Yoga with a twist

Wrapping up 90 minutes of body-bending, pulse-pounding yoga with a glass of cabernet might not appeal to everyone.

But for a growing number of students who practice in a snug neighborhood studio named taraNa at 38th Street & Grand Avenue, a yoga session capped with adult beverages and a little conversation has become a monthly ritual.

"I come for the sweat and stay for the wine," said Powderhorn resident Liz Otremba, 41, who frequents the studio owned by Kingfielders Jeffrey Bores and Michael Hawkins.

Since taraNa opened in June of 2006, Bores and Hawkins have offered a "Happy Hour Yoga" class on the first Friday of every month. It works like this: students pay a $14 drop-in fee, take part in an hour and a half of intense Vinyasa — a flowing yoga style focused on connecting movement and breath — and end the session with a social gathering that includes healthy hors d’oeuvres and adult beverages.

Roughly 40 participants packed the studio for the January class, their mats separated by about a foot. That’s been the norm lately, said Bores, who contends Happy Hour Yoga’s popularity has to do with more than alcohol.

"What sets [taraNa] apart is really that sense of community and part of that is having these Friday night gatherings where people can stick around and actually know what’s going on with people and get to know one another," Bores said. "Oftentimes people are so busy in their lives that they run in and want to sit down on their mat and immediately leave afterwards, and while that can be what people need at that particular time, I think that there’s a thirst for people to actually have connections with other people."

Bores, 44, and Hawkins, 42, live within walking distance of the studio, a seven-days-a-week business they run in their spare time. Hawkins works for Target when he’s not at taraNa and Bores is an attorney. But time management has never been a problem, they said, because the yoga business is all fun.

The studio draws students of all ages and skill levels from all over the Twin Cities. More than 500 people a month attend sessions at taraNa.

"It’s funny how busyness doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing," said Bores, a longtime yoga instructor. "This has been such a wonderful way for me to share my energy in a way that’s helpful to other people."

He leads the happy hour class and several others during the week. Other instructors lead classes when he isn’t in.

Bores taught for years at various studios throughout the metro until the Kingfield space became available and he and Hawkins seized the opportunity to start something of their own.

The name taraNa means "to cross to the furthest shore," Bores said and some of the studio’s décor is clearly symbolic of that meaning. Three huge oars from 19th century India hang against a back wall and pictures of water adorn the sidewalls. Flowers float in water-filled pots in the front of the studio.

Other items impossible to overlook include a massive, decorative door from a 19th century temple in southern India, an alter table from northern China and bronze deities such as Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu God of success.

It’s a serious yoga studio and it attracts some serious students, such as Otremba, who has been practicing yoga for 13 years and had no trouble holding the hardest of positions, including a long-lasting headstand, on happy hour night.

Happy Hour Yoga is one of the more challenging Vinyasa sessions, Bores said, but it’s open to anyone and students of all skill levels participate.

Ann Davenport, 31, said she initially went to taraNa for the happy hour, having never done yoga before. She comes back for the workout regularly with friend Amy O’Loughlin, 32, who hosts dinner parties at her Kingfield home after happy-hour classes.

"I’m glad they opened in the neighborhood," said O’Loughlin, who used to take part in yoga classes in St. Paul.

Eric Aye, 44, of West Calhoun, said he’s been doing yoga for about four years and enjoys the social atmosphere during happy hour nights at taraNa.

"Exercise is really dull most of the time," he said. "So if you go to happy hour yoga, you get a work out and you get to talk to people at the same time."

Lynnhurst resident Steve Carnicom, 45, said Happy Hour Yoga is a great stress reliever.

"Friday nights, it’s a nice way to end the week and kind of start relaxing for the weekend," he said.

Bores and Hawkins often host theme happy hour nights such as "margarita asana" or "scotch and soda asana." Asana is a yoga term referring to posture.

Bores said they don’t need a liquor license because the drinks are free. "It’s just like any other business that holds receptions for clientele," he said.

The studio also provides plenty of water for students, who definitely seemed to need it after the January class.

The next Happy Hour Yoga will be Feb. 1 at 6 p.m.

FYI
What:
Happy Hour Yoga, a Vinyasa yoga class followed with adult beverages, snacks and socializing.

Where: taraNa, a yoga studio at 3757 Grand Ave. S.

When:
first Friday of every month (next class, Feb. 1)

Cost: $14

Contact: 822-2646 or www.taranayoga.com

Read Sarah McKenzie’s first-person account of doing the "happy baby" pose.