Two years into the pandemic, yoga remains alive and well in Taos as a fitness option still popular with locals to improve their physical and mental well-being, but the way yoga is practiced has also undergone some changes.
Some highly respected studios have closed, but more than one new studio has also opened in the Taos area. Many in-person courses observe COVID safety practices, while others offer online courses. But the physical and mental benefits of yoga have not changed. In fact, they have become even more sought after amid the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic and recent geopolitical events.
Yoga has been practiced for at least 5,000 years and research shows that its regular practice improves health by positively stimulating the body’s nervous and endocrine systems, according to the Guide to Holistic Health, published by the American Holistic Medical Association. The many health benefits of yoga include reducing blood pressure and pain, as well as managing asthma, trauma and addiction. Yoga has also been shown to improve mood and increase energy levels. Simply put, yoga is a form of stretching that improves flexibility and increases muscle strength.
Yoga can also be suitable for people of all fitness levels. A person does not need to be already in good shape to start practicing yoga. By working with an instructor, anyone, at any age, can find the right class to help them reduce stress and start improving their flexibility and well-being.
Here’s what the owners of four yoga studios had to say about how they weathered the public health crisis and what types of classes they’re now offering.
When yoga studios had to close for several months in 2020, there was an immediate response to move classes to an online format. Within two weeks of closing their studio doors, Aurafitness had made the transition.
“Going online was terrifying at first,” studio owner Aura Garver recalls. “When our studio classes came to a complete halt, we immediately launched our online classes. This allowed us to quickly give our students an option. There was a steep learning curve and everyone tackled the adventure in this new realm with a great sense of humor.
Sound, lighting, arranging the space to look good on camera, and many technical challenges came with the new approach.
Now, Aurafitness offers online, in-person, and hybrid classes, which students can choose to attend in-person or online.
For some people who are struggling with COVID or who are simply more comfortable in the privacy of their own home, remote options continue to be a way to maintain their practice. For those who come to the studio, there’s plenty of room for social distancing in the large space, with its 20-foot ceilings and good ventilation. Masks are now optional.
“We are so grateful that we were able to stay the course and stay open,” says Garver. “It was clear from the start that we needed to keep our community connected. It was very important to Aurafitness that the community we had built so strong remained intact. I’ve been amazed at how strong online traffic has been over the past two years. One of the benefits was to empower students to develop their practice from home.
For Garver and his students, the pandemic challenge has proven to be an excellent time to apply some basic principles of yoga, such as practicing kindness and non-judgment. Yoga has become a lifeline for connection and a way to feel centered and peaceful in the face of uncertainty, Garver says.
The High Frequency Loft offers yoga as well as dance and fitness classes, as well as qi gong and belly dancing. Emphasis is placed on a conscious approach to movement as well as a healthy lifestyle in order to achieve physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It was founded by Alana Lee in 2017. Lee teaches a variety of yoga and Pilates classes, including her specialty, AcroYoga, a mix of acrobatics and yoga as the name suggests.
During the pandemic, Barbara Agnello stepped in to become a certified teacher and also a studio business partner to help ensure its financial viability.
“My role has evolved due to COVID,” says Agnello. “We have been looking for flexible ways to stay open, including a fundraiser in April to raise awareness of High Frequency Loft and raise funds for its continued operation.”
One of the challenges they faced was covering lessons when an instructor was sick and unable to teach. Agnello points out that she and Lee can teach some of the same classes like Pilates and barre, which tone muscles. They can substitute for each other, which is helpful because all the teachers were very careful not to come to class if they felt sick.
Some of the other classes are more specialized and taught by a single instructor, such as belly dancing (taught by Alana Grier) and Qigong and Kundalini yoga, with Julian Laroza. From mid-March, High Frequency Loft will also offer a self-defense course.
Currently, there are in-person classes as well as Zoom options. Agnello says there are a few downsides to teaching online in that you can’t see students well and some classes that require more intensive instruction and support, like AcroYoga, can’t be taught online. line safely.
“In the studio, there were definitely challenges,” she says. “We did not do any practical assistance due to social distancing.”
High Frequency Loft invites everyone to find a movement practice that works for them, including seniors and children.
“The pandemic and current events of the past two years have really challenged us to take our practice off the mat and apply it to our lives in very different ways,” says Agnello, “including using concepts like breathing at the same time, the beginner’s spirit, non-attachment, gratitude and loving-kindness.
High Frequency Loft will celebrate its fifth anniversary on March 26. Masks are optional in the studio. Find High Frequency Loft on highfrequencyloft.com or call 575-425-0709.
In November 2020, a retail space opened near downtown Taos, and Summer DeBuye jumped at the chance to open In Tune Yoga.
“The timing wasn’t ideal,” says DeBuye. “But the space became available and I felt a call, so I had to do it. I didn’t know if I would get another opportunity.
In Tune Yoga offers in-person sessions, limiting classes to 12 students and encouraging people to book in advance. Yoga mats continue to be well spaced. With the lifting of the statewide mask mandate, masks are optional here as well.
“People are thrilled that they don’t have to wear a mask to do yoga,” says DeBuye. “Students say they are very grateful to have a place to meet in person to do yoga,” she adds. “That’s what humans need right now: connection.”
When the studio opened, she was the only teacher.
“We started small, it was just me and I also worked as a restaurant manager and could only offer three to four lessons a week. Now we have six teachers on staff and offer 12 lessons a week. I am very proud of how far we’ve come.”
In Tune Yoga specializes in power and strength. The studio hosts group and private yoga sessions, as well as special events like birthday parties for children and adults. Classes for mothers and children are offered twice a week.
Seco Yoga is tucked away from the main road leading into Taos Ski Valley in Arroyo Seco. The studio offers both in-person and online sessions. There is at least one in-person class every day, except Saturdays.
“Classes vary from restorative to intermediate classes like our Monday night Hip Flow,” says owner Liz Finkelstein. “Our most popular class is definitely yoga for stressed bodies and I think it reflects the times we live in now.”
Other class offerings include Yoga/Pilates for Aging Well taught by Shere Dayney. Online classes include yoga for strength and guided meditations offered in partnership with Taos Yoga Coop.
“Things have definitely changed a lot over the past two years,” says Finkelstein, who took over the studio in August 2020. “As every other business owner knows, you just have to go with the flow in these weird times. The rules are constantly changing. We try to do our best to make everyone feel safe and comfortable practicing with us. I hope we are close to a turning point and that things will pick up in the spring.
At Seco Yoga, they will continue to wear masks in the studio for everyone’s safety at this time.
More opportunities and information
Not Forgotten Outreach offers yoga for veterans most Fridays. The information is at notforgottenoutreach.org or dial (575) 224-1503.
Check out the Taos News Well Taos special post for a more comprehensive list of yoga offerings in Taos.