The new Ve­gas Na­maste: Yoga near dol­phins

… or do the up­ward dog on the world’s tallest fer­ris wheel or a he­li­copter

The Hamilton Spectator - - TRAVEL - REGINA GAR­CIA CANO

Sur­rounded by im­pos­ing Las Ve­gas ho­tel-casi­nos in the fore­ground and desert moun­tains in the back­ground, the group breathed deeply and loudly as an in­struc­tor guided them through their poses: up­ward dog, down­ward dog, lord of the dance.

The par­tic­i­pants, though, weren’t the only ones shift­ing po­si­tions in this mir­ror­less space with In­sta­gram-en­vi­able views.

The three women and a man were in­side a cabin of the world’s tallest fer­ris wheel, stretch­ing and hold­ing poses as the mar­quees of The Mi­rage, Linq, Har­rah’s and Cae­sars Palace ap­peared and faded from sight.

This gam­bling oa­sis isn’t known for mind­steady­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. But as the city broad­ens the range of in­ter­ests and wal­lets it ap­peals to, com­pa­nies have care­fully se­lected an ar­ray of unique, pic­ture-per­fect sites where vis­i­tors and lo­cals can say “Na­maste.” Call it yoga a la Ve­gas, and pic­ture dol­phins, he­li­copters, red rocks and ritzy high­rises.

“High plank, low plank, up dog, down dog,” Raffi Yoz­gadlian said as he guided the group at the High Roller ob­ser­va­tion wheel through a se­ries of yogi cal­is­then­ics at about 550 feet (168 me­tres) above ground.

The in­struc­tions stopped three-quar­ters into the class, and out came the cell­phones. It was time for a few pho­tos of hand­stands and other poses with the Bel­la­gio, Cos­mopoli­tan and an Eif­fel Tower replica in the back­ground.

“I was like, whoa. You have the Strip and you can take that in, or you have the moun­tains and you can take that in,” said Carly Ben­son, a Las Ve­gas res­i­dent whose tri­pod head­stand photo is now on In­sta­gram. “I was a lit­tle con­cerned about how my bal­ance was go­ing to be, and sur­pris­ingly, be­ing able to zone in the land­scape, I had bet­ter bal­ance there than I some­times do on the ground.”

Vis­i­tors and lo­cals in need of their down­ward dog also can take classes sur­rounded by an out­door in­stal­la­tion of neon signs in the sum­mer; by re­quest, pool­side at the MGM Grand; or on the grassy fields of a recre­ation area just out­side the city in the shade of Red Rock Canyon Na­tional Con­ser­va­tion Area.

For those who pre­fer the in­doors, the stu­dio with floor-to-ceil­ing glass win­dows on the eighth floor of the op­u­lent Man­darin Ori­en­tal ho­tel of­fers views of the Las Ve­gas Strip.

The un­ortho­dox set­tings fit with a na­tion­wide trend of yoga in­struc­tion mov­ing out of the stu­dio and into parks, brew­eries, mu­se­ums and other lo­ca­tions. Some classes in­cor­po­rate goats and but­ter­flies.

Cae­sars En­ter­tain­ment, which owns the High Roller, thought the fer­ris wheel would be a good place for a fit­ness class and de­cided yoga was the per­fect fit. Each cabin fits up to 40 peo­ple stand­ing and in benches.

“It’s a one-hour class, so it’s a ful­fill­ing prac­tice, and whether you are a yoga en­thu­si­ast or first-timer or some­one who just wants to have that amaz­ing In­sta­gram yoga mo­ment here in Ve­gas, it presents a unique ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Lind­say Sanna, Cae­sars’ di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing. The class is $75 US per per­son.

At the Mi­rage, yo­gis of all skill lev­els can sign up for an hour-long class in the un­der­wa­ter view­ing area of the dol­phin tanks at Siegfried and Roy’s Se­cret Gar­den and Dol­phin Habi­tat. On a re­cent Fri­day morn­ing, a group be­gan the ex­pe­ri­ence by tak­ing a few breaths while sit­ting on their mats fac­ing bot­tlenose dol­phins through glass win­dows.

“Of course, you can pop your eyes open if you want to see the dol­phins,” Janet Ziter told the class, which in­cluded de­voted and be­gin­ner yoga prac­ti­tion­ers. Dol­phins swam next to three win­dows while sooth­ing mu­sic played.

This class, too, in­cor­po­rated a mini-photo shoot. And so a guest held the crow pose — hands planted on the floor, shins rest­ing on the back of his up­per arms and feet lifted up — for a few sec­onds un­til a dol­phin swam be­hind him and a friend snapped a photo.

In­struc­tors with the yoga-fo­cused com­pany Silent Savasana teach the classes at the High Roller and also lead what’s per­haps Las Ve­gas’ most lux­u­ri­ous of yoga ex­pe­ri­ences: a he­li­copter ride from the air­port to a nearby state park and a class atop bright red Aztec sand­stone out­crops.

The class in a re­mote area of the 63-squaremile (163-square-kilo­me­tre) Val­ley of Fire State Park al­lows par­tic­i­pants to take in a breath­tak­ing view of bright blue skies and sand­stones while flow­ing from pose to pose.

Some may be priced out of the $3,499 US ex­pe­ri­ence, which in­cludes cham­pagne. But Mav­er­ick He­li­copters, which for years has of­fered trips to other des­ti­na­tions in the U.S. South­west, says at least six groups have par­tic­i­pated this year.

Shan­delle Troy prac­tices yoga reg­u­larly and re­cently cel­e­brated her birth­day by tak­ing the class. Out­fit­ted with typ­i­cal black yoga pants and a teal tank top, she as­sumed a spot close to the he­li­copter and a few me­ters from the in­struc­tor.

“Yoga is so spir­i­tual, so be­ing out there in na­ture makes it so much bet­ter,” the res­i­dent of Henderson, Ne­vada, said be­tween sips of bub­bly.

Peo­ple take part in a yoga class at the High Roller ob­ser­va­tion wheel in Las Ve­gas. As Las Ve­gas con­tin­ues to broaden the range of in­ter­ests and wal­lets it ap­peals to, com­pa­nies have been care­fully se­lect­ing unique, pic­ture-per­fect sites where vis­i­tors and lo­cals can prac­tice yoga.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN LOCHER, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A woman takes part in a yoga class near a view­ing por­tal to a dol­phin habi­tat at the Mi­rage ho­tel and casino in Las Ve­gas.

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