Bends & booze

About 25 people showed up for the first Bendy Boozy Yoga series class at High Wire Distilling Co. on King Street last week.

Yoga studios can be intimidating places for beginners, especially those from, shall we say, “the less flexible gender.”

From the stretches and stretchy pants to the pretzel-like postures with Sanskrit names, it’s just too much for many of the uninitiated and macho guys. But one local yoga teacher has found an angle to lure them in and keep them: alcohol.

Beth Cosi, owner of Tapas Yoga, has been holding her “Bendy Brewski Yoga” series on Mondays for two years at Holy City Brewery on Dorchester Road in North Charleston.

After each 45-minute class, participants are invited to stick around, sample an array of beers and socialize, the latter of which can be rare at most studios. A week ago Monday, 54 people spread mats between the vats, the barrels, bar and pool table at Holy City.

Among them were a group of friends — Gilly and Peter Wallace of Mount Pleasant, Pete Volk of Folly Beach, Lauren Wolf of West Ashley, and Carol Varano on James Island — who met doing Bendy Brewski Yoga last year and have become regular beer yogis.

Volk, whose wife Susan usually joins the group, says the yoga and beer combination works for them.

“It makes my wife happy because I’m exercising and it makes me happy because I’m drinking beer,” says Volk. “What I like about it is that it (the class) is not intimidating and I know that if it hurts, beer will always come afterward.”

Unlike some yoga studios in Charleston, where young adult women dominate, the yoga class at Holy City ran the gamut of age and had a higher ratio of men.

Chloe Greene says she only started coming to Holy City after her father, Lenny Greene, invited her. When she first attended, most participants were his age or just a tad younger.

Does yoga trump the beer, or vice versa?

“The beer is definitely an influence,” says Chloe, who is 23 and attends College of Charleston. “I like yoga, but yoga and beer seemed more ideal than just plain yoga.”

With the popularity of the series at Holy City, Cosi recently started a series at Frothy Beard Brewing on Peppermill Parkway in North Charleston on Tuesdays and “Bendy Boozy Yoga” series at High Wire Distillery on upper King Street on Wednesdays, where the yogis get samples of vodka, rum and whiskey.

While Cosi thought she had created something unique, an online article she was interviewed for in “Yoga Journal” indicated that similar classes are being held in other parts of the country.

The origin of the Bendy Brewski Yoga series was a past working relationship with Chris Brown at EVO Pizza in North Charleston. Brown is now head brewer and part-owner at Holy City.

At EVO, Cosi would do impromptu, short yoga session with co-workers.

“This would take place in the kitchen, the dish-pit or the office, before or after a shift, sometimes right in the middle of a lunch or dinner rush,” says Cosi.

“I noticed that their response to these small opportunities of yoga had an empowering effect and I started to get lots of questions. Some were getting curious about their bodies and wanted to feel more, not less.”

When she gave passes to studio classes, no one ever came.

“I began to see that these students, mostly dudes with beards, weren’t gonna come to a yoga studio. They found it intimidating. They worried that they wouldn’t understand the language, the dress, the culture within the studio. I understood that. These were not your Lululemon yogis, not yet anyway,” says Cosi.

When Holy City opened, Brown asked Cosi to start doing classes for staff and close friends in local food and beverage circles.

After class, they’d have a tasting and talk about yoga postures, the beer and life in general.

“It was all good. Our bodies and minds were open. There’s a kind of serenity after a good yoga class, and what followed was relaxing, slow conversation with no drama and no yoga hype,” says Cosi, adding that the brewery turned out to be ideal for yoga.

“I have been very fortunate, blessed really, to be at the right place at the right time and at the crossroads where two passions, two crafts collide.”

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.