While many fitness classes and studios can be intimidating, you won’t find that at Sutra Studios. The ego-free and welcoming studio recently opened its second Valley location in downtown Gilbert, among the bustling downtown area and just steps away from hot spots like Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row and Postino Wine Bar.

Owners Rebecca and Matthew Fritz opened their downtown Phoenix location in 2009, and were originally thinking about opening another location in Scottsdale, then discussed the possibility of opening a studio in the East Valley in Gilbert.

Rebecca said she was drawn to Gilbert because she kept hearing positive things about the area and restaurants like Clever Koi and Postino. She and Matthew drove to Gilbert to see the area and found their current studio open and available.

A short time later, Sutra Studios had secured the Gilbert location and opened their 5,000- square foot Gilbert Heritage studio in early May. The space has two large class studios, an open lobby area with a boutique and cafe and a 1,000-square foot patio for community events and outdoor fitness classes.

Rebecca said it’s beneficial to be in the East Valley because they can reach a new and different demographic and community. “One of the biggest and best things about this business model is the community building, you’re building a several 100-person size tribe or family, that’s what it feels like. I think one of the best things about opening up out here is the prospect of building another new community.

“And I also don’t know that there’s any sort of concept like this currently existing out here, so I love the looks on people’s faces when they come in and they’re like, ‘wait, what?’ It’s so friendly and welcoming, but it’s also fun and cool and can be edgy, but it can also be spiritual and physically challenging, but in a way that makes people feel comfortable to try. So today maybe you want to push yourself physically, tomorrow you want to push yourself emotionally and spiritually, the next day you want to push yourself to try something new; so it’s beneficial to be able to encompass all of those things and offer it to a new group of people.”

I took my first yoga class at their Gilbert Heritage location, and took my first barre class at their downtown Phoenix studio on 1st Street and Roosevelt in 2017, and remember it was a tough class. The yoga class was challenging in a different way, the class focused on stretching, flexibility, balance and releasing tension.

Rebecca and Matthew were welcoming, I was the first to arrive for the 9 a.m. class and was a little nervous. I had never taken a yoga class before and wasn’t sure how large the class would be or if I would get the hang of it quickly.

But after speaking with Rebecca, my nerves were eased. She offered me a yoga mat and we chatted briefly about the overcast and rainy weather that day and I told her I hadn’t taken a yoga class before, she assured me I would do fine.

Shortly after, I was joined by three other young women taking the Central Flow class which was a relief. The studio was warmer than I expected, Rebecca said they never let it get warmer than 83 degrees, but the warmer temperature helps you build your body temperature internally through movement to loosen muscles.

Before the class began, Rebecca asked the four of us in the class to introduce ourselves to each other “in the name of community,” which was unexpected but nice to make everyone feel more comfortable. After putting on some hip-hop music softly, she asked us to think about what our intent was over the next hour in the class, maybe it was to release tension, stretch or challenge ourselves.

Rebecca guided us through several standing sequences repeatedly that included poses like downward dog, cobra, child’s pose, chair, cat and cow poses, lunges and extended side angle pose, the entire time being conscious of our breathing, inhaling and exhaling throughout the sequence to stretch and release tension.

As I went through each sequence, my body became more familiar with what to do, the initially odd positions became easier each time, and I focused more, so I could balance more steadily while holding the positions and transitioning between each pose was smoother.

Towards the end of the class, Rebecca gave everyone two yoga blocks and demonstrated a side crow pose, where you bend your knees into a half-squat with your thighs parallel to the floor. You move your left elbow and place it outside of your right thigh, and place your right hand on the floor, your arms act as a “shelf” for your knees to rest on; then you bend your elbows and using your core strength, lift your feet off the floor and hold the position. I attempted this pose twice with the help of yoga blocks and didn’t quite master it, apparently my feet were off the floor though, so I made a little progress.

At the end of class, she asked us to think about what we had done in the past 60 minutes, if we pushed ourselves, pushed our bodies to do more than we thought. I felt I had challenged myself and learned too. While I had assumed taking a yoga class would be slow-paced and focused on stretching, I now realize yoga is challenging and takes effort and concentration to do correctly and to reap the benefits.

I was sore for the next few days, which I attribute to not stretching enough before and after the class, but I felt I had more energy in the days that followed and enjoyed learning a new way to exercise. I’m glad my first experience taking a yoga class was at Sutra, and because of my positive experience I would definitely consider taking additional classes such as Pilates and barre.

If you take a class at Sutra Studios, you’ll be greeted with a warm smile; and be ready for a challenging and fun class.