The colder months in North Idaho can drag on, but having a healthy routine is one way to help combat the winter blues.
While visiting the traditional gym might not be for everyone, there are several local studios that offer classes and community to keep one’s body and mind active.
Garden Street School of Yoga in Coeur d’Alene offers classes seven days a week. Yoga instructor Jenifer Harbour said the studio has been running for about 20 years.
“The benefits of coming to this studio are you have experienced teachers who understand the needs of beginning students and the needs of experienced students, which you don’t always get at the gym,” Harbour said. “We look at the individual person and how yoga could benefit them either mentally, spiritually or physically.”
Harbour has been teaching yoga for 15 years and also teaches at North Idaho College and Hayden Lake Country Club.
She said yoga is great to do year round, but specifically in winter it allows one to become stronger for skiing, snowshoeing and other outdoor activities.
Yoga works on flexibility, mobility, strength, balance, and many other things that are incorporated into winter sports. A yoga routine can prepare skiers and snowboarders for hitting runs, and keep people in shape over the winter so they’re ready to jump into summer activities.
“It’s great to get out and do those things, but you also have to warm the body from the inside out and that happens in yoga class,” Harbour said. “It’s like you give yourself permission to actually slow down and to pay attention to yourself.”
Harbour said doing yoga on Zoom versus in the studio is great if a person is incredibly dedicated to the practice, but you don’t get the same transmission of the teachings unless you’re in class.
“The benefit of coming to the studio is you get to integrate your practice with like-minded people and it becomes a community and the community turns into a friendship,” Harbour said. “It gives you this connectivity with people that you can’t get online.”
Classes offer a chance to get connected and re-established in the community.
“For me, yoga is my tether to staying present with myself,” Harbour said. “It’s my tether to my mental, physical and spiritual self.”
Harbour said it’s important to know you don’t have to feel guilty about giving yourself an hour and half to dedicate to working on yourself.
“Everybody should at least try a drop in class because it’s definitely for some people,” Harbour said. “It’s definitely mind changing.”
Michelle Cooper, owner of CDA Power Yoga with her husband Kyle, said they're both Army veterans and originally created the business for everybody but really wanted to reach responders and veterans who probably wouldn’t usually go into a yoga class.
“We wanted to create a space that was kind of safe and fun for them, and then for everyone, not to separate veterans out,” Michelle said. “To really just treat them like regular people and incorporate them into regular classes.”
Michelle said they try to appeal to men as well and about a third of their membership is male. She said a lot of couples attend, and even have kids’ yoga as well. They offer yoga from power yoga with weights to slower, restorative yoga.
“It’s really something for everybody,” she said.
Most classes are heated to 90℉ with infrared heaters, which Cooper said are great for the body in a number of ways aside from feeling fantastic.
The shop has been thriving in Riverstone for three years. Cooper said they’re preparing to open their second studio inside of their clothing store, Best Life Coeur d’Alene.
“We focus on connection,” Cooper said. “We believe yoga is really what you want it to be or what you need it to be at the time.”
Cooper said for some people that’s a physical workout, for others it’s more spiritual. Yoga can be therapeutic as well as an emotional release.
During North Idaho winters with the darkness and cold weather, people tend to stay home and be isolated.
“That’s why it’s even more important to get out and to be a part of a studio like this because this is really a community,” Cooper said. “Humans were designed for connection so that’s what we try to create.”
Cooper said yoga, especially heated yoga in the winter, can be very helpful for one’s mental health.
“Yoga, more than other workouts, incorporates mental health,” Cooper said. “It’s becoming more and more apparent that our mental health is just as important as our physical health, so I think this is just a great opportunity to combine both those things into one.”
Most of all, Cooper said they make yoga fun. She said they’re not a “script” studio where everyone has to be doing exactly the same thing at the same time, but rather they welcome people to encourage each other and laugh together on their mats.
“We play music. There’s some chit chat here and there. There’s a lot of laughing. It’s really just a place to show up,” Cooper said. “We’ve had people meet here and get married.”
While walking into a yoga studio can seem intimidating for some beginners, Renee Honrada, an independent yoga instructor, offers small and even one-on-one slow and restorative yoga classes.
Honrada said she likes to think of her class as a gateway into even thinking about yoga. No experience is necessary for participants to receive all the benefits.
“A lot of times my clients are people who have really never tried yoga before,” Honrada said. “Then they realize, ‘Oh, wow. OK, I actually really needed this.’”
Honrada runs her business, Essential Flow Yoga, out of a space she rents from a small studio in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
She specializes in gentle, slow and restorative yoga for emotional well-being and has been teaching for four years.
Honrada said her class can be anything from light stretching and then a bit of resting, to more active stretching then resting. She said her yoga style is a lot more laid back than the typical more strenuous types of yoga such as flow yoga.
“I realized quickly that because of injuries that I had in my own body, that that style of yoga wasn’t going to be sustainable for me as a teacher, or even as a practitioner,” Honrada said.
Honrada said she started practicing slower yoga for herself because of her injuries, and realized that gentle yoga could be an invitation for some people to practice yoga who may feel scared about power yoga.
“There’s really something very charming about restorative and slow yoga,” Honrada said. “As a teacher, it’s really important for me to invite people into a different style of yoga so that they realize that it’s really more about the mind-body connection that can be had, so that they can learn to rest and have space to just be without having to perform.”
Honrada said although people are breathing all the time, they aren’t always conscious of how they use their breath, and one thing she teaches them about is conscious breathing.
She also uses essential oils for aromatherapy in some of her classes.
Honrada makes her own blends of essential oils, Raven Heart Essential Oils, and creates custom blends. Her oils can be found at ravenheartessentialoils.com.
She said when she found essential oils, she realized how much they were working on her depression and decided to blend aromatherapy in with her yoga.
“That’s where aromatherapy really comes in as well, and the combination of those two things,” Honrada said.
Honrada said she found she struggles with depression year round, not just seasonally, and there’s a lot of science that backs up the data that yoga can help with depression. Just coming to class and having a space to go when the skies are gray all day long can be helpful, she said.
“Having a good routine is really healthy and especially for things like depression,” Honrada said. “I have found for myself that not having a routine will sort of trigger my anxiety or my depression.”
A regular fitness or wellness routine, or even just getting out regularly and taking a walk in nature, though harder in the snow, is important. She recommends those interested in taking a yoga class to do it at least once or twice a week if possible.
“Once a week is a great start just to get into the habit of being in your body,” Honrada said. “A lot of times we’re just in our heads and we’re not paying attention to what the body is telling us.”
She said yoga helps reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and relieves tension. Restorative and slow yoga helps bring people into their parasympathetic nervous system, which allows them to rest and digest, Honrada said. She said it can also help with weight loss, because when people are constantly on the go their digestive system slows down.
Honrada said restorative yoga is also helpful for those who have trouble sleeping as it can invite the body into a deeper restful state even while it’s awake. She said one can gain the benefits of half a night’s sleep by taking an hour or 75 minutes restorative class.
“For people who struggle with sleeping, a restorative yoga class is going to really support them,” Honrada said.
Honrada said she also brings a prayer to each of her classes, and uses it as the theme for the class. The prayers are not religious prayers, but more spirit-based and focused on tuning into the elements of the earth.
“When people come to my class they get a lot of love,” Honrada said. “I just love to remind people how valued they are in the world.”
Outside of yoga there are many other exercises done in the studio that can help with mobility.
Reform Studio CDA offers group classes for reformer pilates, barre, yoga, mat pilates, barre bounce (a trampoline based class), and aerial silks classes (fitness classes using a hammock).
Owner Kelly Pintler said she started her studio in 2012 with the help of her husband Nick, and rebranded when she got more equipment in 2016.
“We really try and have intentional movement be the highest priority,” Pintler said. “Our barre classes are a little bit different in that regard.”
The instructors focus a lot on form, technique, posture and alignment. Pintler said with barre, it’s very precise and just a little inch of an adjustment can help people really feel the workout where they’re supposed to. With that in mind, she said they offer a more mindful barre class, yet still keep the upbeat tempo as well.
Barre is a full body workout, focusing on core strength and endurance in the leg muscles. Pintler said people who do barre and pilates for any length of time just start to move better in life.
She said pilates involves repetitions of a really specific exercise that has a purpose behind it. The exercises flow one to the next.
Reformer pilates adds the use of a machine which has spring resistance.
“With springs, you have resistance on the in-motion and out-motion,” Pintler said. “So this (builds) really good core strength, flexibility, balance, all the things you need moving through life.”
Pintler said certain workouts with the aerial silks can be really helpful for the spine and upper body, and barre bounce on the trampoline is amazing for the lymphatic system.
“So you get your cardio, you get your strength, and then you get that kind of lymphatic drainage,” Pintler said. “You really get every aspect of exercise.”
The different classes balance each other out and a lot of members do a little bit of everything to get an overall workout with cardio, strength and flexibility, and mindfulness.
“Our whole goal is for people to move better and feel better,” Pintler said. “We’re not the type of studio that focuses on the cosmetic changes that you feel, but more the internal changes that you feel.”
As many people spend their life at a desk, Pintler said her goal is to help them to open up their chest and get their back muscles strong. She said spending time in the studio really helps with posture and pain free movement.
“You just start walking taller,” Pintler said. “As you age, you want to be able to wake up in the morning without back pain and also be able to play with your kids.”
A healthy exercise routine can help keep the body from getting stiff, as well as just all around feeling better, not just physically but mentally, Pintler said.
“The exercise and classes that we do here bring balance to everyday life,” Pintler said. “Your endorphins have had a pickup for the day so you feel like you actually want to do the other tasks that you have to do.”
For those interested in learning a new skill, learning jiu jitsu offers physical and mental exercise along with a form of self defense.
Trevor Prangley, owner of Trevor Prangley’s AKA in Hayden, said jiu jitsu is suitable for people of all ages, with people from 5 to 65 practicing at his gym.
“It’s really compatible for any body style,” Prangley said. “It looks like it’s a lot harder than it is. It’s hard to get really good at it.”
Prangley has been teaching jiu jitsu for 11 years, and teaches out of his gym where he also teaches other forms of martial arts.
For women, Prangley said jiu jitsu is the best self defense style because even though men are physically stronger, women can use techniques to defend themselves.
He said the spot is not dangerous, and really good for the mind. Unlike putting on headphones at the gym and forgetting about everything, the sport makes people exercise their minds because of the technical aspects and decision making to pick the next move.
Each move and body position has to be done with precise placement and timing.
“There has to be a lot of mind to body activity to work everything and get everything down,” Prangley said. “The moves are complex.”
Prangley said jiu jitsu has also played a big part in the treatment of PTSD for returning veterans because it’s good for the mind. The sport has also been successful in treating depression.
“It’s a great way to release endorphins,” Prangley said. “It’s really effective.”
Practicing in the gym also brings community and camaraderie. Prangley said he’s worked with grown men with autism who still can’t live by themselves, but taking jiu jitsu has revolutionized their lives and given them confidence.
“When they came in they were just looking at the ground and wouldn’t make eye contact,” Prangley said. “So it’s pretty cool that we’re able to help people not only learn to defend themselves, but also there’s other aspects that you can help.”
Prangley said jiu jitsu is also a longevity sport that isn’t too taxing on the body, but rather keeps those in shape who practice into their old age. He said while it can look intimidating for beginners, those new to the class start out in a separate room with coaches to help them get to the level where they can join the big group.
“My whole goal of having a gym is not to train other fighters,” Prangley said. “Just to give people who enjoy the sport a chance to practice in a safe environment.”