In 2011, Laura Eck was a stressed out nursing school student. She had heard that yoga was good for relieving tension, so she decided to pick up an instructional DVD and give it a try.

She liked the way it made her feel. She felt like her mind was clearer and her body was stronger. Doing it in the morning helped set a positive tone for her day.

“I really fell in love with it,” she said.

Eck graduated from nursing school and became a registered nurse. Eventually, she went on to become a certified yoga instructor. She wanted to share the practice with others. Today, she serves as a wellness coach at Parkview Health.

The health network offers employees several opportunities to drop in to outdoor classes before or after their shift.

Practicing yoga is beneficial for an individual’s emotional, mental and physical health, Eck said. It can help with stress management, relieve tension, build strength and balance, aid in weight loss and improve cardiovascular and respiratory health, she said.

Mind, body and spirits

Eck has noticed that yoga has become a lot more popular since she started practicing about seven years ago.

“It has really grown, and I think it’s because there’s more opportunities to practice yoga than just going to a yoga studio, which can be intimidating to a lot of people,” she said.

Several breweries and wineries in the community have started offering events where patrons can combine wine or beer drinking with the practice of yoga.

Eck has been to such an event at Two-EE’s Winery in Huntington. For beginners, events like these are more approachable than going to a yoga studio.

“It creates an environment where people feel more comfortable, so I think they’re more likely to try it,” she said.

Lynne Koepper, co-owner of LaOtto Brewing, shared similar thoughts.

“Many of our regular participants did yoga for the first time at one of our beer and yoga events,” she said.

Participants are welcome to enjoy a pint before, after or during the yoga session.

“Most participants grab a glass of beer to enjoy during yoga. Our instructors work a sip into different poses but you may always reach down and grab a drink when you need it. We have a range of participants from beginners to experienced yogis. You do whatever you feel comfortable with and just remember to have fun with it,” she said.

Downward dog… or cat

Several yoga poses are inspired by animals (downward dog, cat pose, etc.), so it’s not much of a stretch that some people enjoy practicing yoga around animals.

Eck said the practice might even offer therapeutic benefits to some individuals.

“A lot of people find animals to be therapeutic,” she said.

Fort Wayne studio Simply Yoga has partnered with Perfect Paws Pet Rescue to offer yoga with puppies and kittens. Both events sold out, said studio owner Christa Smith.

The puppies and kittens run around and play with each other, and after the class the participants get 30 minutes of “cuddle time” with the animals.

“Everybody was smiling, everybody was happy. You could just tell. The energy in the room was just awesome,” she said.

Whatever floats your goat

Sarah Evans, a certified Baptiste yoga instructor, started Farm Yoga, a Facebook page where she shares opportunities to practice yoga on a farm.

Evans, who teaches at a studio in Fort Wayne, said taking yoga outside the studio has become her passion. She has also organized and taught several classes that pair practicing yoga with spending time with farm animals.

She has taught “equiyoga,” or horse yoga, to raise funds for a nonprofit barn in the area. Recently, she began offering goat yoga classes.

After a couple students in her class suggested it, she reached out to her friend Tabby Bane, who raises goats on a farm in Churubusco.

“It’s a very relaxed environment and the animals just bring so much light, fun energy and make it such a playful experience that I think people are a little bit less intimidated to come in and try yoga for the first time,” she said.

Participants set up their mats in the backyard and when it’s time to practice, the goats are released from their pen to roam freely around the yard. The goats are very curious, Evans said. They nibble at people’s yoga mats and want to be pet. The little ones have been known to climb under and on top of participants as they practice yoga.

“They love being around people. They love checking people out,” she said.

Learn more about local yoga events

• Follow Simply Yoga on Facebook to learn more about upcoming puppy and kitten yoga classes.

• Follow Farm Yoga on Facebook to learn more about upcoming goat yoga classes.

• Find out about upcoming beer and yoga events at LaOtto Brewing, Pedal City and Birdboy Brewing Company by following them on social media.