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Strike a pose



Why practice yoga? The better question is, "Why not?" "Yoga is like taking daily vitamins. Itís not about fitness, itís for health," says Bron Gacki, owner of Bikram Yoga Milwaukee.

By teaching discipline in mind and body, yoga has physical and emotional benefits for everyone, at every age and skill level. Physically, students have improved strength, flexibility, cardiovascular and circulatory health, respiration, increased energy, metabolism, stamina and pain relief. Yoga also is a tool to relieve stress and anxiety, to help with sleep, to become more centered and self-aware, to focus on the present. Practicing yoga allows quiet time "to stop the gerbils on the treadmill," says Yama Yoga owner Marietta Pucillo.

Before you begin, talk with your doctor to check if there are certain positions or styles to avoid. Hereís a list of area yoga studios and a sampling of what they have to offer.

Bikram Yoga Milwaukee
Milwaukee | (414) 264-9642

Type: Bikram (hot) yoga, 26 postures and two breathing exercises in a 105-degree room.

Who Itís For: Anyone, though those with blood pressure problems or heart conditions should check with a doctor before starting. Uses basic Hatha yoga postures (the style most commonly practiced for physical and mental health).

Benefits: The heat causes sweating, which detoxifies the body, keeps muscles and joints warm (and safe), and acts as a catalyst. Benefits happen more quickly than with other styles of yoga. Bikram is touted as a cure for physical ailments and with slowing the aging process.

Expert Tip: Come with an open mind and be prepared to sweat. "I played sports in high school, but after I was not into working out. I was more likely to be in a bar than a gym. Yoga is different ó youíll be sore but itís not painful, and itís not boring. Itís awesome." Bron Gacki, owner.

Milwaukee | (414) 265-5606

Type: Prenatal yoga.

Who Itís For: Pregnant women in their second and third trimesters. Can be beginners or regular practitioners who want to continue safely; instructors modify to the individual.

Benefits: Increases flexibility, muscle tone and strength; improves balance and circulation; teaches breathing and relaxation techniques to help prepare expectant mothers for labor.

Expert Tip: Have your doctor sign the prenatal release form before your first class. "Prenatal yoga doesnít have to be gentle. Itís like preparing for a marathon ó you have to stay strong and be ready." Biz Casmer, yoga and fitness director.

PJís Yoga Shala
Waukesha | (262) 524-9222

Type: Ashtanga yoga, which teaches ethics, concentration, controlled breathing and a set series of postures.

Who Itís For: Everyone.

Benefits: Practitioners can achieve Samadhi, the eighth limb of yoga and the highest level of concentration, for unity with the world.

Expert Tip: Breaks allow for more energy when practicing. Always take one day per week for rest, and honor the moon ó no classes are held on the full or new moon. "We are connected to our lineage in India; we keep the tradition with a pure, authentic practice. Ashtanga is so perfect, I want to download it as is." P.J. Heffernan, owner.

Riverwest Yogashala
Milwaukee | (414) 502-9642

Type: Iyengar yoga, which focuses on strength, stability, stamina, balance and alignment with use of props (blocks, straps, blankets, chairs, ropes, etc.).

Who Itís For: Everyone, particularly underserved populations. Riverwest Yogashala is one of the few nonprofit studios.

Benefits: Affordable or free classes, internships and scholarships for low-income students make yoga practice accessible to all.

Expert Tip: Practice yoga often, but you donít always have to come to class (once or twice a week is recommended). Home practice is good too. "Yoga pants are my pet peeve. Shorts or tights are better, because you need to see whatís going on with your body." Peggy Hong, owner.

Yama Yoga
Milwaukee | (414) 224-1519

Type: Yoga for athletes.

Who Itís For: Runners, cyclists, dancers ó anyone who is physically active.

Benefits: Improved performance. Increases flexibility, balance, deeper breathing, alignment of body and mind; reduces fatigue and helps prevent injuries.

Expert Tip: Incorporate yoga into your regular fitness routine, at least twice a week. "I challenge students to find ease and comfort in their range of motion. Itís good to lengthen the muscles ó a little bit goes a long way." Michelle Warren, instructor.

Yoga One Studio
Cedarburg and Fox Point | (262) 376-9642

Type: A 200-hour teacher training program in Vinyasa flow yoga, based on breath-synchronized movement, flowing from one movement to the next.

Who Itís For: Practitioners who want to become teachers and deepen their knowledge of yoga.

Benefits: The eight-month program is offered one day per week or one weekend per month for greater accessibility.

Expert Tip: You donít have to be an expert. The best traits are to love yoga and have the ability to guide others. "There are so many styles of yoga and kinds of teachers, students need to find a teacher who resonates with them. Keep trying until you find what you like." Meg Galarza, owner.