I’ve been a beginning yoga student off and on for almost 30 years and meditation has helped me relax, clear my racing mind (and fall asleep!) for at least 10 of those. Bellingham and Whatcom County are so fortunate to have a number of options to practice yoga and meditation. It’s become hugely popular among Americans–statistics say approximately 15% of us have done yoga in the past 6 months.
Perhaps that’s because the benefits for both body and mind are vast. For me, yoga has helped with flexibility, strength and balance. My tensions melt away when I practice yoga and meditation, lessening my neck, back, shoulder and wrist pains that show up when I work too much or don’t exercise enough. The breath also improves my circulation. In general yoga and meditation can increase energy, support a healthy metabolism, strengthen the heart and circulatory system and protect against injury. Many also notice weight loss and improve athleticism.
One thing I’ve also always loved about yoga and meditation is that almost anyone can do it. You don’t have to already be fit to start, and afterward, I always feel revitalized and alert, as if I’ve had a nap, but without feeling groggy.
For some, yoga and meditation are for fitness while others approach it as a deep spiritual practice. Regardless of your own personal reasons, you’ll find the right fit among these lists of some of Bellingham and Whatcom County’s many yoga and meditation options. Each is located in beautiful downtown Bellingham unless otherwise noted. I hope it will inspire you to get out there and practice.
Every yoga studio is different. There are differing philosophies and a range of approaches. Some are more fitness focused while others are based on traditional practices, following a particular yogi. Before looking for a class or studio, think about what you are hoping to gain from the experience. That will guide you as you do a little research on each studio to find the one that could be the best fit. All of the studios seem to welcome students of any age, size, fitness level and flexibility. But read class descriptions carefully before committing to make sure you will find one that best fits where you are right now.
Of course, there are many more studios than I could include here and I haven’t yet been able to try them all. I’ve listed them here in alphabetical order. If I’ve left your favorite out, my sincere apologies.
If you’re new to yoga, you might not know what an om is. It is a a mystic syllable that is chanted. It is considered the most sacred mantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. Om is the sound that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of a yoga session. Anyone can do it. As a mantra it is said to have spiritual and creative power. It is a vibration that we send through our body from the pit of our stomach and into the chest.
3 OMS uses the practice of yoga for physical well-being, mindfulness and connection. Located at 1319 Cornwall Ave, in downtown Bellingham, they offer over 40 classes and are open every day of the week. They have at least 10 instructors, including my friend Trina Stiles. They offer 11 different types of classes including the standards, plus Mindful Alignment, 90 degree hot yoga, a Yin class that holds poses longer and deeper (3-6 minutes) and a community class by donation that funds yoga for under-served communities. They also offer workshops like Yoga for Men and Partner Yoga. Retreats and private sessions are also an option.
Located at 1317 Commercial St. #203, in downtown Bellingham, 8 Petals Yoga studio has seven instructors that offer a variety of classes. I know Elizabeth Deboo who is also a physical therapist and certified meditation instructor. She specializes in meditation and awareness coaching and offers a weekly class on Thursday mornings called Mindful Meditation.
In addition to beginning, intermediate and stress reducing yoga classes, at 8 Petals you can also try Ving Tsun (Wing Chun), a martial art used for self-defense that focuses on self-awareness, confidence, mindfulness and tolerance.
Bellingham Yoga School is the parent school for Ashtanga Yoga, so all classes are offered at their Cornwall Avenue location. The Ashtanga style is based on the lineage and teachings of T. Krishnamacharya, Sri K Pattabhi Jois and David Garrigues. Ashtanga Yoga is a non-theistic method of yoga and includes an eight-limbed (ashtau=eight, anga=limbs) process of lifestyle choices (yamas, niyamas), physical posture (asana), breathing practices (pranayama), sense withdrawal (pratyahara) and evolved states of consciousness (dharana, dhyana, samadhi) that unite a practitioners physical existence as a human with the self (atman). Thus, the method was designed to free human beings from the inherent suffering caused by ignorance (avidya) of the true nature of reality. Read more about the Ashtanga philosophy and how it came to Washington State.
In honor of this deep tradition, in classes, all postures are given in Sanskrit. Postures are practiced by students according to their ability level, often independently in a “Mysore” class. Their approach relies heavily upon daily practice with one teacher (parampara), and a flowing system of dynamic asana postures done in a systematic process that connects breath with movement (vinyasa).
The great thing about this studio is that it works to stay inclusive by offering a sliding scale of payment. Their website says, “Flat Broke? Come to class and we’ll have you clean the floors and bathrooms.” I so respect their willingness to make it available to everyone.
Barre3 is a national business with locations across the country. The Bellingham exercise studio is located at 2210 Rimland Dr., #105 in Barkley Village. Rather than traditional yoga, barre3 combines elements of yoga, Pilates and ballet barre to create an energizing fitness workout that will make you feel strong and balanced. Their 3-step approach to each posture combines first holding the posture for alignment and strength, focusing on the breath. That is followed by making small range 1-inch movements in focus areas, warming the body and building additional strength. Step 3 incorporates large range movements that get the heart pumping, building balance and moving oxygen throughout your body. Overall, their focus is on building lean muscles, a strong core, and long-term postural benefits.
Barre3 makes it easy on busy families by offering a Play Lounge Package that allows you to bring your kids along. While you are in class, you’ll know they are safe and entertained so you can focus on your work out.
Located at 1308 Meador Ave #C3 in Haskell Business Center on Meador Avenue, Elements Hot Yoga prides itself on its “No B.S. approach.” Twelve instructors present classes throughout the week. They even offer a few classes that are not heated. I’ve not yet tried hot yoga, but many of my friends have and they love that it makes your body limber and stretch more deeply. They also feel like they get more of a workout.
Classes are in 3 styles: Power Vinyasa (powerful/energetic), Hatha (sequence that strengthens the spine and flexibility) and Yin (slower and relaxing).
Because its hot, Elements has some tips to help you feel prepared.
Located 18 miles east of Bellingham in Wickersham, Goat Boat Farm offers goat yoga one to two weekday evenings a week, Saturdays, and Sundays starting in mid-June (start date is determined by kidding dates). Classes are held outside surrounded by forest and grazing sheep. Their yoga season lasts for only two short months, during the best pacific northwest summer weather. The goats are young, snuggly, playful and extra adorable.
Classes are taught by Stormie, a local organic farmer, Yogini and Reiki practitioner. Classes focus on creating a fun and relaxing experience for both humans and goats. Classes are accessible to all levels and abilities, and mats are included. Class size is small, 10-15 people, ensuring everyone gets some one-on-one time with the kids.
Saturday and Sunday sessions are considered lunch sessions that last approximately 3 hours and include an introduction to the goats and the flower farm, an hour of yoga with the babies, time after yoga to kid around with the goats, a flower crown to wear, iced tea service, a delicious, locally grown lunch and a flower bouquet to take home.
They also offer private sessions for groups. You can book a birthday party, business retreat, or a bachelorette party. The Bellingham Herald covered it and got a little video to give you an idea.
Located at 1140 10th St. #101, inside the South Bay Suites building across from the Village Green in Fairhaven, Flux Power Yoga offers both hot yoga (90-95°) and an unheated yin-style practice called Melt. Their approach is based on the powerful Baptiste Yoga Methodology, designed to empower focus, training and insight to achieve consistent results. Their Power Shred class combines hot Power Yoga with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) fires up your metabolism, tones muscles and improves cardio health.
Try any one of their six instructors to find the right fit for you. I’ve taken classes in the past from owner Melissa Longfellow. She always did a great job of incorporating strength, balance, breath and mindfulness in every class.
This is not your typical yoga class, but I wanted to include it because their exercise system incorporates yoga, ballet and tai chi. Specifically, the Gyrotonic system was first developed in New York dance community and since expanded across the country. Gyro means circular and tonic means strength. The system incorporates three dimensional circular movements with focused breathing, teaching the body to move with fluidity and power. It is supposed to be excellent for strengthening your full range of motion in each joint while building strength, flexibility and coordination.
Instructor Adrienne Wrightson was classically trained in ballet so if you have any history with dance (or want to head that direction), this may be a good fit for you. You’ll receive one-on-one instruction during your private lesson.
I bet this would be good for improving my shoulder problems and keeping my joints healthy long-term. Inside Out Studio is located at 103 East Holly St., #405 in downtown Bellingham.
Ruby Koa of Kokoro Yoga teaches a number of classes at Inspire Studio at 1411 Cornwall Ave. #201 in downtown Bellingham. In addition to Vinyasa Flow and Gentle Flow, she also offers Kundalini Yoga. I hadn’t heard of this type before. An uplifting blend of spiritual and physical practices, Kundalini Yoga is based in the Hindu tradition and incorporates movement, dynamic breathing techniques, meditation, and the chanting of mantras.
Ruby and her husband Zeck rent out Inspire Studio to a number of other independent yoga, energy and other instructors so don’t be surprised to discover that several hold their classes at this beautiful location in downtown Bellingham. I recently took a class in aerial yoga with Sienna Marie’s Heather McAbee there. Its high ceilings, soft light and spacious second floor studio was perfect for yoga and meditation.
Located at 1602 Carolina Street, suite D12, this beautiful 900 square foot studio is home to five instructors with varying specialties. The Metta Center is Whatcom County’s first Yoga and Healing Arts Center dedicated to Yoga Therapy and Gentle Yoga. You can catch at least one class per day on weekdays. The rest of the time, the instructors offer therapy by appointment including Thai Bodywork, Structural Integration, Bowenwork, Scar Tissue Treatment, Massage Therapy and QiGong.
I had the pleasure of trying an aerial yoga class with Sienna Marie owner and instructor Heather McAbee just a few weeks ago at Inspire Studio (1411 Cornwall Ave, #201). Her catch phrase, come fly with me, is exactly how it feels once you get the hang of it. I encourage everyone to try this alternative to the usual floor and mat practice. I could really feel the stretch in my spine and the hammocks added a coziness and comfort to the exercise. Read my recent blog post for all the details. Then book your class so you can learn to fly too!
In addition to aerial yoga, McAbee specializes in Resonance Repatterning Therapy, a holistic approach to healing physical, emotional and sexual abuse and trauma through her business, Shifting Sands.
Located at 1440 10th Street, in the beautiful, historic Fairhaven district, Yoga Northwest offers more than 15 different Iyengar Yoga class types seven days a week with at least 12 instructors. Those include the standards as well as Early Bird Yoga for those that want to start the day fresh, and Kids Yoga for 6- to 10-year-olds and Yoga for Teens age 11 to 16. The Iyengar style “focuses on balance, strength, stamina, flexibility and relaxation, with a an emphasis on alignment, breath and awareness for health, vitality and inner peace.”
Although its been a while, I took classes in this beautiful studio with Instructors Meg and Lauron. The introductory class Dynamic I offered modifications for folks like me who have had a previous injury or surgery they want to protect. They also offer two levels of Gentle Yoga/Backcare for people with back, neck, knee or shoulder problems or if you just need a slower pace. The instructors were kind and the studio was clean and accommodating.
Although many yoga studios also offer meditation classes, here are a few places in Bellingham and Whatcom County who focus or specialize specifically in mediation.
This Center is not a yoga studio or a meditation center but I’ve included it here because it incorporates both in its holistic wellness treatments. Their focus is to help show clients the way to make lasting changes in their life that will optimize their health and wellness.
Ayurveda literally means the knowledge and wisdom of life. It is the traditional holistic healing system of India. Often called the mother of all healing, it originated over 5,000 years ago in the Indian sub-continent and is the longest continually-practiced form of medicine on the planet. The goal is to balance body, mind and spirit so that you can live in harmony with nature.
Generally they start with assessment to determine what a person most needs. That includes possible assessments of your Ayurvedic Health, Constitutional Assessment, energetic psychology, medical astrology, hypnotherapy, and space clearing (Vastu Shastra).
Ayurvedic Health Center & Wellness Shop is located at 203 Holly St, #201 in downtown Bellingham.
The Be Free Center does not fit easily into any one category of meditation or yoga, although both are offered along with several other wellness modalities. The Center is a place that encourages patrons to move inward and find their own truth, which will eventually lead to the happiness and freedom we all want.
Located at 184 Soundview Rd., off Chuckanut Drive south of Bellingham, Be Free Center offers individual sessions in Transformational Breath, massage, and healing. Or you can take group classes in Kundalini Yoga and Transformational Breath. Perhaps you’ll want to try their weekend retreats with wonderful organic food, incorporating several of their healing technologies: Transformational Breath, Yoga, meditation, and playful art.
Run by Kristine and Blake Allen, their motto is embrace the present moment, expand into peace and joy and evolve from surviving to thriving.
BIMS supports meditation and practice in the Buddhist Theravada tradition. They do not have a single guiding teacher. Rather, they are a sangha-led community. They bring in regional and national teachers, including monastics, for residential and non-residential retreats. Their weekly programs are facilitated by senior members in coordination with their Board and Program Committee.
“Insight meditation is a simple and direct practice, the moment-to-moment investigation of the mind/body process through calm and focused awareness. Learning to observe experience from a place of stillness enables one to relate to life with less fear and clinging. Seeing life as a constantly changing process, one begins to accept pleasure, pain, fear, joy and all aspects of life with increasing equanimity and balance. As insight deepens, wisdom and compassion arise. This practice is sometimes called “vipassana,” which is a Pali word for insight.”
They offer a different session every morning of the week, as well as orientation classes, retreats and evening, teen and recovery groups and programs. Red Cedar Dharma Hall is located at 1021 Forest Street in Downtown Bellingham.
Located at 2825 Meridian Street (near Haggen grocery store), the Bellingham Shambala Meditation Center is a part of Shambhala International, a worldwide community of urban and rural meditation practice and retreat centers founded by the Tibetan buddhist meditation master, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and now led by his son, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. I’ve read several books by Pema Chödrön, an early student of Chogyam Trungpa, including When Things Fall Apart and Awakening Loving Kindness.
Shambhala is a global social movement whose aim is to bring compassion, insight and sacredness to society. It draws primarily from the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Hopefully, reading about some of the excellent yoga studios and meditation centers of Bellingham and Whatcom County has inspired you to check them out. I know they’ve inspired me to take better care of myself and incorporate more fitness activities into my lifestyle this year. I encourage you to do so too. And of course, Namaste.