to simplify the daily routine.
“It’s a great way to decompress and think about a different path for your lifestyle,” she said.
Leonard, who recently moved to the area from Grand Rapids, Mich., said it’s common to see a yoga studio on just about every street corner there.
That’s not the case in Ozaukee County, but it’s heading in that direction.
ZuZu Pedals offers 10 yoga classes, including popular hatha and vinyasa classes.
Hatha is a generic term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures, while vinyasa classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices.
LeMahieu participates in two hatha classes every week and is looking to add a third class.
“As I’m getting older, I’m losing a little bit of strength in my upper body,” she said. “Yoga helps with that. It also improves balance, and I’m able to hold the poses a little longer.”
ZuZu Pedals has seen the number of yoga participation increase dramatically since it started offering classes, owner Tammy Thompson-Oreskovic said.
“A lot of our clientele are athletes like cyclists and runners who do a lot of static exercises,” she said. “Yoga offers the counter to that. It’s all about stretching and breathing.”
One of the more popular offerings at ZuZu Pedals this fall was “Beer and Some Yoga,” a class that started with yoga and ended with a pint of beer.
It drew more than 40 participants per class, Thompson-Oreskovic said.
“It was a lot of fun and a great way to create a community interest and introduce people to yoga who had never tried it before,” she said.
The Port Park and Recreation Center has added aerial yoga to its class offerings.
Instructor Joann DeMerit, who leads the aerial class, also teaches vinyasa flow and a yoga/Pilates combination called Yoga-lates.
“Our aim is to reach a different crowd of folks that might never go to a studio,” she said. “I have people who have been doing yoga for years and some who are brand new to it.”
DeMerit said one man — yes, men participate in yoga — who enjoys hunting and fishing tried a class this fall and was amazed at the results.
“He came back to me and said ‘I can’t believe how long I can sit still in my tree stand,’” DeMerit said.
The Rec Center also partners with Port Washington High School students to offer a half-hour class during students’ enrichment period at the end of the day.
DeMerit said many teenagers come in expecting to breeze through the poses, but they quickly realize how difficult the class is.
“They usually talk about how they don’t want to do it, but once they leave, they can’t wait to come back,” DeMerit said.
The Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA also offers several yoga classes, including one for seniors on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Even the Niederkorn Library in Port offers a Thursday morning class.
LeMahieu believes that, despite people’s busy lives, they need to make time for yoga.
“I’m one of those people who would never do this on my own,” she said. “Yoga is something that is so good for you and your inner self.
“It’s perfect for busy people.”
Image information: Getting in touch with your inner self is the goal of many who participate in yoga, including Debbie Leonard, who stretched at ZuZu Pedals in Port Washington prior to a vinyasa flow class Saturday. Photo by Sam Arendt