(cover photo via Flickr/Eli Christman)

New Year, New You - right? Starting a yoga regimen is one of the top ways Cape Ann residents can improve both body and mind. Not only are there great choices for yoga studios for all levels and price points here in Gloucester, but there’s also mountains of evidence that proves yoga can enhance your life - so why not give it a try? Here are five great reasons to choose yoga to better your mind, body, and soul in 2016, courtesy of the Yoga Health Foundation.

  1. It relieves stress! Yoga has been shown to reduce the physical effects of stress on the body.  By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Related benefits of lowered stress and cortisol levels include lower blood pressure and heart rate, improved digestion and in some cases, boosted immune systems.                                                                                 
  2. It improves your flexibility. Yoga is known to improve both flexibility and mobility by increasing your range of movement. Many people who begin a yoga regimen can’t touch their toes during their first class, but gradually they begin to use the correct muscles. Over time, your ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity, which makes attaining more poses possible. Yoga can also help improve and maintain body alignment, which means better posture -  and better posture leads to less back, neck, joint and muscle problems.                                                                                          
  3. It can help you lose weight.  Even the lightest and easiest of yoga classes can aid your weight control efforts by reducing the cortisol levels as well as by burning excess calories and reducing stress. Since yoga is more than just a fitness class or run on a treadmill, it can encourage healthy eating habits, and at the same time provides a heightened sense of well-being and self-esteem.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  4. Improved breathing and circulation. Yoga trains you to take slower, deeper breaths. This helps improve your lung function, trigger your body’s relaxation response, and  increases the amount of oxygen available to the body. The same goes for your circulatory system - : yoga improves circulation and, as a result of various poses, more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body’s cells.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  5. Better focus, more inner peace! One of yoga’s main goals is to help focus on the present, to spur you to become more aware, and to create mind body health. A yoga regimen can lead to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time and memory. The meditative aspects of yoga help many people reach a deeper, more spiritual and more satisfying place in their lives - sometimes by accident! Some yoga fanatics who began to practice for physical reasons have reported this to be a top reason that yoga has become an essential part of their lifestyle.

(photo via Flickr/user Teakwood)

So where on Cape Ann can you find a yoga studio that meets your needs? You’re in luck - there are a handful of great yoga studios on the island that offer many levels and styles of instruction.

For instance, if you’re near Rockport, there’s a few yoga studios close to you - starting with 222 Arts & Wellness, a large center that includes not only yoga, but also other wellness offerings such as massage healing, coaching, nutrition consulting, and more.

Classes are taught in their yoga room, which boasts a  radiant-heated cork floor, and is surrounded by sunny windows with lush views of flora and frequent visits of birds, rabbits, and deer. Can you think of a better place to relax your mind?

222 Arts & Wellness schedules classes at many levels of experience, including Relax & Lengthen Yoga™ Classes, a system of self-care created by Margi Green, CNMT, These classes include gentle, conscious stretching, self-massage, and postural and ergonomic instruction. Class schedules and sign up information can be found on their website.

Next door, at the brand new Commons building located at 214 Eastern Ave, is the newer Trident Yoga studio. According to their website, they run smaller classes, which allows them to focus on providing personalized care, individual attention and inspiration.  Not only do they offer 1.5 hour classes for $15, but they have a 10-class punch card for $120.

In addition to their yoga classes, Trident also holds monthly workshops - January’s, for instance, is about improving your digestive health, microbiomes, and immunity and how they all fit together.

If you’re in the Lanesville area, try Yoga for Health, located at 62 High Street, with instructor Janet Green Garrison. She works out of a home studio, offering 5 classes per week, with small classes of no more than 9 students. Each class is carefully instructed, and each student is encouraged to take time to truly feel what they are experiencing in each posture, each breath, each thought.

Classes are appropriate for beginners as well as more experienced students. Janet can provide modifications and variations in each posture that make the practice unique to each student. Janet also hosts  Yoga For Health " on Cape Ann Cable Access Television, Channel 12, Thursdays, 8:30 to 9:00 pm.

Want a more centrally located studio? There are several options in downtown Gloucester.

Treetop Yoga is located on Parker Street near the State Fish Pier. According to their website, their class schedule “features an eclectic combination of instructors with very different training and teaching styles in order to best meet the needs of our diverse community. We recognize that every body is different, and that different types of yoga are appropriate for different people, based on physical condition, injuries or limitations, and body constitution. Most of our classes are mixed levels and our instructors are experienced in teaching all levels of students, safely guiding them through their yoga journeys while providing them with the opportunity to grow. Whether you are looking for a workout, stress alleviation, pain relief, or a deeper exploration of self, our teachers are here to guide you safely to your goal.”

Treetop Yoga offers drop-in or monthly rates, and a specially discounted $5 all-levels Vinyasa Class that is taught by a new instructor or an instructor-in-training at certain times and dates - perfect for those on a budget!

At Brown's Mall on the corner of Main and Pleasant streets downtown, are the Cape Ann Power Yogastudios, which just had a grand opening this past September. Not only do they hold workshops and events like movie nights and special training sessions, but . They also offer a unique and easy price structure: all classes are $10 all the time (though they do have special unlimited packages if you're a yogaholic)! You can sign up to their drop-in classes via the web or your mobile phone, making yoga easy. These classes are heated, so make sure you're prepared to sweat! 

Elsewhere on Main Street, there two yoga studios in one! 114 Main Street is Harbor Yoga, which according to their website, is a“community center for the practice and study of Yoga and Meditation sustained by principles of care and student growth.” Harbor Yoga describes its studio as a “refuge amidst the pace and pressure of modern life.” Harbor Yoga provides classes, workshops, training, and private instruction.  Like most studios, all experience levels are welcome, and drop-in classes are $15.

(picture via Yoga Joy website)

Yoga Joy teaches Forrest Yoga - also known as “hot yoga” - classes that take place in a heated room within the Harbor Yoga studios. The heat in the room ranges in intensity by the level of class being taught. More advanced classes have the hottest heat, but never more than 95 degrees. Forrest Yoga also challenges you to “stay in poses for longer periods of time so that you can learn to develop resources inside of yourself to breath through pain, emotional, spiritual, and physical. A constant theme in Forrest yoga classes is to breathe in a way which feels healing and true for you.”

With all these local studios to choose from, and so many reasons yoga is good for you, what’s your excuse not to give it a try?