Outside the Oreo

Lauren Piro

Well, my fellow Villanovans, it is official – I have endured pain, sweat and embarassment to give you the benefit of knowing the Main Line better. You are welcome.

This past Sunday morning, I took a yoga class at Power Yoga Works in Malvern. My usual Davis Center elliptical, free weights and half-a-set of crunches routine had grown stale in recent weeks, and I’d been meaning to check out other fitness options the area had to offer. Philadelphia Magazine gave Power Yoga Works a Best of Philly stamp last year for its great instructors and challenging classes, so even though the studio was a near 20-minute drive from my apartment, I was willing to give it a try.

A bit of a disclaimer here: I left my in-shape body on the field hockey field my senior year of high school. So what I found “challenging” about my “basic” yoga experience on Sunday you might have deemed “moderate” or even “easy.” There was a woman in this class old enough to be my grandmother (as well as many others much closer to my age) that I bow down to as far as yoga goes. But, despite my struggles, I found that this is what Power Yoga Works was all about- offering a worthwhile 75 minutes of soulful fitness to whoemver wanted to participate regardless of skill level. I was quite likely the most winded person in the room, but I did not feel snubbed or slighted, but rather excitedly welcomed.

The studio itself is subdued and calming with its low lighting and hardwood floors, but it felt impressive and professional for a strip mall spot. As the class began, I felt absorbed not only by the group itself, but also by the series of poses. Power Yoga Works practices power vinyasa yoga which they call “a combination of deep breathing and specifically sequenced sets of flowing yoga postures.” Even though my knowledge of yoga poses stemmed little farther than what I knew from my Wii Fit, instructor Megan McNeal made everyone, including me, feel comfortable. She kept the class both enjoyable and focused, interacting with students while honoring formal yoga practices and terms. I soon found myself following the pose series as easily as the students who had been attending class for weeks.

Being the skeptic that I am, I did not expect one yoga class to be soul-shifting or life-altering. No, I did not burst into tears during the “frog pose,” as all my pent-up negative energy was released through my heels. However, as the class progressed, I did sense a greater awareness of my strength and flexibility. I left the class happy that I had taken some time out for myself and felt energized for the rest of the day. Not bad for a yoga novice.

That being said, there are a couple things I wish I had known before stepping into Power Yoga Works. Firstly, I attended the class titled “Basic.” But by the time people were resting in poses with their knees balanced on the backs of their elbows, I knew that Power Yoga Works and I must have very different definitions of the word. Sure, I made it through, and I wasn’t lying when I said the instructor was great with all students of all levels of experience, but if you’re a little wary, their six-week beginner course may be a better option.

Secondly, the studio practices “hot” yoga. While it was a crisp spring morning outside, inside Power Yoga Works, it was a humid, 90-degree day at the beach (perhaps I did get my spring break trip, after all). It was a bit of a shock at first, but I got used to the temperature soon enough and left sweating from jumping repeatedly into “high plank” pose like everyone else. I asked for different, and I certainly got it.

If you care to try on Power Yoga Works, you’ll find them in the Great Valley Center about 10 miles down Lancaster Avenue from Villanova. A bit of a hike, yes, but it was worth it for something different and some new energy. Plus, don’t forget your WildCard – there’s a student discount.