When it comes to fitness, the preferences are endless. There are countless workout activities to choose from such as Zumba, HIIT training, cycle classes, cardio conditioning, and more. Another form of fitness that you may want to consider is yoga. Over the years, yoga has gotten more popular in South Georgia than it was two decades ago. Everyday people are gaining interest and making yoga a part of their daily routine.
Michelle Sutherland, owner of Sutherland Yoga Studio, says that yoga was not as popular in Valdosta when she first moved here from Canada, nearly 20 years ago. That was one of her major influences of opening her own yoga studio so she could help build a community.
“While you could find a couple people that were teaching yoga in Valdosta, it was very much like a business after hours, and you really had to search it out,” said Sutherland. “That’s when I decided to get certified because I really wanted classes and a yoga community. I had to build it because it wasn’t really here.”
It’s been 10 years since Sutherland Yoga Studio was founded, and the community has been thriving ever since. The studio consists of a variety of yoga instructors with classes for all ages to enjoy. Sutherland and her husband are also physical therapists, with her specializing in pediatrics and him specializing in orthopedics.
Fun fact: The physical therapy business and yoga studio are all within the same building.
“Owning your own business gives you the freedom to run it the way you think it should run, and do your job the way you think it should be done,” said Sutherland. “That’s how we ended up owning our own business.”
While she’s been a physical therapist for 20 years, Sutherland’s first love was yoga, along with health and fitness. She’s been a yoga instructor for the past 14 years. Her love for it began when she was 15-years-old, living in Toronto. She started taking classes and kept up with her skills no matter where she lived. Once she was certified, she taught fitness classes to help pay for her physical therapy classes.
Some may wonder about the fitness and health benefits of practicing yoga, but rest assured, there are quite a few. Sutherland says that while you certainly gain strength and flexibility, there’s also a mental component you receive during sessions. She says breathing exercises can even help with every day life situations that may cause stress.
“You really can develop coping mechanisms that follow you for the rest of your life,” said Sutherland. “What you do on your mat ends up affecting everything else. You learn to breathe deeper, [and] you learn to maybe take a minute before you react to something. That’s the component that is different from taking an aerobics class.”
Sutherland also says that when people come in and try yoga for the first time, they are shocked to learn the amount of strength it takes and how difficult it can be. The muscles holding the positions require strength, no matter the stage of the class.
As mentioned earlier, Valdosta’s yoga footprint was not as popular back then as it is now. As yoga becomes more popular, so do the myths that may try to influence people not to participate. Sutherland says one yoga myth is that some have this idea that yoga is a religious activity. She says it is not. She explained that yoga was originally based in India and though there are Hindu and Buddhism elements to its history, western yoga is “pretty far removed” from that.
“A lot of people come in and are worried that we’re going to be preaching something, which we absolutely do not,” said Sutherland. “Anybody can practice it, and nobody is bending it in a certain direction. This is all about your personal direction.”
How about those that are into more muscle training? Sutherland says that yoga is a great cross training for those who enjoy any type of fitness. If you’re using the same muscles for lifting weights, practicing yoga helps with flexibility. Believe it or not, yoga can also be linked to weight loss. Yoga can help reduce your cortisol levels, – a stress hormone that hangs on to belly fat.
Sutherland Yoga has classes all throughout the day, and they are open seven days a week. They have 10 certified yoga instructors with over 200 credit hours that can help you along your journey. All of the classes are an hour long with a variety of styles such as, yen, hot, and flow yoga. The class size varies but on an average, the studio sees about 25 clients a day.
“It’s actually kind of nice because in bigger cities, there might be 30 people in a class, but here you’re going to get a lot of attention because our biggest class might be 14 or 15 people.”
When it comes to yoga remember: Yoga equals mental aspects and stress reduction. Not only will you become more flexible, you’ll also be a lot calmer.
For more information on Sutherland Yoga Studio, visit here.
Written by Tyrah Walker