After seven years of living in Westchester and teaching yoga classes, Amanda Lopez (née Cuney) recently returned to the town where she grew up, and has brought her Westchester-born husband Fabian, her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Zaya and her business, My Peaceful Yogi, along with her. “I came back to New Paltz knowing that it’s a place where there are a ton of yoga places and yoga teachers. So I knew I would have to make it more fun and exciting,” she says. “It’s kind of a different approach to yoga: more for people who want a workout, but also to connect to the mind and body.”
Lopez first began to take a serious interest in the therapeutic value of Vinyasa yoga while a photography student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Four years ago she attained yoga certification through the Reflections Yoga program, taking a five-week intensive course in Costa Rica. She has also studied Pilates and Pure Barre exercise and stretch techniques. The hybrid approach that she markets as My Peaceful Yogi combines aspects of all three disciplines to create challenging workout routines where clients “stay connected to the breath.”
Her Monday and Wednesday evening Barre & Beyond classes even utilize three-pound weights, a highly unorthodox practice in the yoga field. “It’s a tough workout: 60 minutes of really pushing yourself,” says Lopez. “I start with a warmup, then exercise the core, arms, thighs, seat, core again. It’s all small isometric movements. I take each area to fatigue and then stretch it out before moving on to the next.” On Thursday mornings, Lopez teaches Vinyasa-based Core Flow yoga classes, focusing on core strengthening and balance and ending with eight minutes of Savasana to “connect back to the mind and body and relax the heart.”
All these classes meet in an air-conditioned room equipped with stationary barres in the big brick building at 122 Main Street known now as One Epic Place, across the street from the Lemongrass Thai restaurant. Each can accommodate a maximum of seven students. “The small group setting is really key,” says Lopez, explaining that the small student-to-teacher ratio enables her to give individualized attention and make adjustments as necessary.
Those modifications are particularly important when Lopez is working with clients who need rehabilitative therapy following injuries; in her private practice, she recently worked with one woman who’d had hip replacement surgery. Other clients sign up for private sessions in their homes because they are new to yoga and lack the confidence to participate in a group class in a studio. But economical private group sessions can also be arranged, whether for bridal parties or bring-a-dish yoga-and-lunch parties.
Having continued teaching her classes right up to a week before delivering her daughter, Lopez has taken a strong interest in working with pregnant women and those who have recently given birth. She believes that toning and stretching the muscles as well as working on the breath are highly beneficial in labor and help speed recovery from childbirth. “I’m hopeful of having more prenatal and postnatal classes in my school in the coming months,” she says.
And bonding with other new mothers at playdates inspired a brainwave: Why not use a baby stroller as a portable barre? “It was my idea. I got inspired after reading a few baby stroller reviews, it’s kind of unique,” she says of the Stroller Park Workouts that she conducts on Friday mornings, weather permitting, either on the Walkway over the Hudson or in Hasbrouck Park. “Mom gets a workout; baby gets a nap.”
To participate in the stroller classes, Lopez recommends signing up for her regular e-mail blasts letting clients know when and where they are being offered. Announcements are made on her website at www.mypeacefulyogi.com as well. The website also offers details about all class schedules and pricing, which starts at $10 for an introductory class. “I have mats for everybody, but you can bring your own if you want,” she says. “Really, you just need yourself and some water.” To make an appointment for a private yoga class (prices start at $50) or to find out more information, call Lopez at (845) 706-5614.
“I’m all about non-intimidating classes,” Lopez says. “I want to empower women in general, making you feel good about yourself. I try to create a non-judgmental zone.”