WHIRL’s Pittsburgh Yoga Studio Guide: January 2012

Pose your way to inner peace with WHIRL’s guide to yoga classes, poses & fashion!

Pittsburgh yoga studios, WHIRL Yoga Guide 2012

South Hills Power Yoga owner Stacey Vespaziani and instructors LA Finfinger and Darcy Lyle. Photo: Adam Milliron.

You’ll be ready to say namaste after studying WHIRL’s guide to the wonderful world of yoga that’s growing throughout Western Pennsylvania. From restorative, gentle sessions that bring us balance to heated classes that test our endurance, you can find everything for establishing a well-rounded practice right here.

By Nicole Barley

In this guide, you’ll find…

  • Definitions for Sanskrit words that are integral to the practice
  • Expert opinions from studio owners and directors
  • Classes to try if you’re an advanced yogi or if you’ve never tried yoga before
  • What to wear and bring to class


South Hills Power Yoga opened its doors in April 2011, the result of a revelation owner Stacey Vespaziani had during one of her weekly community classes at the Dormont Public Library. Students were rolling out mats in the smallest available space, and, “That’s when I thought, ‘Dormont’s ready,’” she says. She’s loved watching Pittsburgh continue to grow into a yoga-friendly city. “Pittsburgh is on the verge. It’s pulsing,” she says.

Power Vinyasa yoga is: Held in a room heated to 85-95 degrees at around 60 percent humidity. It is a flowing form of yoga, with special emphasis on breathing.

Signature classes: “Tuesday and Thursday Pay-What-You-Can classes. These hour-long classes are taught in a non-heated (but warm) room and offer plenty of modifications and intensifications. Students choose their donation amount, and often, the proceeds go to local charities and organizations. Our most unique offering is our Sunday Night Intermediate/Advanced class, which includes a strong warm-up, twists, inversion prep work, and arm balances, all set against a music backdrop that complements the practice.”

If you’re new to yoga: “Yoga is all about working from where you are at any given moment. So, instead of worrying about standing on your head, just try standing on your yoga mat.”


Open: 7 days a week
Class Stats: 30 weekly classes, with start times ranging from 6:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Instructors: 11
Price Range: Pay-What-You-Can, Drop-In: $13, Student: $9, Community Class: $5


The Himalayan Institute of Pittsburgh has been providing a mix of yoga, meditation, and holistic practices to students since 2004. “Since I grew up on Beverly Road in Mt. Lebanon, I knew the charm of the shops on the street,” says director Kate Kill. “I did the Himalayan Institute’s 200-hour teacher training and found that they were interested in opening up a physical location in Pittsburgh. Throughout my meditation practice, I found that if I paid attention, the opportunities I needed to continue my journey would appear themselves.”

What the studio offers: “We are lucky to have a space where students can practice at their own level and decide what they need from their yoga practice. Some students focus mainly on a physical yoga practice while others enjoy meditation and philosophy. It is amazing to watch as students become empowered on all levels and reach towards their fullest potential.”

Suitable for: “Students that want to be their best self. The process can work on the physical body, but also is effective on our habits, relationships, and developing the focus to achieve what we want and live our best life.”

If you’re new to yoga: “Start at the beginning. A beginner’s session covers the basics of why we do the poses and how to do them correctly. You can ease into the postures and avoid some of the awkwardness that might come from being in a class that is too advanced.”


Open: 7 days a week
Class Stats: 21 weekly classes; private instruction, guided meditation, and special events also offered
Instructors: 13
Price Range: Drop-In: $15, Private Instruction: $75/Hour, Monthly Unlimited: $120


Bikram Choudhury brought what Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh director Zeb Homison calls “the original hot yoga” to the United States 35 years ago. When Homison first encountered the practice, “Something about the series of postures, the concentration it required, and the release it provided after class captured my interest.” Homison earned his training from Choudhury. Says Homison, “It is an honor to be teaching this amazing yoga and to share it with my hometown of Pittsburgh.”

Bikram yoga is: “A series of 26 Hatha yoga postures and two breathing exercises performed in a hot room. It opens up the body, helps to heal old injuries, prevents new ones, and focuses the mind. It has been known to help with diabetes, thyroid imbalances, asthma, high blood pressure, and many other common ailments.”

Suitable for: “All levels of practitioners, all ages. It is a therapeutic method, focusing on opening the body and focusing the mind. Just by being in the hot room and breathing, you begin to take in the benefit! Bikram Choudhury himself says, ‘You’re never too late, never too old, never too sick, never too bad to start over and try again.’

If you’re new to yoga: “The hardest part of going to class is walking out your own front door! Once you get there all you have to do is listen to the instructor, follow along, and keep an open mind. The postures can be tricky, but they come over time. You have the whole rest of your life to practice!”


Open: 7 days a week
Class Stats: 31 weekly classes, with start times ranging from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Instructors: 7, plus guest teachers
Price Range: $16 single lesson, Monthly Unlimited: $150, One-Year Unlimited: $999


BYS Yoga offers students an assortment of Hatha yoga styles. These classes have been available since 2004, thanks to director Kristi Rogers and her husband Jody Schurman. “Part of our mission has always been to create a vibrant yoga community in the fabric of the already vibrant South Side community where we live, work, and play.” For Kristi, “the opportunity to become a teacher arrived a bit later in 2006 when it became a more of a natural progression my deepening practice and the desire to share this incredible practice with others.”

Hatha Flow yoga is: “A delicate combination of flowing asanas and alignment mixed with philosophy, breathing, and meditation techniques. We also offer Chakra Flow/Kundalini, Yin, and Restorative Yoga classes which complement the Hatha Flow classes. “

Try this class: “One of the most unique classes we offer is Chakra Flow/Kundalini with Kendell Romanelli on Thursdays and Saturdays. Each class focuses on different Chakras (energy centers) to help bring the body, mind, and spirit to alignment. The classes include variations of Sun Salutations and uplifting Kundalini yoga exercises, mantras, and meditations to bring you a place of wholeness. It is a fun and flowing class for all levels.”

If you’re new to yoga: “I was a person who was initially introduced to yoga at a gym and was scared to attend a ‘yoga studio,’ and I think about that every time I talk to a potential new student or someone
not sure if yoga is for them. We offer a $5 introductory class for all new students and at least two donation-based ‘community’ classes per month, which are all great opportunities to try a yoga class.”


Open: 7 days a week
Class Stats: 25 weekly classes; workshops, special events, and off-site classes also offered
Instructors: 19
Price Range: New Student/Introductory Class: $5, Drop-In: $13, Student: $9


Dr. Lina Thakar of the Ayurveda Wellness Center & Holistic Spa says that the Ayurvedic lifestyle is a “journey for self healing.” The center offers monthly classes for learning about the ancient practice. “This Ayurvedic lifestyle is a profound, time-tested, and natural science that promotes health, wellness, and longevity. It is ancient wisdom in modern times.”


Moonglow Yoga owner Melanie Alexander began her yoga practice in the early 90s, but it wasn’t until early 2000 that she tried heated vinyasa yoga, and “I found my true practice.” After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, while being treated with chemotherapy and radiation, Alexander studied and earned her yoga teacher certification. To this day, the practice is integral to her life and health. “I love teaching yoga and the feedback I get from my students. It is great how yoga can help people with all sorts of physical and mental challenges.”

What the studio offers: “Heated Vinyasa Flow. The room is approximately 95 degrees. The class is set to soft music. Our style is vinyasa flow, breath techniques (pranayama), linking breath with movement, with an emphasis on posture
and alignment.”

What’s new: “In early 2012, we will be opening our second location in the Strip District. Moonglow Yoga will be celebrating the new opening with celebrations at both locations.”

If you’re new to yoga: “There are many different styles and types of yoga. Do your research, and try a variety of different classes to see what you like best. Some classes are more gentle, others are more challenging.”


Class Stats: Greensburg: 23 weekly classes, with start times ranging from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. / Pittsburgh: 24 weekly classes, with start times ranging from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Instructors: 12
Price Range: Drop-In: $12-$14, 10 Class Pass: $100, 20 Class Pass: $145


After giving birth to her second child, Kate Olson was inspired by other mothers in the community to find a space for yoga that served them and their time constraints. She now runs K. Olson Yoga, teaching classes throughout the South Hills and at The Spa in the Hollow in Peters Township. Twice weekly, from 9:30-10:45 a.m., she holds a class that is “attended by many moms who drop kids off at preschool, come for yoga, and have plenty of time to make it back to pick up their kids.”

What the studio offers: “A variety of flow classes, inspired by many different kinds of yoga including Anusara, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, and Restorative.”

Signature class: “Restorative Yoga, the first Monday of every month from 5:30-6:45 p.m. The class uses lots of props, including bolsters, blankets, and blocks to create positions in the body, which create deep states of relaxation and health. Class is held in a warm, dark room by candlelight.“ Appropriate for all ages.

If you’re new to yoga: “People always say to me, ‘I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible. I’m too Type A.’ My answer is always, how are you ever going to learn to relax or become un-stiff? In yoga, we invite you to come as you are. You can spend all your time thinking and planning for the future. But what is real is what’s happening now. Right now. And right now is the time to start. The yoga community is very supportive, accepting, and inspiring. And we also have a lot of fun, too.”


Styles offered: All Levels, Yoga Basics, Restorative
Class stats: Weekly class held at The Spa in the Hollow Fitness Center, 3075 Washington Road, McMurray. spainthehollow.net.
Price Range: Drop-In: $15, Private Instruction: $50 per hour


Manouso Manos, a senior teacher of the BKS Iyengar yoga tradition, and Judith Hanson Lasater, an internationally renowned relax and renew yoga teacher, are the experts who helped Sterling Yoga owner Sterling Painton transition her practice from hatha yoga to the Iyengar-inspired practice. On a daily basis at her studio, “I am motivated by my students’ desires for body awareness and alignments in order to improve their quality of life.”

Iyengar yoga is: Directed at aligning the body and incorporates blocks, straps, and other props to accomplish these changes. “We specialize in teaching to the specific needs of our students in the hopes of developing alignment, body awareness, and a personal practice.”

What the studio offers: “One of our special classes is restorative. Stress is a part of our lives in this day and age so it is nice to have a place to rest.”

If you’re new to yoga: “It does not matter where your body or state of mind are right now because taking a yoga class will help you become present and relaxed.”


Class Stats: 22 weekly classes, including belly dance classes
Instructors: 7
Price Range: Drop-In: $15, Monthly Unlimited: $85, Private Instruction: $65/hour


Pratique Therapeutic Yoga director Lilith Bailey-Kroll began an Iyengar yoga practice in her teens as a means of addressing the physical effects of scoliosis. With an emphasis on Yoga Therapy, Bailey-Kroll specializes in spinal issues and helps clients with chronic to acute physical ailments.

What the studio offers: One-on-one sessions. “Sessions are 50 minutes in length, during which the client is assessed and a yoga sequence for home practice is developed. Clients are encouraged to attend sessions on a weekly or bi-monthly schedule.”

The studio specializes in: Yoga Therapy. “These sessions are for clients that have existing injuries or issues and are looking to use yoga as part of a wellness program. The modification of poses with props (i.e straps or blocks) stimulates blood flow, support flexibility, and/or compensates for injuries. There is also an emphasis on standing
poses to develop strength, stability, and concentration.”

If you’re new to yoga: “Individual instruction is the perfect setting to address your goals and needs. Consider individual instruction when just getting started with yoga, have concerns about previous injuries,
are recovering from illness, or seek to overcome plateaus in your existing practice.”


Schedule: By appointment, at the studio or by house call
Register: Online or by phone
Price Range: Wellness/Yoga Therapy Session: $125, Six Session Package: $585, House Call: $310


The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh is a holistic center for fitness and wellness, offering a wide variety of yoga styles. Patti Sciulli, JCC Director of Group Exercise and Wellness, and teacher of Group Centergy, has the details on the JCC’s yoga offerings.

What is offered: “Power Yoga, Beginning Yoga, Yogalates (yoga and Pilates with weights), YogaTone, Group Centergy, and one-on-one Yoga Therapy, as well as many classes that reflect the teachers’ and participants’ unique interests. The JCC also offers yoga classes for older adults through its SilverSneakers program.”

Specialty classes: “The JCC in Squirrel Hill is the only fitness facility in the Pittsburgh area to offer BTS Group Centergy, a 60-minute journey of Yoga and Pilates movements with uplifting music and supportive instructors. It is truly for everyone, from new exercisers to fitness enthusiasts. The nature of the program makes it easy for everyone to achieve success, master techniques over time, and return for more.”

If you’re new to yoga: “Yoga, which helps you find strength, flexibility, and peacefulness, is taught and experienced in many ways. We encourage you to try classes and find a style that works for you.”


Price Range: Varies based on membership, class type, and location
Upcoming Event: January 25: Group Centergy Winter Launch, JCC Squirrel Hill


Schoolhouse Yoga is comprised of five locations, offering a variety of yoga styles. Owner Leta Koontz opened Schoolhouse Yoga in 2002 “because I was inspired to share my love of yoga with other people. There’s a saying in yoga: to heal the world, we must first heal ourselves. Yoga is the most effective way to heal ourselves, both physically and psychologically. Over time, yoga transforms us, we become more thoughtful and compassionate and are naturally inspired to be of benefit to other living beings.”

What the studio offers: “Ashtanga Yoga is a vigorous style of yoga that is taught in Mysore, India. It’s the ancient style of yoga upon which modern ‘flow yoga’ is based. Kundalini Yoga is an ancient and esoteric style of yoga that focuses on asana (physical postures) combined with mudra (hand positioning) and mantra (sounds) that helps to raise the Kundalini energy through the chakras of the body.”

The studio specializes in: “A range of classes, so that everyone, whether young or old, flexible or stiff, can take a class and benefit from the practice of yoga. Our classes include: Gentle Yoga, Beginner-level Yoga, Intermediate-level Yoga classes, Prenatal Yoga classes, and Yoga for Kids.”

If you’re new to yoga: “Try a Gentle Yoga class. Our instructors are knowledgeable working with students with a range of abilities and make sure everyone feels welcome and is practicing safely and effectively. These classes offer a thoughtful introduction to the practice.”


Open: 7 days a week
Class Stats: Varies by location, with start times ranging from 6:30 a.m. to 6:35 p.m.
Instructors: 18
Price Range: One Class Pass: $15, Twelve Class Pass: $100
Upcoming Event: January 22: Yoga for Menopause Workshop, Schoolhouse Yoga: Strip District


Before starting FitWell Studios, Linda Dishart was working a challenging corporate job, which left her feeling unbalanced. “During this time in my life, I was missing out on quality time with my family. I became very unhealthy despite my commitment to being physically fit.” She began a journey of self-exploration, which led her to yoga. “Being a teacher and practitioner of yoga, it is so wonderful to help people find their inner strengths and truer selves.”

The studio offers: “Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Restorative, and private yoga training, tailored specifically to the individual and their goals. The majority of our group classes are offered at community centers, local schools, and community-focused nonprofit organizations.”

What’s new: “Prenatal yoga series at our studio, Thursdays at 6 p.m. We are so happy to create a safe and nurturing environment for expectant moms. The mindful movement and meditative breathing prepares each new mother for the physical and nurturing aspects of labor, birth, and ultimately, motherhood.”

If you’re new to yoga: “We believe yoga is for everyone. We offer a nurturing and safe environment to practice without judgment and encourage everyone to honor where they are in their practice. Yoga is a journey rather than a destination. The unknown may be scary. By having an open heart and mind to yoga, you will amaze yourself.”


Class Stats: Weekly classes held at Ross Community, North Hills High School, Northway Mall, Pine Richland Youth Center; private training offered at FitWell Studios
Price Range: Drop-In: $10-$35, Private Instruction: $55-$75/hour
Upcoming Events: January 7: Mindful Eating Workshop / January 28: Energy Healing Workshop


The joining of mind, spirit, and body through yoga is what most attracted Yoga Innovations owner Dana Barone to the practice 23 years ago. Today, she encourages students to focus on physical and inner strength. “My wish is to assist you in experiencing the same peace, strength, and stillness in your lives that I am working toward in my own, one breath at a time,” she says.

The studio offers: Heated Power Vinyasa Flow yoga. “Our goal is for our instructors to teach a safe, inspired class within the traditions of our practice. It is also our wish that your experience is new and innovative each time you walk through the door.” A special five-dollar cash Friday class is offered as a means of making the studio more accessible to a wide-range of yogis.

What’s new: Workshops are planned for 2012, including partner yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and teen yoga.

If you’re new to yoga: “I find that most people benefit from some type of yoga practice in their life. Some part of the practice will resonate with each yogi.”


Classes: 15 weekly classes offered with start times ranging from 6:15 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Styles offered: Basic, Foundations, Power Flow, and Power Hour; pilates mat classes and private sessions also offered
Price Range: Drop In: $14, One Month Unlimited: $90,
Instructors: 7


Take a class at any local yoga studio and you’re sure to see plenty of students decked out in Lululemon Atheltica gear. With a new store on Walnut Street in Shadyside, we’re ready to shop for all things fun and functional. Not only that, but Lululemon offers in-store classes, led by ambassadors LA Finfinger and Darcy Lyle. Check out the class schedule (and information on the local running club), and scour the racks a few our favorite pieces of workout gear.

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