“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” —BKS Iyengar

That’s Y instructor Payge McMahon’s favorite quote. Yoga has, literally, saved her life. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for yoga,” she says. “I’ve broken 19 bones—including my back twice—and have had to deal with walkers, body casts, braces, and multiple surgeries. If I hadn’tstrengthened my body with yoga, the doctors say I would be dead or wheelchair-bound.”

She rehabilitated with yoga after her injuries and is a vocal advocate for how beneficial it can be. “Yoga is the ultimate workout. Not only does it challenge your stretching and flexibility; it also helps build muscle; increases strength, endurance and agility; and improves your posture,” she says.

We offer a variety of different yoga practices at the YMCA, including AOA Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Basic Yoga, Family Yoga, Power Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Chair Yoga, Flow Yoga, Restorative Yoga and even H2O Yoga.

Our facilities have mats (rubber and foam), blocks and blankets for members to use—although you’re always welcome to bring your own.

Yoga pose

Finding the right class

Classes like Restorative and Basic yoga are great for beginners. They focus on stretching, flexibility and learning simple poses. Payge recommends these classes for people looking for a gentler practice to relax their mind. “Yoga works everything,” she says. “It’s not just physical. Yoga helps with your breathing. You’re learning techniques that will help you manage pain and stress. It also helps you to focus.”

Once you’ve dipped your toe into the yoga pool, try a more intense class like Vinyasa or Power. “You’ll be moving a lot,” Payge says. “It’s meditation through movement. You’re going to get into positions that you’ve never imagined.”

Focusing on your practice

Yoga isn’t a competition. Payge teaches members about the importance of focusing on their own practice and where their body can go. She encourages them to keep pushing and improving—whether that’s going deeper in a stretch, balancing longer, or mastering a new position.

“You’re much stronger than you realize,” she says. “Don’t be scared by some of those yoga people you see on Instagram in crazy, contorted positions. Just come to class, and we show you how to modify things and help you build from where you are.”

Yoga pose

Yoga for all abilities

Yoga is open to participants of all ages. And, as our YMCAs offer an incredibly diverse range of yoga offerings, there is truly a class for everyone. “In my classes, we have people of all different shapes and sizes. You can be out of shape; you can be recovering from an injury. If you’re a senior and you don’t think you’ll be able to hold a pose, try Chair Yoga. You’ll still be doing yoga, but you’ll be doing it in a safer way.”

Depending on how much you exert yourself and the style of yoga you’re practicing, you can burn anywhere between 200 and 600 calories in a class.

The environment

Man doing yoga

Because there is such a wide variety of classes and instructors, no two yoga experiences at the Y are the same. You may come into a class with dimmed lights and aromatherapy going in a diffuser. You may come into one of Payge’s classes and do a power yoga practice to 60s classic rock or 90s hip-hop. It’s what sets us apart from boutique yoga studios.

“The great thing about the Y is that you have so many more options,” she says. “Just like other group exercise classes at the Y, we have a community in our yoga classes among students and instructors. We root for each other to take the pose further and enjoy the moment. This is our time.”

Find a yoga class at a YMCA location near you.