FARMINGTON — Sara Tweedie has seen yoga's popularity increase in the Four Corners over the last few years. But it still surprises the yoga teacher that Farmington's yoga scene is so much smaller than the one in Durango, Colo.

"There's so much yoga in Durango, and it's such a smaller population," said Tweedie, who has taught yoga for seven years, including four at Elements Pilates and Yoga Studio in Farmington.

Even with Durango's vibrant yoga community, yogis who want to become instructors have few options in the Four Corners.

Yoga Durango won't offer its 200-hour yoga teacher training program until January 2015. And Tweedie is still working on getting certified to teach future yoga instructors. She has completed 400 of the 500 training hours required to teach yoga instructor training courses. And she still has to complete a six-day silent retreat, as well as lead her own retreat.

Jill Lawson demonstrates a yoga pose on Aug. 19 at her studio, Heart and Core in downtown Cortez, Colo. Lawson will offer a 200-hour Vinyasa yoga teacher
Jill Lawson demonstrates a yoga pose on Aug. 19 at her studio, Heart and Core in downtown Cortez, Colo. Lawson will offer a 200-hour Vinyasa yoga teacher training course starting Sept. 20 (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

Right now, only one person in the Four Corners offers training courses to certify yoga teachers. Jill Lawson, an instructor at Heart and Core in downtown Cortez, Colo., will offer a 200-hour Vinyasa yoga teacher training course starting Sept. 20.

Lawson, who has taught yoga since 1998, has led classes in Cortez for a year. Before that, she operated a studio in Dolores, Colo., for two years in a remodeled laundromat.

"It was kind of a small start, but it was perfect," Lawson said.

As her classes grew in popularity, people from around southwest Colorado traveled to Lawson's studio for classes, she said. Two years ago, she started offering yoga teacher training courses. Eight people signed up for the course her first year, which surprised Lawson and highlighted the need for training classes, she said.

Last year, she said nine people from as far away as Rico and Telluride in Colorado and Monticello in Utah signed up for the Saturday classes. Lawson has not yet taught anyone from Farmington.

Lawson's training course focuses on anatomy, among other things.

"It gives the student a chance to be able to construct their own class," she said, adding that it doesn't fit the "cookie-cutter" training course mold.

Yoga teacher Sara Tweedie leads a class in practicing triangle pose on Thursday at Elements Pilates and Yoga Studio in Farmington.
Yoga teacher Sara Tweedie leads a class in practicing triangle pose on Thursday at Elements Pilates and Yoga Studio in Farmington. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

Attitudes surrounding yoga have changed recently, contributing to its rise in popularity, Lawson said. With yoga becoming more mainstream, people are starting to realize its health benefits, she said.

"It's easy on the joints and easy on the body, so it's a form of exercise that can be done at any age," Lawson said.

In addition to Iyengar and Vinyasa yoga, Lawson's studio also offers Pilates and a hybrid yoga-Pilates class. While Pilates focuses on toning the core, yoga has more of a mind-body element and is stepped in philosophy, Lawson said.

"It takes a lot of mental focus to do these exercises," she said.

Jackie and Don Rieker participate in a yoga class on Thursday at Elements Pilates and Yoga Studio in Farmington.
Jackie and Don Rieker participate in a yoga class on Thursday at Elements Pilates and Yoga Studio in Farmington. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

Tweedie, who is preparing to open her own studio in Farmington this fall, also teaches Iyengar Yoga, a method of Hatha yoga that focuses on postures and breath control and encourages the use of props, like blocks and straps. To learn the method, Tweedie took classes in Santa Fe from yoga master Tias Little, who runs a Pranja yoga school.

She said she likes that Iyengar yoga can be taught to everyone, in part because the props help guide participants into poses. People who was middle-aged, and those with back pain can benefit from Iyengar Yoga, she said.

But outside of its physical benefits, Tweedie said her favorite part of yoga is that it changes lives.

"Most people who have practiced yoga for a long time will say that," she said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.