Maria Parrella-Turco and Melody Appel opened their business, Honor Yoga, nearly a year ago.

Students hold a pose during a class at Honor Yoga, located at 621 Route 130 in Hamilton.

Honor Yoga in Hamilton offers bikra, hatha and ashtanga yoga classes

It’s been a bigger year than Melody Appel had expected. Last March, she and Maria Parrella-Turco launched Honor Yoga, LLC at 621 Route 130 in Hamilton expecting a few beginners and some seasoned yoga practitioners. Almost a full year later, Honor Yoga has 14 independent instructors and scads of students from a far larger area than Appel had anticipated.

Appel says that she and Parrella-Turco set out to target the Hamilton area, thinking that their students would pretty much only be from Hamilton itself. But Honor Yoga has a decided advantage in that it is one of the only yoga studios anywhere near that end of town. And because it’s easy to get to from the highway, students from Bordentown, Chesterfield, Cream Ridge and Robbinsville have made their way to the studio.

A big draw for students seems to be the lack of intimidation Honor offers, Appel says.

“A lot of people come to us and say ‘I’ve always wanted to try this,’” she said.

But the holdup was that most yoga classes were offered at gyms, where for one thing, yoga classes usually came as part of a membership, and for another, gyms full of muscle-heads and hardcore-workout types can be rather scary to someone who isn’t in good shape already.

“We wanted to teach the big picture, and we always knew we’d have a lot of beginners,” she said, “but we have a lot more beginners than we thought. I’d say it’s about 50/50.”

Honor Yoga offers a diverse range of yoga styles, including hot yoga—where practitioners work out in a very warm room and sweat toxins away—hatha and ashtanga, which is a rigorous, athletic form of yoga.

“That’s the only one where we recommend you have some experience before you take it,” Appel said.

The rest of the classes, she says, are largely suitable for all takers, regardless of size, conditioning or ability. Appel says she and Parrella-Turco wanted to appeal to those who may not have exercised in 10 or even 20 years and want to do something to benefit themselves physically and emotionally.

Practicing yoga certainly has benefitted Appel emotionally and spiritually. The Old Bridge native was an events planner who one day realized the job, though exciting, was rather meaningless to her. She didn’t feel as if she were contributing anything positive to the world and got into yoga. She eventually taught at gyms in Philadelphia before moving to Robbinsville with her family two-and-a-half years ago.

In May 2012, Appel and Parrella-Turco began looking in earnest for a place to open their own studio. A few fall-throughs led them to their Hamilton home, which is, Appel says, one of the few yoga studios in the region to be fully eco-friendly. The studio has bamboo floors, filtered (not bottled) water for students, and cloth towels instead of paper napkins.

“We’re very conscious of the environment here,” she said. “We aim for zero waste.”

The sustainability focus is one of the things that sets Honor Yoga apart from its competitors, Appel says—its competitors being closer to Philly in the south and Princeton in the north, as well as those intimidating gyms. Another advantage, she says, is that the instructors run the gamut in styles and philosophies. There is everything from the very thin, vegetarian spiritualist to a certified physical therapist, who uses her knowledge of movement and anatomy to enhance her classes.

Honor also has come far enough in a year to now train and certify yoga instructors, and Appel hopes that her influence will “grow like a spider web” and lead to many others opening studios.

“I very much believe in yoga,” she said. “I believe in its benefits, and I’m just very grateful to be able to do this with my life and spread this around.”

Honor Yoga is located at 621 Route 130 in Hamilton. Phone: (609) 414-7171. Web: honoryoga.com.