Monday, February 1, 2016

Have yoga mat, will travel Pt. 1 - Rhinegeist & The Gruff

As my normal spectacularly awesome yoga instructor doesn't have class times that fit my current schedule, I've decided to try out a few new classes to see if I can find something new.

My criteria:

1. Convenient times - I work 9-5 M-F in Middletown and have standing obligations some nights, especially Wednesdays.  So other evenings or weekend mornings work best for me.
2. Not too "exercisey" - I got spoiled by having an extremely talented instructor who emphasized the spiritual and meditative aspects of the practice while still giving you a level of exercise you could be proud of.  I dislike yoga classes that are too focused on the planking and such (unless it's a more advanced, yang, or power yoga class) and have menagerie of injuries I need to modify certain postures to accommodate; so despite trying not to take my ego with me to class there is definitely a style of class with which I am comfortable and a degree to which I am not.
3. Location Location Location - I live in Middletown, The Boyfriend lives in Covington.  If I find something down in that area it might work out well for the both of us, and I might be able to convince him to join. Additionally, if it's a venue he feels comfortable going to he might actually be encouraged to come regularly.
4. Good Chi/Energy - I want to feel grounded and centered during my practice.  I don't want to feel like an outsider or feel uncomfortable with the instructor, other yoginis, or the venue itself.
5. Fun - I want to find a class I look forward to attending, rather than loathing it as an obligation.  Goal is to workout at the gym 2-3x weekly and attend yoga class 1-2x weekly.
6. Cost - although I've never found a drop in yoga class to cost more than about $15, some places require memberships and I'm already spending $20 per month on my Planet Fitness membership, and I figure I can budget about $150 per month ABSOLUTE TOPS for fitness and fitness related expenses (that number was based on my old gym of $35 per month with 3-4 personal training sessions at $40 per hour, so I'd love to keep that number significantly lower).

Notes - Although I've been practicing yoga nearly 10 years, due to injuries, schedules, and laziness I've never had a consistent practice.  I've also not done much outside of my normal all-levels Hatha yoga class, so I don't know what other types of classes are like.  My language, opinions, and skill levels are all very basic and I will make a ton of mistakes and possible misjudgments in my assessments. Please forgive me.

Rhinegeist - 

Rhinegeist offers a yoga class at 10am on Sunday mornings.  The class is led by Modo ( and asks a $5 donation for the OTR community foundation or something like that.  I did see a box of yoga mats by the door but they were snapped up pretty quickly so I highly recommend bringing your own.  They didn't use any other equipment but I always bring my blocks and strap with me for modifications.

I love the venue of Rhinegeist with the huge ceiling and gorgeous murals, but oddly enough the instructor chose the fermentors as her backdrop rather than the mural wall, which I found disappointing.  She was difficult to hear at times given the background noise of hoses and such.  The class itself was very large, although I was told that it's usually 2/3rds that size (new years' resolutioners).  I was the fattest person there and that always makes me uncomfortable, and it was my first yoga class in months so I was extremely out of practice.

The instructor called out poses and gave examples but not corrections, and although we did all of the movements of surya namaskar they were disarticulated and felt unnatural to me (I enjoy anticipating the next step and with my back and knees I have to really work at my vinyasa (chaturanga to down dog takes a few extra moments).  Additionally, the instruction was all given in English (less the Namaste at the end) and there was no shiv asana, which I always very much look forward to at the end.  Yeah, I'm lazy, but it's also a great way to seal in all that good prana and have a moment to meditate before the hecticness of packing up and going home.

The biggest issue I personally had though was the uneven, hard concrete floor.  My 3mm yoga mat didn't do much to support my 225lb frame and I had to use my sweater as cushioning, but still ended up with little bruises all over my knees and extremely sore wrists.  Additionally, I hadn't noticed the big crack running through the floor below my mat until I was trying a few balancing poses, so I'll have to look for more even flooring next time.

Bonus - free bagels and coffee from Bruegger's Bagels, plus the tap room opened up for anyone who wanted a beer.  About 1/3rd of the class stayed and everyone was quite friendly.  A couple of people stated that this was their favorite class and they genuinely enjoyed coming each week.  The class itself was mostly young adults (23-38 year oldish) but there was a bit of diversity.  Good guy/girl ratio.

1. 10am Sundays
2. More exercisey than I'd like
3. Rhinegeist - OTR, Cincinnati - parking sucks, bigass staircase, and hard floors with poor acoustics.  Great beer hall, not great for yoga.
4. I didn't feel any connection to the instructor or the class and spent the majority of the practice wishing it were over.
5. Meh.  I'd go again (with a buddy) but unless I really want a workout and have the energy to burn I didn't enjoy myself.
6. $5 + mat

The Gruff

The Gruff is a restaurant and tap room located in Covington, Kentucky right across the Roebling bridge, and is noted for its murals of the three billy goats gruff. The class is free and provided by The Yoga Bar ( which has locations in OTR and Newport.  There is also a small food market located in the restaurant as well.

The instructor for this class was named Jessica and I made sure to get there a bit early to find good parking.  Having a few extra minutes she and I were able to discuss my injuries and it felt very comfortable with her. The class was much closer to my expectations - a mixture of English and Sanscrit, poses with which I was familiar, traditional vinyasas, and I did learn some new ways of getting into certain poses and got to do some things with which I was less familiar.  I didn't see any extra mats so it'd be a good idea to byo.

Although I always feel like I'm going to die about 10 minutes into practice, once I powered through that I actually had a pretty good time.  The floor there is painted & polished concrete so I had the same mat issue as before, but I've ordered a knee pad (and have it on good authority that The Boyfriend ordered a thicker one for me after hearing my complaints) so I'm hoping that resolves the issue.  The floor is smooth & attractive with no cracks or noticeable dips or humps.  

There was a bit of kitchen noise and the music they put on afterwards was standard restaurant music, but it was worth it to watch the sun rise over the Roebling.  Note - the sun was already up but behind the building.  You could watch the Licking - Riverside residents out for their morning jogs and it made for a very pleasant practice.  If they offered an actual sunrise yoga class here that would be fantastic.

The class itself was about 20 people so they had to move some additional tables out of the way to make room, so getting here early to get a good spot was definitely worthwhile.  Also a good number of men in attendance.

Best part - about 2/3rds of the way through class the instructor came around and rubbed some Aura Cacia 'Tranquility' oil into everyone's necks.  She did state first that she would be coming around and if you didn't care to be touched to just indicate it to her.  I thought it was lovely.  And we had shiv asana!  I thanked the instructor afterwards for the class and she gave me a free pass to the Yoga Bar, which I would like to check out.

Bonus - receive 10% off if you stay for brunch.  Their brunch menu is pretty carb heavy, and no one in the class stayed so I just got a coffee to go and went back.  I would certainly consider staying as I know they have good food there.

1. 9am Saturdays (except holidays)
2. Enough to feel the heat but not enough to wear you out.  I thought it was perfect.
3. The Gruff, Covington, KY - Kind of small and hard floors, plus unrelaxing noises but nothing too bad.  Worth it for the view though and the teal floors are a nice touch.
4. I felt connected to the instructor and got good vibes from the class.
5. I had a great time and would invite anyone to join me.
6. Free but byo mat