Montgomery’s a Yoga Town

By on 19 April, 2011 in Fun, Kate and Stephen with 3 Comments

At first glance, Montgomery doesn’t seem like it might be much of a yoga town. We’re more into football. And baseball, when the Biscuits are in season. But watching sports doesn’t really count as physical activity. Not that Midtown’s a sedentary place. There are days when the sheer volume of dog walkers makes you suspect that canines may outnumber humans, at least between Edgemont and Carter Hill. But still, there’s something about yoga that makes it seem a bit out of place – not especially Southern.

And fine, yoga may not have originated in the South, but it turns out that Montgomery’s a great place to practice and learn yoga. I came in on this as, basically, a total beginner. I’d taken some classes living in other cities before, but never really made a decision to work on my practice. Plus I never fell in love with a studio before, and I’ve now realized that your relationship with your studio and teachers is as important in yoga as in any other activity you work at.

Even though Montgomery’s got a few assorted places for yoga instruction (I hear the YMCA has classes, and there are a few places around that seem to offer private lessons), really there are two major studios in town. And both are pretty amazing places to learn an ancient discipline that is as interesting as it is rewarding.

First is Midtown’s own Sun Ray Yoga. It’s over behind Richardson Pharmacy (a place that deserves its own post or three, go for the custom invitations and stay for the extraordinary selection of surprisingly high-end beauty products) at 1067 Woodley Road, tucked into the back of that shopping center next to Jubilee Seafood. Sun Ray has a cool and lovely studio that feels in every way like a refuge from all the little things that might nag at you during the day. Teacher Becky McCune makes every class feel like a master class. She’s got an uncanny eye for the little adjustments and key concepts that can turn even the most basic of poses into something new and challenging, but she never makes anyone feel out of place even for a minute. Sun Ray’s schedule is pretty diverse, offering different kinds of yoga on different days – there are some morning classes and some more for folks who want to catch a class after work. One of the cool things about the Sun Ray studio is that classes are offered in series focusing on specific anatomical areas (breathing, posture,etc.). You leave a Sun Ray class feeling like you’ve achieved a deep understanding of how a specific pose works, and in the process you learn more about your body.

The other major place where Montgomery yogis and yoginis go to practice is MJ Yoga. MJ’s studio is out on the Atlanta Highway behind (underneath, really) Healthwise Market. The first thing you need to know about MJ Yoga is that it’s hot yoga. The studio is kept between 95 and 105 degrees inside. It’s a dry heat. The first time I tried this out, I thought two things. First: Seriously, I may die. Second: Why would any reasonable person do this to themselves? As to the first, I did not die. I did, however, sweat more than I thought any human might be able to do without turning into a raisin. As to the second, I learned that working on poses and stretching in the heat allows your body to do stuff you wouldn’t be able to do in a colder room. It also protects against injury. It also, as it turns out, feels pretty incredible to switch out all the fluids you sweat out with new ones you gulp in between surprisingly strenuous activity.

Now, I don’t know too much about the kinds of yoga. I bought my yoga clothes at Target, even though I eventually sprung for one of the expensive yoga towels that grips your mat. I’m pretty suspicious, even, of the movement to commodify (with products and pricey retreats) of an ancient practice of meditation and physical movement that is supposed to create yoking union (the meaning of yoga in Sanskrit) within the whole person.

Both Montgomery’s yoga studios push back against this trend. At Sun Ray and MJ Yoga, you get the feeling that your practice is your own. You’re not in a competition or on some kind of weird weight loss treadmill. You work at your own page. There’s a feeling of supportive community at the same time there’s a feeling of participating in an ancient ritual. And maybe that’s what makes our yoga Southern after all.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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  1. Meg Lewis says:

    Love this post. I went to MJ’s for the first time as a total beginner about a year or two ago and fell in love. Life got crazy and I stopped for a while and just started back a few weeks ago. It was as if I’d never left. I completely agree that there’s no pressure to compete with the other students or to push beyond what is the most useful thing for your own body and practice there. And the heat – if I could convince everyone I knew to give it a try she’d have to open three new studios. It’s the most amazing feeling. I like your take on the southern-ness of yoga and think you’re on to something there…

  2. prp says:

    MJ’s is absolutely the best yoga studio I have ever had the please of belonging to. I have taken classes in California, Florida, South and North Carolina, and Birmingham, AL and haven’t found any classes that come close to MJ’s classes. The music – outstanding and now with two “new” yoga instructors this “Club” will only grown and prosper. Great, great and wonderful yoga……

  3. JMP says:

    Started MJ’s and found, SHE’S THE BEST!! Expert instruction and she has extended the classes with great instructors. You can not go wrong. Just wish i could go more.

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