At Highland Park’s new Yoga Bent Studio, 25 slings dangle from the ceiling.
Students can step into one and hang suspended in the air, stretching their muscles in ways they couldn’t do on the ground. Another set of 25 bands made of bungee cord can be adjusted to support your body, helping to activate other muscle groups and build up endurance as students work on poses.
The specialized gear was all designed by co-owner Miguel Latronica, who has been teaching yoga for more than 15 years. The first floor of his new facility serves as manufacturing space for his products, which he exports to England, Japan and other countries around the world. He also sells his bands, bags, mats and other yoga equipment in the studio store.
“My family used to own an engineering firm,” Latronica said. “When I found yoga, I loved it so much I got out of the family business. Yoga became the meaning of my life.”
Yoga Bent plans to run about 18 to 22 classes a week, taught by about a dozen instructors. Some of the lessons have already booked up thanks to the following Latronica amassed teaching yoga at Highland Park’s Equinox for the last five years.
“I’m very gifted,” Latronica said. “People know me as being very educated with the human body and anatomy. I take that knowledge and apply it to my teaching.”
Latronica likes to use anatomical models during his lessons, showing the students and other yoga instructors he trains different parts of the body that can be stretched and strengthened with yoga.
“When you’re a banker, you look at numbers,” Latronica said. “When you’re in yoga you look at people – the way they hold themselves. Without even trying, you find muscular imbalances.”
Latronica’s wife, gynecologist and Yoga Bent co-owner Mary Farhi, adds to the studio’s health focus. She’ll deliver Sunday afternoon lectures on women’s health issues, including how to use yoga to deal with transitional periods like pregnancy and menopause. A video projector is used for visual aids during seminars and for special events like movie screenings.
The 1,100-square-foot studio offers classes adapted for kids and seniors, beginners and very advanced students. The variety of equipment helps, with chairs to make lessons easier for older students and wooden wedges that can help people with carpal tunnel stretch their wrists while they exercise or allow people working on their flexibility to get their feet all the way down.
“We wanted a studio that was accessible to all people, not just a certain body type or age,” Farhi said.
The first session of any class is free and the studio is giving a taste of its offerings at its grand opening 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 15 and 16. Visitors can take 20 minute sample classes, chat with staff members, get a 10-minute chair massage, attend health lectures and tour the manufacturing facility. The event is free and includes refreshments and raffles.