10 Yoga Friendly Cities: Portland

Yoga Journal gave us a call last year while they were getting the low down on Portland’s beautiful yoga scene.

Portland, Oregon

The Scene: The conscientiousness that makes Portlanders so acutely aware of how their actions affect one another as well as the planet may have inspired the TV parody Portlandia, but it’s also the reason for the city’s evolved ideas about sustainable living and community welfare. Based here are Street Yoga and Living Yoga, two nonprofits that bring yoga and compassionate communication skills to homeless youth, prisons, shelters, and rehabilitation centers. Studios all over town get involved in community outreach efforts. At The People’s Yoga, drop-in costs are low to make classes available to a wider range of students. And in the summer of 2010, the citywide Yogathon, in which more than 20 yoga studios participated, raised $21,000 for Living Yoga’s programs.

“I think there’s been a wave of realization that, ‘Oh, wait, this isn’t supposed to be just for me,”says Lisa Mae Osborn, co-owner of the Bhakti-shop, a studio that recently reduced prices to make classes more accessible. “A huge part of our mission is to enable people who normally couldn’t practice regularly at a studio,” she says. “More and more studios here are starting to recognize what a service that is, whether it’s offering classes for $5 or a practice once a month where you can bring a friend for free.”

The city is notoriously welcoming to creative types—writers, artists, musicians, and free thinkers of all stripes. It all adds up to a diverse and open-minded yoga culture—one that’s not about pretension, but about inclusion. “On a good day in Portland, you can participate in Kundalini sadhana, Sufi chanting, Tibetan Buddhist meditation, ecstatic dance, and Jewish kirtan,” says J.D. Kleinke, a local yoga practitioner.

Shout Out: “People in Portland are really interested in living a creative and passionate life,” says Sarahjoy Marsh, the founder and director of Living Yoga. “Yoga becomes a way to express and sustain that.”

Fun Fact: The local foods movement here goes far beyond farmers’ markets. The nonprofit GrowingGardens helps residents build organic gardens in urban backyards and school yards, while Oregon Tilth educates gardeners, farmers, legislators, and the general public about sustainable growing practices.