When I signed up for a “vino and vinyasa” session—AKA wine and yoga—I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I wondered if my instructor would have me sipping wine through a straw while I scooped into my chaturanga sun salutations, or if I’d have to manage to balance a glass while contorted into an eagle pose. I thought maybe the wine would be administered to me, as if it were a post-yoga reward, while I laid in corpse pose at the end of the class.
I was wrong on all accounts.
Vino and vinyasa, I quickly learned, was a meditative, two-hour long foray into the practice of balancing both yoga and thoughtful wine consumption. The idea wasn’t to get indulgently buzzed while working out, but to instead incorporate all of my senses in the experience in order to better focus on the present moment. Seems strange, I know, but it turned out to be a very meaningful and spiritual experience.
“Not only are you using your sense of sight to watch the instructor, but you are called to study the wine in all of its depth of color; to understand the density and saturation of the wine, looking at it from different angles, in the light, and watching how it rolls towards the edges. Then you are swirling the wine and hovering above it to enjoy the predominant and secondary aromas present,” explained Cristina Cascio, the spa director at Hyatt Regancy Indian Wells, who helped design the vino and vinyasa session at the resort, where my session was held.
What to Expect
The session began with a yoga “warm up” that consisted of only standing poses. This was followed by a tasting of three white wines, in which the instructor engaged our senses of sight and smell, as described above.
An important note: you do all that talking and swirling and smelling before even taking a sip. Another important note: “tasting” and “sip” are key words here, as is the Epicurus quote, “Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” Again, the idea isn’t to get drunk off wine, but instead, to use it as a gateway to a truly sensory experience.
Following the white wine tasting, our class resumed the yoga sequence. This time, we remained “grounded” by doing poses in a seated position. That portion of the class was followed by a second tasting of three red wines. We finished the session by lying in corpse pose, or our choice of meditative pose, and then had a small glass of champagne.
Interestingly, I found vino and vinyasa more mentally challenging than I did physically, as you must keep up with the demands that the class places on all of your senses. It can, at times, be a challenge to remain in the present, focusing on your breath, and looking at a beverage you often consume thoughtlessly with such depth.
If you can manage it, though, you find yourself in a vividly present place of contentment and serenity. For comparison, it mirrored the experience of being engrossed in writing, or when singing.
For those still curious … yes, you do get a little tipsy in the class. I certainly did. Not drunk, but pleasantly “buzzed.” The natural effect of alcohol on the body is part of the experience.
“When you introduce vino, the body begins releasing endorphins and your blood vessels widen,” said Cascio. She explained that this helps your body, as well as your mind, relax and also stimulates the cardiovascular system.
“With more relaxation and focus on the breath comes lengthening and stretching deeper into your muscles,” she added. “All of these positive reactions combine and begin to break fears and help you socialize with people in the class.”
And it really is a bonding experience: I was in a group with people I had only just met, but by the end we were relaxed and informal with each other, comfortably talking about the wine and sharing personal experiences as if we’d been attending the same class together for months, maybe years.
Your Turn: Where to Find Classes
The idea of mixing alcohol and exercise may seem counterintuitive, and it certainly shouldn’t be an everyday thing. However, the process is more of a meditative, mindful experience than a workout, and it can be a meaningful one if you approach it with the right mindset.
If you don’t live near Palm Springs, but still want to try wine and yoga, Cascio recommended checking out Napa and Sonoma wine country, while a quick online search will reveal other similar events in your area. Interestingly, the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells offers other “alcohol and workout” classes as well, including a “tanning and tequila” class and “scotch and stretch” class. Both are similar to vino and vinyasa in the sense that they engage all of your senses while you get your body moving and meditate.
Give it a try—you may just start storing your yoga mat next to the wine rack.