The best yoga studio in Philly -- and really, one of the best I've encountered everywhere -- is Dhyana Yoga. They're spiritual without being crystal-waving, they're together without being overpopulated, and they're casual without being too flaky. Plus, the instructors are good, which is key: you need a patient instructor who is nonetheless going to challenge you and make necessary adjustments. The atmosphere is simple and encouraging. It's a really good place. Might be the only game in town, in fact.
I think the last time I went to a yoga class there was before the wedding. With wedding/honeymoon expenses, job uncertainty and general chaos, it seemed an extravagance I could do without. Friends: I was wrong. My body was crying out for yoga, demanding it! "Give us yoga!" Just like that! So I had to answer that call. Lauren got a link to a special, bought two of them for us (yes, she's now trying yoga -- more on that from her later, I hope!), and off I went to a Vinyasa Plus class. (This particular flavor of yoga emphasizes the flow between poses -- other types of yoga focus on other aspects.)
An hour and a half later, I was drenched in sweat, every muscle trembling, renewed and released. I forgot how much of a purgative yoga is for me. I carry all my stress and my emotions in my muscles, and yoga does an outstanding job of purging those and allowing me to relax once more. I probably should have started with something a little simpler, but I was proud that even after months off, my body remembered the poses and flowed into place. I was much less stiff than I expected to be. (No headstands, although there were attempts at handstands, which I just don't have the strength for yet.)
What's really remarkable is how my strength training, both through weights at the gym and through the Lithe routines that Lauren taught me, made yoga SO much easier. Normally, downward dog is my worst pose, because I have lacked shoulder strength. Not anymore: I could maintain my pose much longer than before. And let's also talk about engaging my core, people! I bitched at first, but core strength is AWESOME, especially if you don't even know you're doing it! And added flexibility is always welcome to this stiff.
Yoga occupies a strange space in my fitness routine. It's definitely exercise, but it's an effect quite different from cardio or strength training. The spiritual aspects of yoga (what we know of as yoga is one prong of a multi-disciplinary practice that would take us years to get the hang of) inform a lot about myself beyond the studio. Yoga is a necessary component of my life, offering a space for me to release everything that tends to cripple and inhibit me and remind me that life is about flow and breath.
Yeah, I'm part hippie.