BRENTWOOD — Students trickled into the Brentwood business, yoga mats in hand for a Saturday morning session of stretching, mindful breathing … and a little something extra.
“Everyone grab your beer,” instructor Sarah Herring called out as she rounded up the class, which was placing its orders at Mannheim Social Club’s well-stocked bar.
Placing the glasses at the end of their mats, they closed their eyes, took a collective deep breath, and leaned forward, face-to-mat.
“Grab your beer and cheers!” Herring said, as the nine participants obediently paused to take a sip.
Dennis Sheehan chuckled as he sampled his India pale ale and lay down again.
“I’ll probably fall asleep during Savasana,” he said of the resting pose that typically marks the end of yoga sessions.
The monthly classes that Herring introduced in October are still a rarity in the San Francisco Bay Area, although beer yoga, as the quirky pairing is known, has been gaining popularity among U.S. breweries in recent years and also is celebrated in Germany and Australia.
The idea immediately appealed to Herring when she learned of the trend.
“I was like, ‘I have to do that!’ ” laughed the high school physical education teacher, noting that yoga and drinking beer are two of her favorite pastimes.
Serving up beer in a yoga class is not as nonsensical as it might sound, said business co-owner Larry Lindsay, who was presiding over 64 craft beers behind the bar as students went through a warmup routine a few feet away.
“Yoga is an art, beer is an art. It’s all crafty,” he said.
Between swallows, students got down on all fours, arched their backs and exhaled in the dimly lit room as ceiling fans slowly turned overhead. Mounted heads of elk and water buffalo stared blankly over the spacious wooden floor while Herring demonstrated moves from the stage to country music.
“Drink a little beer, play a little music ….” crooned singer Rhett Akins.
Downing a pint while striking awkward poses with names like Happy Baby and Three-legged Dog takes the edge off the self-consciousness she sometimes feels, said class member Anastasia Billings.
“Anything with alcohol and exercise is a novelty, you know?” said the Oakley resident, who was nursing a glass of hard cider during her first encounter with beer yoga.
The departure from traditional yoga’s oh-so-serious focus on training body and mind is a draw, Herring added.
“It puts like a lighthearted twist on yoga,” she said. “You don’t have to be perfect — you’re there to have fun.”
But don’t think for a minute that the classes are an excuse for a morning booze fest.
“It wasn’t just sitting around and drinking beer,” said Brentwood resident Laura Lasnier of the thorough workout she received.
Beer yoga is certainly a test of concentration and balance: Students held full glasses as they carefully extended an arm in front and above them, following Herring’s lead as she took them through the hour-long session without ever coming close to spilling a drop.
“You definitely think, ‘Ohmigosh, please don’t drop it!’ ” she cheerfully admitted.
Billings plans to return, and next time she’ll be bringing her husband.
He didn’t realize at first that the classes include beer, she says, and now he wants in on the action.
“He was like, ‘That sounds so fun!’ ”
SOURCE: EAST BAY TIMES