“Close your eyes and follow the breath inward,” I instruct a group of somewhat unlikely yogis. Inviting students to seat themselves deeply in the present moment is something I’ve grown well versed in since becoming a yoga instructor in 2010, though teaching in a working cidery is a first. As the buzz of conversation quiets, breathing becomes audible; a sprawling patchwork of colorful mats camouflage industrial gray concrete, palletized towers of empty cans edge the immense room and a familiar scent of fermenting apple juice dances aloft in the Saturday morning air at this yoga class within the production facility of Portland Cider Co.
More than ever, North Americans are taking up the ancient art of yoga and are imbibing the heritage drink of cider from coast to coast. Both traditions, well rooted in international cultural histories, are firmly expanding their presence in Western domestic life today.
A study by Yoga Alliance found that 30 percent of Americans report having already practiced yoga and 80 million more will try yoga for the first time this year. Off the mat, health-oriented consciousness seeps into food and beverage selections, drawing yogis to organic provisions, farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants and the like. As the fastest-growing sector of craft beverage, cider is impacting the food system, creating demand for fruit that previously lacked domestic market, encouraging diversification of heritage apple varietals and an expansion of overall acres dedicated to orchards. The authentic trajectory of cider from orchard to press, fermented into liquid gold, quite beautifully aligns with a desire to know where our food comes from.
From apples to asanas, the physical postures of yoga, these correlated philosophies teach us about being flexible. Apple trees, one of the most adaptive species ever grown, can swiftly modify in accordance with environmental changes. Asanas challenge us to move our bodies in new and dynamic ways: gradually reducing stress, chronic pain, increasing health and supporting a clear, flexible state of mind.
There is a growing trend of yoga offered in breweries, cideries, vineyards, taprooms and growler shops, all closing with a craft beverage. Yoga and cider are coming to the core of our modern lives and prove a winning combination for our class at Portland Cider. Concluding a vigorous series of standing postures, we linger in Adho Mukha Shvanasana — a pose better known as “downward-facing dog” — inverted bodies forming triangular shapes, hips lifted high, palms wide, heels reaching back toward the mat.
After our session, a fellow teacher confides she never liked going to studios herself. “We are bringing exercise to the bar,” I say with a laugh. We marvel at the gift of sharing our practice and agree that these unlikely classes bring yoga to students who may not otherwise have sought it out. Midday sunlight pools in from skylights above and our class concludes with deep breaths, big hugs and a bubbling sense of community as we soften our faces and raise a cider glass together.
Jana Daisy-Ensign is the national cider ambassador for Finnriver Farm & Cidery, a founding member of the Pomme Boots Society, yoga instructor, writer, traveler, farmer and mother. She calls a farm in Oregon City, Oregon, home and boasts more than a decade of experience working in artisan beverage.