Sarasota's 10 Best Yoga Classes

By staff June 1, 2006

The Big Stretch

Fourteen years ago, Lynn Burgess was a stressed-out executive. On a whim she took a yoga class, left her job and dedicated herself to the study of yoga. She now heads up Yoga From the Heart, a bustling studio with workshops, retreats, teacher training and classes. Her most popular class is Stress Relief Yoga, a workout that "revitalizes your mind and body while refreshing your spirit." You don't have to quit your day job to try it. Yoga From the Heart, 2010 Pine Terrace, Suite B, Sarasota. (941) 929-9878.

Susan Goldfarb crafts her "Easy Yoga" classes for the 50-plus crowd with Hatha yoga routines created to minimize risk to aging bodies. Hatha yoga incorporates physical postures and breathing techniques to bring energy and relaxation to body and mind-just what a middle-aged soul needs. "Come and feel better immediately" is Goldfarb's promise, and 18 years of satisfied students show it's a promise she keeps. The Longboat Key Education Center, 5370 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key. (941) 383-8811.

A former Sarasota Ballet dancer, Jaye Martin now focuses his creative energies teaching Anusara yoga, a more strenuous form of Hatha yoga. Martin's class, Yoga 2-3, is "heart oriented, spiritually inspiring and grounded in a deep knowledge of optimal body alignment." Students learn to perfect their headstand, handstand and forearm balance for, as Martin describes it, "an exhilarating and uplifting experience." Garden of the Heart Yoga, 1501 Edgar Place, Sarasota. (941) 341-9781.

Kripalu yoga is a form of Hatha yoga that emphasizes "the practice of being present, listening to one's body, and accepting where one is in terms of flexibility, strength, and alignment," says Gary Halperin, a longtime Kripalu yoga instructor. "Any style of Hatha yoga will give you the benefits of physical strength and flexibility," he says. "Kripalu yoga also teaches you to value and accept yourself." Amen to that. Rosemary Court Wellness Center, 800-830 Central Ave., Sarasota. (941) 952-0960.

We have Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury to thank for the rigorous practice of Bikram yoga, a 90-minute workout using 26 postures practiced in a heated room. Bikram instructor Jeannine Manning Longley calls her class "a complete workout using the entire body, mind and soul." Not for the faint of heart, a Bikram session leaves you hot and sweaty-but pumped and ready to tackle the world. Bikram Yoga Sarasota, 1501 Second St., Sarasota. (941) 330-2632.

Harmony Ananda teaches TriYoga, known as the "Tai Chi of yoga" because it incorporates dance-like movements in its postures. Ananda studied yoga and mediation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of transcendental meditation; Yogi Amrit Desai, founder of Kripalu Yoga; and Kali Ray, founder of TriYoga. Aside from body strengthening, Ananda reminds us that all forms of yoga help us experience "higher consciousness." Mandala MediSpa & Yoga Sanctuary, 1715 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota. (941) 927-2278.

Elizabeth Jacoby knows that yoga is not about competition-it's about finding your body's own balance and harmony in your own time. She teaches Kripalu yoga to a wide range of students, from bulked-up high school athletes to 80-year-olds with medical issues. Her specialty? Helping people find their own inner chi-and tailoring the workout to fit each individual body. Which might explain why her classes fill up so quickly. YMCA, 1991 Main St., Sarasota. (941) 366-6778.

Yoga gets sensual with Amanda Schlachter's Yoga Meets Dance classes. "We start by grounding in earth with gentle yoga postures, and then we move into the sensuality of water, the passion of fire, the freedom of air and the sacredness of spirit," says Schlachter. This synergy of Hatha yoga, free dance, music and guided imagery leaves the student "feeling light as a feather and peacefully at ease." Rosemary Court Wellness Center, 800-830 Central Ave., Sarasota. (941) 685-8885.

Betsey Downing, a yoga practitioner since 1972, holds a Ph.D. in sports psychology and is the founder of the popular Garden of the Heart Yoga center. Downing's Immersion Weekend Workshop is an intensive plunge into the principles and practice of Anusara yoga. Students also "explore the power and transcendence of tantric philosophy, a fascinating and widely misunderstood spiritual discipline." Need a transformative experience? This could be it. Garden of the Heart Yoga, 1501 Edgar Place, Sarasota. (941) 341-9781.

Donna Paganello describes Kundalini yoga as a "sacred science combining ancient teachings in a format that fits our current lifestyles." This form utilizes mantras, breath work, postures, relaxation and meditation, leading the practitioner on "an inner journey that integrates body, mind and spirit with the ultimate goal of awakening to our true selves." Sounds like a civilized goal to attempt to attain. Rosemary Court Wellness Center, 800-830 Central Ave., Sarasota. (941) 504-2262.

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