When you’re bent over in downward dog — hands on the mat and hips to the ceiling — the last thing you expect to hear is “Baby Got Back” by Sir-Mix-A-Lot.
The music, a far cry from the usual Enya-like New Age calm, kept me going during an hourlong sculpt class at the newly opened CorePower Yoga on the Country Club Plaza. We worked weights and Pilates in with our yoga poses. We sang along to Madonna’s “Vogue” and Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time.”
Kansas City, this is not your grandma’s yoga, but it is still about being mindful.
Our city has gone zen with a wave of four new yoga studios in as many months, from Leawood to the City Market, adding to the yoga community that has been percolating for some time. Two more will open this spring. Traditional yoga is their mainstay, but they add in trendy fusion classes as well.
So what’s the attraction?
“We are so hard on ourselves,” said Kelly Colln, who recently rebranded 6-year-old Zona Yoga into KC Yoga Center and opened a second location in the City Market. “Yoga helps us work though all of that self-loathing. The focus on breathing and stretching helps you to be more compassionate to yourself.”
She said our locally grown yoga scene is attracting national yoga chains.
“I am 54, and in Kansas City I’m first-generation yoga. I’m still teaching, but as we age our kids are doing it and doing it differently. Corporate yoga is seeing that market and bringing in a new level of awareness, too. We’re building a local consortium of yoga studios. But I think there’s room for everyone. The more people who do yoga, the kinder we become as a community.”
Still, I wasn’t so sure there were enough people to fill these places. I was wrong.
For you, I have put my Dove deodorant to the sweaty test like never before to get the cat-and-cow pose at every new yoga den in town. I have taken a class every day for the past two weeks. Most classes have been packed wall-to-wall. I’ve done yoga with barre, yoga with Pilates, cardio yoga, sculpt yoga, all kinds of hot yoga and a barefoot boot camp that made me beg for Savasana (for you yoga newbies, that’s basically a corpse pose — sweet relief).
Here are a few new ways around town to stretch into the new year:
KC Yoga Center in City Market
I’ll never forget struggling to get into a crow pose, lifting my feet off the mat and Kelly whispering in my ear, “You got this.”
This was four years ago at her flagship studio in Zona Rosa. Back then, her studio taught the basics, with a few heated classes, some Vinyasa flowing movements and concentration on meditative yoga. You’re likely to run into teachers from other yoga studios taking classes at her KC Yoga Center. Kelly is all about the local yoga community and building a network among studios.
And she’s shaking things up. Last month she opened a second location in the City Market, just across the street from Bo Lings. There, she is adding barre and sculpt classes to her yoga practice.
“I am not trying to be everything to everyone, but I am trying to do what I do well,” Kelly says.
But what makes her studio really stand out: the Great Yoga Rope Wall. It’s so intricate that it requires an introductory workshop before you even take classes. At first glance it looks like something used to restrict Hannibal Lecter or excite Christian Grey. This wall is built with hooks and holes so you can attach barres, straps and handles.
Yoga Kurunta (that means “puppet”) uses the aid of wall ropes. It gives you more support to stay in poses longer to enhance alignment, flexibility and strength and relieve back pain. Don’t believe me? A chiropractor was sitting right next to me in my class.
It’s also a great tool for adventurous yogis who want to explore inversions — going upside down. A couple of teachers from Radiant Yoga in Overland Park were at the workshop for that reason.
First time around, the buddy system works. You mostly get familiar with the wall and the tools. A partner (shout out to Luke for the assist) helps ensure you are safely strapped in and adjusts the ropes to your height. The wall really does help lengthen and strengthen your poses. I got into an inverted triangle that made my hips say hallelujah.
New student special: Buy one month of unlimited yoga for $79 and get one month free. For more information, visit Kansas City Yoga Center, 104 E. Fifth St., Suite 201. kc-yc.com
Power Life Yoga
Ten minutes into Cardio Barre Express, and I was already sweating. “Drip Drop,” Hakeem’s bass-heavy hit on TV’s “Empire,” boomed through the studio as we moved in and out of arabesque, plié and other ballet-inspired moves.
I wish I had ballerina grace. Instead I just kept trying to point and flex my feet while my muscles worked hard to the beats. Forty-five minutes later, I may not have looked like the marvelous Misty Copeland, but I certainly felt like a prima powerhouse. Because I made it.
Another day, I checked out Power 2, a heated full-body class that pushes you to deepen your downward dog, strengthen your balance and challenge yourself to a handstand. At the beginning of class, teacher Jenny Anderson read a quote by William Butler Yeats: “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”
She wanted us to think about a person in our lives who will benefit from our growth and happiness. Naturally, I thought of my niece. A happier, more evolved me makes for a better auntie. It’s also a special kind of motivation when you are in a standing split trying not to fall.
Jenny used to teach yoga at Woodside Health & Tennis Club. Now she’s studio manager at Power Life Yoga in the old Board of Trade on the Plaza. The studio offers 90 classes a week, from a 35-minute barefoot boot-camp (burpees baby) and cardio barre to sculpt, plus a variety of power classes that cater to hot-yoga junkies. Inversion and acro-classes are coming. And a second location in Prairie Village’s Corinth Square will open this spring.
Power Life Yoga is based in Des Moines, but Jenny says our yoga community inspired it to branch out to Kansas City.
“It’s exciting to see our city grow,” she told me. “Our studio is about allowing people to settle comfortably into their practice but also challenge them to try new things.”
I did something called a Dorothy Heel Kick (leg lifts with heel taps) right after an intense round of burpees, high plank shoulder taps and bicycle crunches. That was real new, boo. This place gets me.
What you should try: Cardio Barre Express. It’s 45 minutes, you work hard and sweat fast and you’re out of there.
New student special: One week free, no strings attached. Check out Power Life Yoga, 4800 Main St., No. G003. powerlifeyoga.com
As soon as I walked in the door, the ladies behind the counter greeted me and asked me about my intention. What is it I wanted to get out of the class I was about to take? I just wanted to be centered and let go of tension. A shirt in their retail space reads, “Stronger, Leaner, Calmer, Clearer, Braver, Further.” Six results. Whatever your yoga goal might be, studio manager Tara Singhal says, they want to help you reach it.
Yoga Six, tucked in Town Center Plaza not far from Barnes & Noble, is a results-driven yoga studio with a dozen locations (California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and St. Louis). The chain opened up shop in Leawood this month.
My Power class was heated to 95 degrees, with humidity. I was sweating before it even started. I now know why people invest in Manduka towels and Yoga Design Lab mats that combine towels and mats together.
For the first time ever, I needed to lay a towel on my mat. I needed the grip for the arm balances, progressive planking and the intense flow of postures to come. Everyone around me bent and twisted with such ease and style (wearing Lululemon, Athleta and Kansas City based-Neva everywhere). I struggled to find my coordination.
But our teacher, Nici, kept reminding us to focus on our breath. The more mindful I became, the more fluid the movements were. It also helped that the playlist included slower yoga mixes of pop hits like “Am I Wrong” by Nico and Vinz. I love that song.
By the end of the class, I wanted to clean off. And their locker room is fully stocked with showers, phone-charging lockers, soap and deodorant. As I sat on a bench in the lobby, feeling what can only be described as yoga high, one woman said she burned 300 calories in our class. I think this is the kind of yoga Janelle Monae sings about. “Let yo booty do that yoga …”
New student special: Get one month of unlimited yoga for $49. Sign up at Yoga Six, 11832 Roe Ave. in Leawood. yogasix.com
It’s hard to not like a studio that incorporates metal bands and hip-hop classics in the yoga soundtrack. I knew this was my kind of place when my teacher, Jen Bentch, said she used to make up dance moves to Sir-Mix-A-Lot. And Kelsey Kraemer, studio assistant and teacher, mentioned her classes play plenty of Beyoncé. But they also have quiet classes, like Candlelight Yoga.
This is that big brand yoga. CorePower Yoga has studios from California to Washington, D.C. The studio opened on the Plaza, just next to Forever 21, in November. It plans to open in Overland Park’s Hawthorne Plaza this spring.
I’ve tried two classes: Yoga Sculpt and CorePower Yoga 2. Let’s talk about sculpt. This is just as much about yoga and breathing as it is about using weights to bring more muscle. Downward dog, planks, push-ups, squats, jumping jacks and then some. And the music (Madonna’s “Vogue,” came on, y’all) makes it a party. You want those Michelle Obama arms? Sculpt is the answer.
It’s a chance to push yourself and have a good time while you sweat it out.
Kelsey says that’s what CorePower Yoga is all about. She grew up doing yoga. Her mama is a yoga therapist. She says CorePower offers an intense physical workout without losing the mindfulness that yoga is built on.
“It’s cool to see so many people come together with the common goal of breathing together, moving together and being strong together. It breathes life into the studio,” she said. “It’s important for people to make time to connect with themselves. That mindfulness is so lost in our culture. The physical workout is important. And the music helps drive the class. But that stillness of Savasana is still the most crucial part.”
New student special: Walk in and get one week free. To learn more, visit CorePower Yoga, 4725 Wyandotte St. corepoweryoga.com