The practice of yoga may be 5,000 years old, but Napa’s first Bikram Yoga studio is brand new.
Studio owner Sylvana Carrara moved to Napa just more than a year ago, after working at other yoga studios in San Francisco.
Carrara quickly realized that while there are a number of Bikram Yoga studios in the Bay Area, Napa Valley had none.
“I thought this would be a good place to open a business,” she said.
Buying a building on Jefferson Street in 2007, Carrara spent the last year remodeling the facility from top to bottom. Bikram Yoga Napa Valley opened in early October.
Carrara is a certified instructor in Bikram Yoga, a specific type of practice named after founder Bikram Choudhury.
Bikram Yoga emphasizes exercise, breathing, and meditation in a set of 26 poses or postures. The big difference with Bikram Yoga is that it’s performed in a room set at 105 degrees and with 40 percent humidity.
The heat is said to relax muscles, making the body more flexible. Sweating releases toxins, say supporters. Deep stretching can relieve stress and stimulate muscles, joints and organs. Yoga is said to improve balance, strength, flexibility and stamina.
While some people may wonder how its possible to exercise in such extreme temperatures, Carrara said that the heat helps the body. “We start with breathing exercises to warm up the body from inside out,” she said. Limbs become more flexible and the body becomes relaxed, as each yoga pose builds on itself, she said. Sweating is part of the process.
Anyone can do Bikram, or Hot Yoga, as it is sometimes called.
“It’s for all people, all generations,” said Carrara.
Phillip Feiner of American Canyon said he’d been suffering from arthritis and other ailments for years. Then he found Bikram Yoga.
“I’ve been praying that a Bikram Yoga would open in Napa, and my prayers have been answered,” said Feiner, 65. “I thought I was a goner and then I realized I could get a complete workout without hurting myself.”
Since starting Bikram Yoga, “I feel 20 years younger,” he said. “My balance is improved, my range of motion, my strength is improved. It’s unbelievable.”
Bikram Yoga Napa Valley offers more than just yoga in a hot room.
The facility includes a full kitchen, men’s and women’s locker rooms with showers, and high tech sound systems in every room. The studio was created using green building practices. “I’m a big fan of saving the planet,” said Carrara.
Solar panels on the roof power every room and appliance. In the yoga room itself, both solar and gas heat the room.
Classes are held three times a day on weekdays, two a day on weekends. The number of classes will increase as word of the new studio spreads, she said.
Jill Castro of Napa stopped by Bikram Yoga Napa Valley on a recent morning. “I’m so excited,” she said. “I’ve only been doing Bikram Yoga for six months but after the first class I felt mentally energized, more than I ever have.”
“It’s more than a physical experience,” she said. Castro eagerly signed up for an introductory special of 10 consecutive days of classes for $20.
Ruth Riffe is a yoga instructor from Eureka visiting the Napa studio. She dispelled a common misconception about yoga.
“It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes,” she said. “You’re never too old, sick, or injured to start with Bikram Yoga.”
Carrara, who is from Switzerland, said her goal is to eventually hold five classes a day, “with lots of clients who want to share beautiful yoga with us.”
More importantly, “I want to create a community.”