Sarah Wendland of Davenport loves yoga and loves the varied tastes of local craft breweries.
So it makes perfect sense that she runs Bends & Brews, a five-year-old business that brings yoga to some of the Quad Cities’ best beer makers. These classes are all levels — from beginner to experienced yogi, so everyone can enjoy. Most locations are 21+ (unless otherwise stated), and you need to BYO mat and buy your own booze.
“I was actually introduced to it by one of my best friends while I was a runner,” Wendland said this week of yoga. “She thought it would be a good opportunity for me to add that into my repertoire, so I was hooked immediately.”
“I love that the balance it brings my life, with being able to have the community aspect of it but also the strength and the stretch,” she said. “It also pairs so nicely with so many other things that a lot of us do — whether you’re a runner or weightlifter or anything. It’s just a nice additive to that.”
Wendland also enjoys doing yoga at Haus of Om in Rock Island and Tapas Yoga in Bettendorf. For Bends & Brews, she likes to highlight locally made beer, and shook things up this past January, by doing more pop-up events at a greater variety of local breweries.
“Everybody’s got their favorite spot, but a lot of times people kind of stick to that instead of trying new things and this gives a highlight to those places where like, oh I’ve been meaning to go there, I already like this class, I have a designated time for that, I’ll go check it out,” she said. “And vice versa – people if they’re a Five Cities person, oh I like to go there, I’ll go check out this yoga class and add that.”
Midwest Ale Works at The Rust Belt in East Moline is the largest spot for Bends & Brews, and has a popular Thursday night series. Wendland said this past Mother’s Day, she had 35 to 40 people participate there.
Laid back and flexible
Her classes are pretty laid back and flexible, with people paying extra for the beer.
“People can get beverages and we do have them during class,” Wendland said. “I always tell people, the way I run my classes, it’s kind of a standard yoga class, but like choose your own adventure yoga in that I’m going to tell you for an hour some suggested poses and if you feel like doing them, great, and if you don’t and you would prefer just sit down and grab your beer and join us on the next one, that works too.”
The ”F*** It” Thursday class at Midwest Ale Works (including Nov. 10 and 17) makes it “very accessible for people that are new to yoga,” she said. “It makes it so it doesn’t feel like it’s such a serious endeavor of like going to a studio, but it’s also great for people who are practicing to try new things, to meet new people and to still get their yoga on during the week.”
Bends & Brews is at MAW monthly and at Pour Bros. Taproom in downtown Moline at least once a month, and other breweries are sprinkled throughout, Wendland said.
Mix between men and women
While her classes started out more women than men, now the mix is half and half, with many guys attracted to the beer aspect or women bring their partner along.
“We’ve had a really good luck with some gym-goers who found it through a mutual friend and they became hooked immediately because it’s so good for them, with their running and with their lifting and whatnot,” Wendland (who’s more a weightlifter and walker) said. “It just makes it accessible because then they can spend their Sunday at the brewery.”
Bends & Brews has couples, singles, and a little bit of everyone, she said.
“And it’s all age groups too. I’ve got people that are in their early 20s ranging all the way up into their 50s and 60s.”
A mother of two, Wendland also has taught color guard for the Rock Island High marching band since 1998, and her full-time job is a business analyst at the Rock Island Arsenal’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, Chemical Biological Center.
“I stay pretty busy,” she said, noting Bends & Brews has other instructors but Wendland teaches over 90 percent of the classes.
Checking out the brews
Erin Lambert of Davenport is a class regular and enjoys checking out different breweries in the area.
Before Bends & Brews, she had taken traditional yoga, always in a studio with real calm music and mood lighting. Lambert loves the concept of yoga for its stress relief.
“It’s an hour to yourself, you know, which is really nice,” she said. “So whatever is in your practice, then we work on that every week and try to maybe move a little bit more and just have some time for yourself.”
Bends & Brews is very social.
“I think I’ve made a lot of friends through it and a lot of different connections about what’s out there to check out in the Quad Cities, or other groups to join,” Lambert said. “It’s a really diverse group, and again, not your typical yoga. I think one of the things that turned me on right away was that, it wasn’t a room full of women.
“It’s rare to have only women in her class,” she said. “It’s bringing in a whole bunch of different people from all different areas. We’ve got runners and athletes and moms and dads, but everybody’s there together.”
Everybody usually grabs a beer right before they start class and you bring that in with you. Having the classes exposes people to breweries they may not have been to.
“She goes to Midwest Ale Works a lot and they’ve been really supportive of the class — providing the space and advertising for her,” Lambert said. “It’s real partnership and it’s a fantastic space, but I don’t know that I ever would have seen it not having her class.”
The self-serve taproom Pour Bros. is another amazing bar, she added.
“They’ve been really supportive as well and they’ve got a great aspect of, I don’t have to get up during my yoga session and wait on a bartender, not that we wait, but it’s right there on tap,” Lambert said. “I can serve myself.”
She usually tries to go on Sundays and often sees a friend in a class.
“I’ve brought in a whole group of my own friends in different circles that I’m in,” Lambert said. “And it’s always cool to see somebody that I didn’t know knew about the class show up and we’ve known each other from a different place.”
She also appreciates how laid-back Wendland is.
“That’s the kind of the coolest spot, too, is that she’s very encouraging of – it doesn’t matter where you come from, doesn’t matter how much yoga you know,” Lambert said. “It’s just your practice so you can come in and move as much as you want or say that’s not for me. I’m gonna drink my beer; I’ll join you at the next one.”
Bends & Brews will have a special Friendsgiving Nov. 27 at noon, Raccoon Motel, 315 E. 2nd St., Davenport. Grab your mat, grab your friends, grab a beer and don’t forget a dish to share — they will hang out afterward. Space is limited so be sure to register in advance for your spots.