A local brewery hosts yoga classes with beer and donuts.
STORY | ALYSSA MILLER
PHOTO | JAMES ALLEN
A dimly lit bar with a concrete floor and the strong smell of beer in the air, Three Notch’d Brewing Co. in downtown Harrisonburg is a popular hangout spot for the city’s 21-plus population on any given weekend night. However, every Saturday at 10:30 a.m., the furniture is pushed out of the way, and only the large wooden bar and the wall of beers on tap allude to the fact that this isn’t your average yoga studio.
This is Bend ‘n’ Brews Harrisonburg, an hour-long yoga session followed by a pint of beer, donuts from Pure Eats Harrisonburg and coffee courtesy of Shenandoah Joe’s, for $10 per session.
“I think it opens the door for a lot of individuals who want to try yoga and might not feel comfortable going to a yoga studio,” says Elsa Schultz, a JMU alumna (’14) and the organizer for the class.
The idea for Bend ‘n’ Brews, although unique to Harrisonburg, originated on the West Coast.
“A lot of wineries have been partaking in this — they call it, ‘Vino and Vinyasa,” Schultz said.
Schultz says she has counted over 400 “unique visitors,” not including repeat attendees.
Keala Mason, a JMU alumna (’12), is the studio manager at In Balance Yoga in Richmond. Prior to moving to Richmond in April, Mason taught at three yoga studios and one pilates studio in Harrisonburg and was one of several rotating yoga instructors at Bend ‘n’ Brews. According to Mason, yoga has changed her life by increasing her confidence and empowering her every day.
“I love yoga,” Mason said. “It’s in my everyday life, it’s in my everyday routine, and I wouldn’t be the same person without yoga. It’s such a big, instrumental part of my life.”
Mason, who’s been teaching yoga for 11 years, is experienced with the variety of people who come in to take her classes every day, including at Bend ‘n’ Brews. She uses inclusive language in her classes to make new students feel accepted in the environment. She moves herself physically close to them and gives corrections when necessary, making sure to do so without making newcomers feel “called out” or embarrassed.
“A lot of people will say, ‘I’m not flexible, I’ve never done this before, I’m nervous, I’m scared; I’ve seen pictures on the internet of people doing this amazing yoga in photos, and I’m not there,’” Mason said. “And I’ll just say, ‘Well, that’s the majority of the population, right? So you’re in a good spot.’”
Schultz, who’s friends with several yoga instructors, worked to organize Bend ‘n’ Brews with her former manager in April 2015.
“We were the first to really push it in Harrisonburg,” Schultz said. “We decided when winter came that we would — just with the interest coming through — that we would do it every Saturday.” Although they took a break during the summer this year, Bend ‘n’ Brews returned on Sept. 3.
Brandy Somers, a Rockingham County resident who attends the class with her daughter, believes the use of such an unconventional space makes the classes more accessible to local residents.
“Hosting yoga at Three Notch’d reaches both regular yogis and those who might be intimidated to enter a yoga studio,” Somers said in an email. “For some people, walking into a brewery sounds more approachable and because of this, the vibe is more loose and less serious … just the way yoga is!”
Mason herself did not start out with an inherent love of yoga.
“I always had a misconception about yoga; I thought it was a little bit too slow and I thought that you couldn’t really get a good workout from it,” Mason said. “But then I started to teach it and I really started to develop my skills as a teacher.”
Mason’s sweat-inducing class at Bend ‘n’ Brews consists of a Vinyasa style of yoga. This style involves moving the body along with specific breathing patterns, and is one of many styles of yoga taught in Harrisonburg and around the world.
According to Mason, breathing is an integral part of the entire workout in her Vinyasa classes. The classes are taught “on the cadence of a breath,” which means the breathing is specifically coordinated with every physical motion and pose.
“Breath in: you move. Breath out: you move. Breath in: you come forward. Breath out: you dive down,” Mason said. “It’s a very fluid, dance-like state that you kind of transcend into.”
Bend ‘n’ Brews also gives the city a chance to combine forces. Each studio in Harrisonburg sends an instructor to the event, allowing students to take different styles of yoga classes from instructors who teach at a variety of studios. Not only do students get exposed to a variety of types of yoga, but instructors get to meet one another, venturing outside the bubble of their own studios.
Somers believes each instructor brings something important to the table — or rather, the taproom floor. She added that doing yoga in a taproom, while unconventional, provides people with a chance to exercise in a way that’s fun and rewarding.
“It doesn’t have to be something we dread doing or make excuses about skipping,” Somers said. “In the spirit of balancing things out, a quiet yoga session followed by glasses of beer clanking is a beautiful thing.”