Was there ever a place better suited to hot yoga than Winnipeg in winter? Our cold, snowy months have helped make hot yoga the fitness and well-being trend it is. From hot yoga to sun salutations by a cool lake, Manitoba is reinventing itself as a yoga capital.

Feel the Heat
Yoga Public opens this month in downtown Winnipeg, just in time to help us with our New Years' resolutions of getting fit. The 20,000-square-foot yoga centre will be the largest in Canada and, we think, one of the best in North America.

With rainforest showers in the changing room and the unique yoga wall (see photo), visitors will quickly understand this is not anyone's neighbourhood yoga studio.Take the contemporary sculpture of a sacred cow at the entrance. "Every yoga studio has a Shiva goddess," says director Samantha Chisick. "We wanted to do something different."

The centre's warm, earthy and elegant design is another of the unexpected delights. The chic decor belies the state of the art and eco-friendly technology throughout. Yoga Public's huge hot yoga studio - the biggest in the city - is heated with infrared heat for a bone-warming experience that also detoxifies at a cellular level, hypo-allergenic, antimicrobial floors specifically designed for hot and humid environments, and environmental control systems designed to circulate fresh air and maximize oxygen levels. "The whole point of yoga is to learn to breathe. Here you both feel the heat and get that air swerve." says Chisick.

The centre doesn't discriminate against disciples of Ashtanga or Bikram but offers an array of yoga styles: restorative yoga, extreme relaxation yoga, yoga that targets back and shoulder pain. Visitors to the city can get in on the mellow action with a drop in class or a $35 dollar intro pass which allows unlimited classes for two weeks.

Yoga Public also has the first TRX training centre in Canada and only the second in North America. TRX offers the same kind of suspension training U.S. navy SEALs and professional athletes use. So, don't be surprised if you bump into a Jet NHL hockey player or Blue Bomber CFL player looking to tighten their core and increasing flexibility.

Before opening the centre, Chisick and Ida Albo, the owner of Yoga Public as well as the nearby Fort Garry Hotel, travelled extensively to research the latest yoga techniques, teaching methods and trends. It's the same formula Albo used before opening the uber-successful Ten Spa atop the Fort Garry Hotel. She crisscrossed the globe looking interesting spa ideas and to research Turkish hamams.
Yoga Public also plans to be an international centre for yoga teacher training, bringing in aspiring and experienced teachers from throughout Canada and elsewhere.

Other pose-itively fabulous Manitoba yoga experiences:

The Yoga+Spa package at the Fort Garry Hotel puts to rest the adage that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Winnipeg's historic hotel has teamed up with Yoga Public (well, they are owned by the same folks) to offer a hard-to-resist package: Saturday night at the hotel, spa dinner in the elegant Palm Lounge, two yoga classes at Yoga Public, a self-administered hamam treatment at the oh-so-fab Ten Spa on the top floor of the hotel, and...the Fort Garry's legendary Sunday brunch spread. All for $159 per person.

Bet you've never downward dogged on a billion-year-old crop of Canadian Shield while a beaver swims by and the sun and breeze caress the back of your neck. Those are only some of the delights of Northern Soul's unique Yoga/Canoe Weekend (see video above). This package, cited as a must-try by the New York Times and other publications, is a two or three night expedition in Manitoba's Whiteshell Provincial Park. Despite the name, you don't do yoga poses in the canoe. You paddle out to into the boreal forest, pitch your tent and spend your days sunning, swimming and, of course, breathing deep. There are two yoga classes a day and gourmet campfire food in between.

Ever dreamt of having a city to yourself? That's sort of what the early morning yoga classes at Fresh Cafe in Winnipeg's Little Italy feels like. The quiet classes take place from 7-8 am Thursdays in summer. While the rest of the world bustles off to work, you enjoy a moment of calm and endless prairie sunshine as a top yoga teacher takes you through poses on the front patio of this award-winning restaurant. After, enjoy one of their fresh inventive smoothies or breakfast with ingredients sourced from local farmers. You've earned it.

Fall is short for Falcon Lake, we think. One of Manitoba's favourite lakes. Falcon, in Eastern Manitoba's Canadian Shield country, boasts the luxurious, eco-friendly Falcon Trails Resort. Nestled in the south side of the lake, the resort's features include lakeview cabins, each with a private deck and hot tub. Their annual yoga retreat, in late October, is a highlight on the Manitoba yoga calendar. Yoga professor Chrissy Sie-Merritt leads three classes on Saturday and two on Sunday, but there's also plenty of time during the retreat for canoeing, hikes and convivial meals - either barbecues or fare by well-known local caterer Kelly Dubé who sources organic ingredients from nearby farms.