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  • Randall Benton /

    Bella Dreizler leads a yoga class on Monday. Dreizler's class at the It's All Yoga studio was called "Release the Beast." Many practitioners said yoga helps them relieve stress.

  • Randall Benton /

    Kathy Saephanh relaxes during exercises at It's All Yoga.

  • Randall Benton /

    Bella Dreizler, in background above, and Jeanne Halvorson lead a class at It's All Yoga on Monday. Dreizler encouraged her students, left, to "release the beast."

  • Randall Benton /

    Tenaya Freitas focuses on her position Monday in a class at the It's All Yoga studio in Sacramento. The second annual Sacramento Free Day of Yoga brought together more than 1,000 people focus on the ancient art. Some tried it for the first time, and others experimented with new techniques.

  • Randall Benton /

    Tony Whitehead begins a class with more than 30 others on the Sacramento Free Day of Yoga. On Monday, participants could sample such styles as iyengar, vinyasa and bikram.

  • Randall Benton /

    Students warm down at the end of a yoga class at the It's All Yoga studio in Sacramento on Monday, September 2, 2013. Today is Sacramento Free Day of Yoga.

More than a thousand are drawn to Sacramento's Free Day of Yoga

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

Monday was a day to relax and renew. More than 1,000 Sacramento yogis and first-timers studio-hopped around town to practice the art of yoga from early morning to evening.

The second annual Sacramento Free Day of Yoga gave people the chance to try more than 40 classes at 17 studios in the region.

Last year's event drew about 1,000 participants, according to Michelle Marlahan, a spokeswoman for the event who teaches a class at the It's All Yoga studio near 21st and X streets.

"Last year, studios were turning people away; classes were packed," Marlahan said. This year, organizers tried to make more options available for the larger numbers they expected.

"If they couldn't get into one class, they could just pop over to another studio," Marlahan said. "That's really the whole point – to explore, make it a yoga crawl."

The day was part of a national movement to encourage people to try yoga for the first time and for veteran yogis to sample a new style.

It's All Yoga even offered a class called "I'm New To Yoga, Please Don't Hurt Me" for those who get nervous at the thought of contorting their bodies into painful poses.

Marlahan said the purpose of Monday's event was to combat that mindset and "make it less intimidating for people who have never done yoga."

And the event may be helping to increase the number of yoga lovers in Sacramento. Marlahan said It's All Yoga gets new students daily.

"Just when I think everybody in Sacramento has tried yoga, it's still this expanding thing," she said.

The health benefits of consistent practice may be an incentive for the growing population of yogis.

"Yoga cures what ails you," Marlahan said. She said yoga practice can increase flexibility, strength and attentiveness.

On Monday, participants could sample such styles as iyengar, vinyasa and bikram — a sweat-inducing style of yoga that involves a repetitive sequence of positions performed in a heated room.

At about noon, 36 people packed into a room, spreading out their mats beneath them, at the It's All Yoga studio for the "Release the Beast" class.

Students wiggled around with spiky balls or tennis balls in the "valley" of their backs, inhaling and exhaling slowly.

"Don't feel like you have to be all quiet about this. Tap into your exhale and if you want to make it audible, make it audible," said instructor Bella Dreizler.

After that, the class let out a chorus of loud exhales. Dreizler told them to envision their exhales as melting butter.

"See if you can envision whatever's in there melting," Dreizler said, referring to the "beast" that the class is meant to release.

For Erin Horrell of Sacramento, those "beasts" are her hips – put under pressure from her distance-running workouts.

"I feel very relaxed," Horrell said after the class. "I have a lot less tension than when I came in."

Horrell said "Release the Beast" was her third class of the morning and she planned to attend at least one more.

At this particular class, students used rollers and balls to explore parts of their body that could help them attune to certain sensations.

"Let's see if we can keep the attention in the room, in the body, in the sensation for one solid hour," Dreizler said as students laid flat on their backs. "That is yoga."

GALLERY: More photos from the Sacramento Free Day of Yoga. Call The Bee's Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103. Follow her on Twitter @BrittTorrez.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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