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Beer yoga integrates mind, body, community at microbreweries

June 13, 2019

BARRE, Mass. (AP) — Pigeon pose and pale ale. Lotus and lager.

The contemplative practice of yoga isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of beer. But combining the two seemingly disparate experiences has become a popular offering at microbreweries in Central Massachusetts.

For yoga enthusiasts, beer yoga, usually a drop-in class at a brewery with a free beverage afterward included in the fee, is a way to practice in a more relaxed atmosphere than the traditional studio.

Brewery owners have embraced beer yoga too, as a way to introduce their product to more customers and, as several local brewers told the Telegram & Gazette, to build community.

“It brings in a mix of beer-first and fitness-second, and fitness-first and beer-second people,” said Brian Distefano of Sutton, co-owner of Purgatory Beer Co., 670 Linwood Ave., Whitinsville.

On June 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Purgatory Beer Co., personal fitness trainer and yoga instructor Pauline Janson of Northbridge will hold a beer yoga fundraiser for Dog Orphans, Inc., a nonprofit no-kill shelter in Douglas. A one-and-a-half hour yoga class, a beer or nonalcoholic beverage and light refreshments afterward cost $25.

Ms. Janson has two rescue dogs adopted from Dog Orphans: Biscuit, an approximately 12-year-old male cockapoo, and Daisy, a 14-year-old female Jack Russell terrier and beagle mix.

Sunday will be Ms. Janson’s first beer yoga event, but she said if it goes well, she would do more. “If nothing else, I hope people have fun and raise money for a good cause,” she said.

Mr. Distefano said as a small-business owner, he likes to support local instructors, who are also small-business owners, by offering space to hold their classes.

He said, “You realize it’s not just for the beer. But beer doesn’t hurt.”

Phoebe Lehman of Spencer has been teaching Brew Barn Yoga at Stone Cow Brewery, 500 West St. B in Barre, Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 10:45 for the past two years. The $20 drop-in fee includes a beverage from the brewery.

“Some people think it’s strange: Eww, beer in the morning,” Ms. Lehman said. “It’s really about yoga first, and then we’re in the brewery.”

The bucolic setting at Stone Cow plays a major role in the yoga practice, which Ms. Lehman tailors to the group around hatha with a little bit of flow yoga. The barn has big glass doors and the sun shines in. A farmer might be going by on a tractor, or cows might wander by.

“In yoga, we’re connecting the mind and body,” she said. “Up there, we’re connecting with what’s happening on the farm.”

Brew Barn Yoga has also become a social event, with yogis and family gathering after class for a beer, coffee or kombucha, a light lunch or farm-made ice cream from the farm store.

“It’s the community aspect of it. We don’t have a lot of places where we can gather,” said Ms. Lehman. “At a typical yoga studio, you have class and then leave.”

Stone Cow Brewery also offers yoga classes on many Sundays. Events are listed on the brewery’s website.

Lisa Killick of Oakham had been practicing yoga for about a year at a studio, before she started attending beer yoga at Stone Cow Brewery.

“It’s such a beautiful place and yoga seems a nice addition,” she said. “It’s a nice, serene atmosphere.”

Her husband usually joins her after class for lunch, when the kitchen opens at 11 a.m.

Ms. Killick also takes a yoga class in Worcester once a week, but she called “the setting and the social element” of Brew Barn Yoga the best part.

“It’s interesting that yoga and microbreweries have come together in a weird way,” said Stone Cow Brewery co-owner Sean DuBois.

His wife and brewery co-owner, Molly, is a yoga enthusiast and visited a beer yoga class at Trillium Brewing Co. in Canton with Ms. Lehman before launching it locally.

“Microbreweries have become a community meeting place,” he said. “It really does bring people together from all walks of life.”

Mr. DuBois said having yoga class on site before the brewery opens Saturday mornings sets a “calm before the storm,” before the crowds arrive.

“I never guessed it would have done so well,” he said. “It’s been good for the brewery on so many levels.”

“They talk a lot about craft breweries almost being a local community center these days,” said Cedric Daniel, one of the owners of Rapscallion Brewery, 195 Arnold Road, Sturbridge.

For the past two or three years, the brewery has hosted Caitlin Lavin, instructor with Antilogy Yoga in Ludlow, on the last Wednesday of the month for Yoga Then Beer at Rapscallion Brewery.

The next Yoga Then Beer session is 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 26. $18 gets you a yoga class and first pour.

Ms. Lavin teaches yoga, which is capped at 15 people, in a room with the tanks, so “it’s very intimate with the brewing process,” Mr. Daniel said.

He said, “It helps for sure. They tell their family and friends. Maybe they’ll bring them back on weekends.”

“I got into it because I wanted to offer a class that wasn’t as intimidating as a traditional studio,” Ms. Lavin said.

Ms. Lavin, who works for the Chicopee Parks and Recreation Department and teaches yoga at a variety of locations, said her beer yoga class has “less emphasis on the spiritual aspect, more on the physical.”

She said, “It’s the community: more fun, more social.”

Ms. Lavin also spoke about supporting local business and, by bringing in yoga, it “takes a little pressure off of being just a drinking place.”

Keith Sullivan, co-owner of Medusa Brewing Co., 111 Main St., Hudson, said his brewery has been offering Yoga! In the Taproom once a month for about three years.

The next session is 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. June 22. The fee for yoga and a beer or nonalcoholic beverage is $16.

“It’s amazing. We’ve introduced a lot of people to craft beer,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Groups of men and women have become regulars at the yoga sessions, getting tables in the taproom for convivial gathering afterward.

“Long story short: I love seeing the community that it’s built,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Wormtown Brewery, 72 Shrewsbury St., Worcester, hosts Taproom Yoga at the end of each month. Next session is 10 a.m. to noon. June 29. The cost to “detox/retox,” according to the brewery’s website, is $20.

Online: https://bit.ly/2F1SG2a

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Information from: Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), http://www.telegram.com

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