LAS VEGAS (AP) — Surrounded by imposing Las Vegas hotel-casinos in the foreground and desert mountains in the background, the group breathed deeply and loudly as an instructor guided them through their poses: upward dog, downward dog, lord of the dance.
The participants, though, weren't the only ones shifting positions in this mirrorless space with Instagram-enviable views.
The three women and a man were inside a cabin of the world's tallest Ferris wheel, stretching and holding poses as the marquees of The Mirage, Linq, Harrah's and Caesars Palace appeared and faded from sight.
This gambling oasis isn't known for mind-steadying experiences. But as the city broadens the range of interests and wallets it appeals to, companies have carefully selected an array of unique, picture-perfect sites where visitors and locals can say "Namaste." Call it yoga a la Vegas, and picture dolphins, helicopters, red rocks and ritzy high-rises.
"High plank, low plank, up dog, down dog," Raffi Yozgadlian said as he guided the group at the High Roller observation wheel through a series of yogi calisthenics at about 550 feet (168 meters) above ground.
The instructions stopped three-quarters into the class, and out came the cellphones. It was time for a few photos of handstands and other poses with the Bellagio, Cosmopolitan and an Eiffel Tower replica in the background.
"I was like, whoa. You have the Strip and you can take that in, or you have the mountains and you can take that in," said Carly Benson, a Las Vegas resident whose tripod headstand photo is now on Instagram. "I was a little concerned about how my balance was going to be, and surprisingly, being able to zone in the landscape, I had better balance there than I sometimes do on the ground."
Visitors and locals in need of their downward dog also can take classes surrounded by an outdoor installation of neon signs in the summer; by request, poolside at the MGM Grand; or on the grassy fields of a recreation area just outside the city in the shade of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
For those who prefer the indoors, the studio with floor-to-ceiling glass windows on the eighth floor of the opulent Mandarin Oriental hotel offers views of the Las Vegas Strip.
The unorthodox settings fit with a nationwide trend of yoga instruction moving out of the studio and into parks, breweries, museums and other locations. Some classes incorporate goats and butterflies.
Caesars Entertainment, which owns the High Roller, thought the Ferris wheel would be a good place for a fitness class and decided yoga was the perfect fit. Each cabin fits up to 40 people standing and in benches.
"It's a one-hour class, so it's a fulfilling practice, and whether you are a yoga enthusiast or first-timer or someone who just wants to have that amazing Instagram yoga moment here in Vegas, it presents a unique experience," said Lindsay Sanna, Caesars' senior director of marketing. The class is $75 per person.
At the Mirage, yogis of all skill levels can sign up for an hourlong class in the underwater viewing area of the dolphin tanks at Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. On a recent Friday morning, a group began the experience by taking a few breaths while sitting on their mats facing bottlenose dolphins through glass windows.
"Of course, you can pop your eyes open if you want to see the dolphins," Janet Ziter told the class, which included devoted and beginner yoga practitioners. Dolphins swam next to three windows while soothing music played.
This class, too, incorporated a mini-photo shoot. And so a guest held the crow pose — hands planted on the floor, shins resting on the back of his upper arms and feet lifted up — for a few seconds until a dolphin swam behind him and a friend snapped a photo.
Instructors with the yoga-focused company Silent Savasana teach the classes at the High Roller and also lead what's perhaps Las Vegas' most luxurious of yoga experiences: a helicopter ride from the airport to a nearby state park and a class atop bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops.
The class in a remote area of the 63-square-mile (163-square-kilometer) Valley of Fire State Park allows participants to take in a breathtaking view of bright blue skies and sandstones while flowing from pose to pose.
The exact location of the 75-minute, six-person class depends on the day's wind conditions. The experience concludes with a flight over the Las Vegas Strip.
Some may be priced out of the $3,499 experience, which includes champagne. But Maverick Helicopters, which for years has offered trips to other destinations in the U.S. Southwest, says at least six groups have participated this year.
Shandelle Troy practices yoga regularly and recently celebrated her birthday by taking the class. Outfitted with typical black yoga pants and a teal tank top, she assumed a spot close to the helicopter and a few yards (meters) from the instructor.
"Yoga is so spiritual, so being out there in nature makes it so much better," the resident of Henderson, Nevada, said between sips of bubbly.
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