Health & Wellness

A Nighttime Downward Dog

Candlelight yoga at All That Matters makes for a healthier alternative to a night on the town

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Normally, if I’m heading downtown at 9 o’clock on a Thursday night… well, to quote the great Levon Helm, I ain’t in it for my health. Those are peak hours for boozing and carousing and not normally given over to exercise. The evening is for bars, not barres.

Sometimes, however, my liver needs a break – or maybe I’m looking for a less expensive and calorie-rich nighttime activity, or just didn’t have time to work out earlier in the day. In those circumstances I could choose to visit the 24-hour Planet Fitness (I’m still curious to see who’s there at 2am) or risk an after-dark run in the streets. But I recently discovered a new option: Candlelight Flow Yoga at All That Matters.

Over the past two decades plus, All That Matters has become a mini-empire of yoga and holistic wellness in Rhode Island. It began in 1995 in downtown Wakefield and now boasts locations in East Greenwich and Providence, offering more than 100 different yoga and meditation classes every week, plus health services (acupuncture, reiki, massage, etc.) and a retail store at the original Wakefield location.

The Providence studio opened in 2015, but in February of this year it expanded into the empty space next door, adding a second yoga space and bathroom along with a reception/retail area. (Coincidentally, the expansion puts All That Matters in the former Fain’s Rug storefront where, once upon a time, this magazine’s offices were housed.) Erika Lucas, a yoga instructor and reflexologist, manages the Providence location and teaches the Candlelight Flow class. The cozy yoga studio looking out onto North Main Street is softly lit and immediately projects calm. Through partially covered windows you can see hints of people passing to and fro on their way to the bars and feel comfortable in the knowledge that you’re making a better choice for your body (or perhaps just preemptively alleviating some guilt before joining them at the bar).

This is first and foremost a flow class, so the focus is on connecting movements and breathing in order to work the body and release tension. The Candlelight class is on the gentle side – a slow pace and no complex positions – so it’s a great choice for relative novices like me. At times it’s still challenging enough to produce a light sweat, but the meditative vibe means that the overall effect is more about unwinding and caring for oneself than a vigorous workout.

Erika took our small group through more than an hour of simple poses and movement, one flowing into another, and never allowed us to lose focus on mindful breathing. She was a calming presence with a soothing voice, guiding us through each phase, but offering gentle encouragement to disregard her instructions if necessary and do what felt natural for our bodies instead. Not feeling upward facing dog? Opt for a simple plank or feel free to go right back to downward facing dog. 

After taking us through the entire set, Erika devoted a considerable – and welcome – amount of time to post-workout relaxation. She demonstrated how to create a makeshift recliner from yoga blocks and bolster pillows and instructed us to lie back, close our eyes and just breathe. Meanwhile, she made her way around the room, gently nudging us to make way for another block or pillow, or draping blankets over our legs. By the time we opened our eyes, she had essentially built each of us our own personal wellness-enhancing pillow fort. I’ve tried a number of yoga classes and enjoyed them all, but I’ve never encountered an instructor so attentive to comfort and hospitality.

Now fully stretched and soothed, we gathered our belongings and headed back into the night, wherever it would take us. What cocktail pairs well with warrior pose?