Health July 03, 2018
'Yoga for Everyone'
Taking to the mat in the mountains

There’s simply a yoga for everyone,” beamed Danielle Fuller, owner of Gather Yoga Studio in Ketchum. Beth Stuart, owner of IdaYOGA in Hailey similarly explained: “There is something for every personality, every type of body, every human, and every progression of life based on age, capacity, and interest. I view the different types of yoga as different flavors of ice cream and wine. We all have what we love, and sometimes we’re in the mood for something totally different.”

The practice of yoga began in India some time before 1,500 BCE. In Sanskrit, the word comes from “yuj” or “union,” referring to the union of the body, mind, and soul. Yogic scholars describe yoga to be anything from “a call to the present with full acceptance, celebration and gratitude,” to “a kind of philosophical guidebook for dealing with the challenges of being human,” to “a practice of cultivating our true joyful nature.” The practice of yoga can range from seated meditation to a heated rhythm of moving postures and even dance. When it comes down to it, anything done with joyful and full attention in the present moment could be considered “yoga.”

Lauri Bunting, a Wood River Valley instructor specializing in therapeutic yoga for injuries, explained that people usually seek out yoga classes for either the physical benefits—whether those are in helping return balance to the body after an injury, aiding with digestion issues, or getting fit—or the mental benefits, which return balance to the mind in circumstances of anxiety, depression, and stress.

Yoga class

Beth Stuart teaches a class at IdaYOGA Studio in Hailey. Photo courtesy IdaYoga / Steve Dondero

“Specific types of yoga, poses, and breath work can help with energy and moods as well,” said Bunting. “The beautiful thing about yoga is that our body, mind, heart, and even spirit are so interconnected. You can work on one thing, and it will reflect in the others.”

There is something extraordinary about the talent and variety of yoga options that have grown in the small community of the Wood River Valley. Whether calming and rejuvenating or athletic and intense, this Valley has it all.

Cathie Caccia is the true heart and foundation of yoga in the Wood River Valley. She began her yogic training in 1984 and has been sharing her extensive training in yoga, yoga therapy, Shiatsu, acupressure and massage since 1987. Her classes are known for being fun, accessible and combining an extensive knowledge of yoga, Chinese energetics and Sanskrit chanting. In addition to private instruction and workshops, Caccia currently teaches a yin and restorative yoga class at Zenergy Health Club. Yin yoga is usually synonymous with restorative yoga; both are slow paced, hold poses for longer periods of time, and commonly use bolsters and blocks to support poses. Caccia also teaches an all-levels class and intermediate/advanced class at Gather Yoga Studio, which are more alignment-based, invigorating, and commonly attended by many of the instructors in the Valley.

A Sun Valley yoga staple for those who love a challenge is Beth Stuart’s “Flow Till You Glow” class offered at Gather Yoga Studio in Ketchum and IdaYOGA Studio in Hailey. Flow, or Vinyasa, yoga classes are typically done in heated rooms and tend to be sequences in which a majority of poses are not held for extended periods of time. This is different from Bikram yoga, sometimes called hot yoga, in which the same set sequence of poses is done every class.

Stuart described her Flow Till You Glow class in the 100-degree room as “active, but open to everybody.” Her classes are renowned for their high-energy music, dripping sweat, engaging variety, and integrated themes. “Every single class I teach is different. When students don’t know what to expect, everyone has to be really present and pay attention. This keeps you in the present moment, which is a huge reason we go to yoga.”

Stuart’s “Flow Till You Glow” can be thought of as a sort of moving meditation that opens up yoga to people who can’t typically sit still. “Sometimes, we need to be able to work first, and move through the physical and mental obstacles and then we’re able to receive the nourishment from that meditation space of thoughtless breath,” she said. “There are classes where I purposefully make it really hard. Challenge is a part of life. It’s inevitable, and sometimes I’ll teach so hard to where students will have to make that choice that ‘this is ok for me to not do it all,’ or, on the flip side, take mind over matter. We’re physically designed to perform, and when you talk about practice and training, it’s not just physical, it’s extremely mental as well. When we leave, we simply remember that ‘We can.’ It doesn’t matter what. It really becomes a way of life is how I view it.”

Most classes at Stuart’s studio, IdaYOGA in Hailey, including “Flow Till You Glow,” have the unique and appreciated option of childcare in a playroom at the front of the studio.

Richard Odom is another esteemed Valley local yoga teacher. His classes are known for being accessible to all ages and to individuals who may not initially consider themselves as a good fit for yoga. Many praise Odom’s classes at the YMCA as feeling comfortable and safe, mindful of injuries and age, and leaving you with more energy, physical balance and mental balance.

Goat yoga.

Goat yoga. Photo by Brian Snyder / Adobe Stock / REUTERS

In addition, all yoga studios in Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue offer a range of specialized classes. Gather offers a kids yoga series with Marney Sullivan. Lauri Bunting, a lifelong athlete who has been on “the journey” of moving through a hamstring injury and double-hip replacement, has incorporated the lessons of her personal experience into yoga that cultivates overcoming the mental and physical hurdles of injury. Bunting teaches Therapeutic Flow, Restorative Yoga with Guided Meditation, and Back Care Yoga.

Sandi Hagel, a licensed acupuncturist, teaches both a Therapeutic Yoga class that uses props such as tennis balls to create muscle release, and a fun Power Flow at Gather. Tener Rogers, known for her smile, laughter and “lightness” in class, brings a background of exercise science, fitness instructor and personal trainer to her yoga classes. Rogers spends time between the Wood River Valley, Mexico, and Costa Rica and hosts a Costa Rica Yoga Surf Retreat.

The yoga offerings in the Wood River Valley are unique and wide ranging. Studio classes, private classes, workshops, teacher trainings, and retreats abound, and there really is something for everybody and every body. Really, it’s no surprise that a hot spot for cultivating body, mind, heart and spirit grew out of this community nestled in three mountain ranges, high elevation views, and fresh air.

This article appears in the Summer 2018 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.