FROM UP DOG to Down Dog and all the chaturangas in between, your gym’s yoga classes have taught you the basics. But the fitness-center scene—with its flashing TV monitors, crowded classes, and gym rats draped over StairMaster consoles—is hardly conducive to attaining spiritual enlightenment. To elevate your yoga practice both physically and mentally, haul your sticky mat to one of these local studios, where you’ll find smaller classes and more personalized instruction. The straight-from-India lessons and refreshing “no, this is not exercise” approach will make even the most studio-shy practitioner want to namaste awhile.
1. THE BHAKTISHOP
2500 SE 26th Ave
There is a lot of love at this new Southeast Portland studio, where owners Diana Hulet and Lisa Mae Osborn infuse 30-plus weekly classes with the spirit of bhakti—Sanskrit for “love and devotion”—in the form of self-guided meditation and group chanting. That means you get more TLC with your vinyasa (“flow”) practice, especially in the newbie-friendly “Rookie Series” class held on Saturdays.
2. YOGA SHALA
3808 N Williams Ave
With over 40 instructors and copious ongoing workshops, this studio should be called “Yoga University.” Here you can enroll in the city’s only monthlong immersion in “shadow yoga,” a method in the classical hatha school that combines Indian martial arts and rhythmic breathing. Bonus: There is on-site child care, so moms can enjoy some guilt-free “me” time knowing the kids are nearby.
3. NEAR EAST YOGA
707 NE Broadway, Ste 206
Husband-and-wife team Charisse Hayes and Casey Palmer have turned a modest studio into a den of tranquility. Students guide themselves in the silent Mysore-style classes (named for the Indian city) while Hayes and Palmer adjust postures as needed during the 90-minute series of active ashtanga poses synchronized with nasal breathing. Want it or not, you get plenty of one-on-one attention.
4. BIKRAM YOGA
5816 SW Hood Ave
Surely you’ve heard of bikram yoga. It’s hot. Really hot. With the room heated to 105 degrees, your muscles and joints feel the burn as one of six instructors guides students of all ages, levels, and body types through the 26 asanas (“poses”) that make up this 40-year-old style of yoga. Classes in the 1,500-square-foot studio last an hour and a half, so a bottle of water is essential.