By Nan Renjel, Certified Yoga Instructor
I love yoga. Plain and simple, practicing yoga keeps me sane. Brief history. I was the girl who HATED fitness classes. I did not jog, and I couldn’t afford a pricey gym membership on my teacher’s salary. So, I signed up for a yoga class at my local YMCA.
After one class, I was hooked. I could do this. I felt better after the class than before it started. For an entire 90 minutes I didn’t think about anything else except breathing. In other words, I could let go of all my crazy baggage for a brief time – what a gift!
I gradually increased my practice, and I searched out teachers with whom I connected. It was not hard in a big city like Washington DC. Yoga studios were everywhere, and I visited a lot of them.
Finding the Perfect Yoga Studio Takes Time
After I had my first child, yoga kept this post-partum-reeling mama grounded and stable, which was such a blessing. Then I moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, and my yoga practice took a backseat to raising babies in a new town, until I was ready to start the search again, for that yoga studio and teacher who moved me the most.
Ultimately, I found my yoga home and obtained my 200-hour teacher certification. I am now teaching a class at Fresh Jax every Tuesday at 11am, and another class at the Fit with HIIT studio (in the Ruth Chris/Pussers complex) on Wednesdays at 10:30am.
This is what I found on my yoga journey in North Florida. I hope to see you sometime soon on the mat!
Yoga Studios Near the Beaches:
Bella Vida (Jax Beach):
This small, funky studio offers a variety of classes including slower-paced Hatha Yoga for gentle stretching and relaxation. I have only attended the Vinyasa Flow class, and I really enjoyed it. The room was not heated but I worked up a decent sweat and felt like I had achieved a good workout.
Big Fish (Jax Beach and Nocatee):
Big Fish is a Baptiste style yoga studio. The rooms are heated and the yoga is athletic. There is no music in these classes and the teachers typically cue only (in lieu of practicing in the front of the class) so it is helpful to know yoga a bit before trying. You will sweat, so bring a towel. You will also get a fantastic workout.
In the Round (Ponte Vedra Beach):
Classes are held in a yurt (owned by the amazing Bridgett Vadeboncoeur) off of Palm Valley Road. This is traditional Mysore method of Ashtanga yoga, meaning the series of poses are self-guided; there is no teacher at the front of the room leading you through poses, but an instructor is there to assist you at any time. The series does not change, so you can work on memorizing it. Bridgett is one of the most gifted teachers I’ve encountered. She is supremely knowledgeable and patient with newer students. Ashtanga yoga is physically challenging, and completing the series can take up to two hours. I highly recommend a visit here if you love yoga, the yurt is such a peaceful place to practice.
Yoga Den (studios all over Jacksonville area, closest to the beach is their Southside location):
I cannot speak highly enough of this studio (but I am biased, this is where I did my teacher training.) Alyson Foreacre is the owner/founder of the Den. She exudes all the zen and grace that you expect from a seasoned yoga instructor. Yoga Den offers two types of classes; a relaxing Mind/Body class aimed at proper alignment in postures, breathing and relaxation. The Sun Power classes are more flowing and athletic. The Sun Power classes are heated, so expect to sweat a lot, but all instructors are mindful of varying levels of expertise so much emphasis is put on safe modifications. My favorite class in all of Jax is Alyson’s Sun Power Bhakti Class on Tuesdays at 9:15 at the Southside location.
Yoga Mix (Neptune Beach):
This studio is run by a former student of Yoga Den’s Alyson Foreacre. The style here is power flow based, and the room is slightly heated. You will sweat a lot, but not uncomfortably so. The flows are challenging but accessible to all levels. James Fowler is an amazing teacher- his cues are impeccable, and his practice is really fun to watch too!
Places I have not tried but sound awesome:
M Body (Neptune Beach):
This is also a Baptiste style studio, power-based yoga in a heated space.
Bikram Yoga Jax (Jax Beach):
Prepare to be led through 26 postures in a room heated to 104 degrees with 40% humidity. All classes are 90 minutes and the sequencing never varies. These classes are designed to strengthen and detoxify the entire body.