Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
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Saturday, December 31, 2005

resolutions for the new year

it's new year's eve, and it's time for the traditional "these are the things i would like to accomplish next year" list. so here's how my list is shaping up so far:

i must --

1. get a job. a good job. a good paying job. of course, "fantastic" would be preferable to "good", but at this point, beggars (namely me) can't be choosers. good income is necessary to support my yoga habit (as well as other habits, such as running marathons, traveling, and eating well).

2. continue to be as involved and committed to yoga by next year's end as i am right now.

3. at a minimum, be able to pull off a basic version of the following arm balance poses: handstand, headstand, crow.

4. continue mastering and strengthening the poses i can already do.

as one yoga teacher urged, the point is to keep expanding and pushing my limits. i know i can do much more.

happy new year to one and all!

Friday, December 30, 2005

holiday sampler

In 1912, the Whitman's Sampler was first introduced. The Sampler was a special box with a mix of different popular kinds of candy sold in the store. The Sampler box was decorated in a cross-stitch design. This design picture was based on a hand-made cross-stitch by Walter Sharp's grandmother. The Sampler box also came with a chart naming the different kinds of candy and their locations in the box. Even today, the Sampler remains very popular and the yellow box with cross-stitch cover design is easily recognized. - Fabulous Philly Foods

i like to collect things. for example, not only am i a marathoner, but i have made it my goal to run a marathon in every state (yes, there IS at least one marathon in every state, and yes, there are others like me. i actually belong to two clubs of like-minded runners: the 50 states marathon club and the 50&DC marathon group). and whenever possible, i make it a point to run an inaugural marathon. why? because race organizers bend over backwards to make sure the race turns out to be a memorable event.

with that in mind...

for the two-week period which included three special days: my birthday, christmas, and new year's day, i had gifted myself with an assortment, a whitman's sampler so to speak, of yoga classes. my goal was to take a class everyday with a different teacher each time, preferably someone i had never taken classes with before (although there were some with whom i had just taken one or two classes and wanted to try them again). since los angeles is a hotbed of yoga studios and yoga personalities, it wasn't hard to do; in fact, i challenged myself to find the best teachers in town and juggle all their schedules around so that i could fit in as many as i could.

since it was the holidays with special schedules and studio closures, it made my job a bit complicated. especially since, in keeping with my current financial situation, i tried to limit the studios to either those with which i already held series passes or those that offered free classes to new students. finally, since i have this minor obsession with firsts and lasts, i attempted to find classes that were a teacher's first or last at a location, on a day or a time, or any combination of the three.

even if it did sound more like torture on my part than a treat, it was all worth it.

with four more days to go until january 3rd (my last day in town before i leave for vacation), barring class substitutions or cancellations, my holiday sampler will look like this:

12/19shiva reasacred movementpass 
12/20landry matthews
(sub for anthony)
city yogaFREEFIRST class
at city yoga
12/22david romanellisacred movementpassFIRST class
at sacred
12/23micheline berrysacred movementpass 
12/24matthew reyesyogamattpass 
12/27anthony benenaticity yoga$12.75
KCRW rate
LAST class
at this time,
this location
12/28 amgurmukh kaur khalsagolden bridge yogaFREE 
12/28 pmtom morleymaha yogapass 
12/29steve rossmaha yogapassLAST pm
class at maha
12/30christine burkeliberation yogaFREE 
12/31liza savage-katz
(sub for chappy)
santa monica
1/1seane cornsacred movementdonationFIRST class
at sacred
1/2gianna carotenutoforrest yoga$12
KCRW rate
1/3 americh schiffmansacred movementpassFIRST class
in new year
1/3 pmmatthew reyesmaha yogapassFIRST class
in steve's
time slot

updated 1/3: i had two unexpected last-minute substitutions and had to skip a few days due to family commitments (see dec 25th post). despite doubling up on the 28th and the 3rd, i ran out of time and couldn't include all the teachers i wanted to check out. i may end up extending this for another week when i get back from vacation.

all in all, i'm quite pleased with the way things turned out. i've had a taste of the different yoga forms -- anusara, kundalini, vinyasa flow, hip-hop -- and i honestly believe that i'm a better yoga student for the experience.

i'll write about each teacher in later posts...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

making yoga accessible to all

In the East, the teachings of Yoga and the Healing Arts have traditionally been shared through the practice of Dana (generosity /giving). In this spirit, I am pleased to be able to offer classes on a donation basis. The suggested donation ... per class is a guideline, any offering made from the heart is greatly appreciated.

"Life exists and flows through a continuous exchange of energy from the universal to the personal. All of life is connected through this flow of giving and receiving. When we honor that flow in a way that is appropriate for us, we support life. We create value and beauty in the world by giving our energy to the world in that way. Each person present is an important part of the experience, we also give with our attitude, our inner energy and our spirit. This is truly a community class, your offerings support this class directly and help support this studio." - Saul David Raye

being on a tight budget makes for some interesting yoga class options. FREE is always good (usually offered by studios as an incentive to attract new students), with pay-as-you-can, or a donation basis, as the next best option. with this in mind, i started taking some classes with two local teachers who operate on a donation basis. luckily for me, they're well known in the yoga world:

Bryan Kest
Santa Monica Power Yoga - East
522 Santa Monica Blvd. (Upstairs)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 458-9510

website: www.poweryoga.com

Saul David Raye
Shakti's Elements
717 Broadway Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 313-5076

website: www.thaiyoga.com

due to the holiday madness, i'll describe their classes once things calm down around here...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

but wait, there's more!

1422 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 899-6222
website: www.exhalespa.com

Exhale’s yoga studios are an urban oasis for the transformational experience of yoga. Our yoga experience nourishes your senses:

Taste - Enjoy a nourishing tea before class with sensual herbs and flavors
Sight - Beautiful colors, serene altars and mandalas which change according to the energy of class
Scent - Inhale the subtle aromatherapy infused through our yoga rooms (real essential oils – no incense)
Sound - The music in our classes is a curated selection of timeless grooves and chants to energize and enhance the flow of yoga
Touch - Our teachers are trained to give beneficial hands-on adjustments to take your yoga experience to the next level; our classes end an Ananda Shavasana with massage, aromatherapy and bolsters.

sometime in january of this year, sacred movement was acquired by exhale spa, an east coast-based chain of spas and yoga studios. shortly before exhale opened their second west coast location a few miles from their first, i received an email from sacred movement about the upcoming event. not only was there now another yoga studio for me to try out, but there was a great introductory offer: all classes would be FREE the first week!

this couldn't have come at a more opportune time for me -- not only was the price right for a jobless person like myself, but i could take any class, day or night, without work getting in the way (yes, i had job interviews to worry about, but i conveniently scheduled them around the yoga classes i wanted to take).

so i took as many yoga classes as possible. i took two with david romanelli, co-founder of at one yoga in the phoenix area, and another one with chappy foote, co-founder of harmony yoga in redondo beach. both belong to the yoga-with-contemporary-upbeat-music school of thought, so i specifically sought them out to see how they compared to the maha set of teachers.

i also took a core fusion class* with elisabeth halfpapp, partly because i knew nothing about core fusion, partly because elisabeth (and her husband) invented the class and had flown in from new york for the opening, and partly because i could avail myself of a $20 value for free. i had originally planned to take another class with fred devito, elisabeth's better half, but i ended up oversleeping that morning and missed it altogether...

* core fusion: "The brainchild of Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Halfpapp, the Core Fusion® program has grown to over 4,000 dedicated students in one year because it is an intelligent and effective program. The class includes body shaping, sports conditioning, and injury prevention in a highly charged environment with motivating music. Core Fusion® uses your own body weight as resistance, standing barre work for alignment and posture, floor work for core and spinal strength, Pilates, yoga postures, orthopedic stretches and a savasana (relaxation session) at the conclusion. The class efficiently weaves an interval training pace with single-minded focus on detailed positioning that produce fast results."

so what was my verdict? david and chappy were mellower meditative versions of steve, tom, and matt. which is a good thing, because their varying approaches to yoga will help broaden my yoga horizons. so they're definite keepers. as for the whole core fusion thing, i think i'll pass for now, because even if i might almost be strong and flexible enough to keep up, i'm a total ab wimp, so any class that has my abs yelling and screaming for mercy is not the class for me.

by the way, i just found out not only is my sacred movement series pass valid at this location, but that for a mere $10 more, i can also use the spa facilities on the same day. tea bar, jacuzzi, sauna, showers... something to keep in mind if i have somewhere to go after class. or even if i don't, because as we know at this juncture in my life, i'm a woman of leisure (whose funds are slowly dwindling).

note to self: i need to find a job pronto before i get used to this way of life!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

private practice

1717 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Feliz, CA 90027
(323) 913-0109
website: www.yogamatt.us

"If you take a yoga class and afterward feel like treating yourself better, another person with deeper kindness, or are more balanced in a situation, then you’ve spiritually grown. Even if you only make one single new healthy decision then return to your regular disposition, that’s a step forward. You’ll have used yoga to increase your spiritual development." - Matthew Reyes

i'm a matthew reyes groupie. and i'm not the only one. here's how the lululemon santa monica website describes him:

"Matthew Reyes, Los Angeles hatha yoga instructor, combines a celebration of hip music with the beauty of the human body in motion. His yoga classes have hot groovy music and yogi men and women who love to bend, stretch, and twist to the rhythm of an urban beat. Matthew's is a cutting-edge yoga class. Celebrities such as Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Estella Warren, the Olson twins and David Ducovney come for his hybrid of traditional Eastern yoga style with Western head-bopping music. Like a dj, he spins Eminem, Janet, Prince, and Coldplay. Matthew’s yoga class is the ultimate feel-good, get-you-revved-up and ready-to-succeed power yoga class. His personality reaches a wide variety of students, and is able to motivate the new yogi and mentor the long-time student. As Matthew teaches, he makes you step into the middle of your athleticism."

for the past three months, i had been religiously attending matt's sunday morning classes at maha yoga. the time and the place were perfect; it was early enough on sundays that i could be done and showered and still have a good portion of the day ahead of me, and, better yet, it was just up the street from my home. so when i decided to follow him across town to his new studio, one would wonder why i'd replace one perfectly good routine with one that was extremely inconvenient...

i believe i need to start from the beginning to explain myself.

as you know, my acquaintance with matt goes back a few years to the days we used to run in the same marathon training group. he moved on and ended up in yogaland while i stayed and kept pursuing the marathon medals (note: don't be too impressed by that; all marathon finishers, no matter how slow, get medals when they cross the finish line). so when i found out that he was opening up his own studio, YogaMatt, in los feliz, i felt i needed to show support for him and his new endeavor, even if it meant driving almost 20 miles just to feed my hip-hop yoga addiction.

initially, the logistics worked quite well. the first week his studio was open, all the classes were FREE. how could anyone NOT take advantage of that sweet of a deal? plus my office was only seven miles away, so depending on my work schedule, i could usually make either of his two weekday evening classes. or even his saturday morning class, since traffic wasn't an issue that early in the day.

the biggest difference between matt's classes at maha vs. his classes at his new studio was the class size -- while there were easily 60 students in the room at maha, there were only 6 at a time at yogamatt. there was no need to fight for precious floor space, no need to worry about getting your foot in someone else's face (or vice-versa). each yogamatt class was practically a semi-private session, with each student getting individual attention. matt was always nearby to correct misalignments and to help expand poses to the next level. and more deliciously, he went from student to student, giving out his signature massages to help loosen up stressed-out necks and backs. BDB, my partner in yoga addiction, and i proclaimed it the best-kept secret in town, although we knew that as word got out, matt's classes would eventually reach critical mass like those at maha. in the meantime, we had him to ourselves, and as we'd laughingly say to each other, "it's all about us, you know."

classes at yogamatt were so worth it that when the free class period ended, i immediately made a commitment and bought a series of classes. matt had assembled a wonderful group of yoga teachers for the studio, and in time, i hoped to take at least a class or two with each of them.

then things changed. i lost my job, so not only did i lose the convenience, but i also lost the extra income i had to indulge in my yoga pursuits. however, i did have that series pass, so at least i was good for a while. not only that, but i also had the time to try out the weekday classes. so while everyone was cooped up in their respective offices, i was free to drive across town, unencumbered by traffic. i guess unemployment does have its merits...

all good things eventually come to an end, as they say. but not in my case. just as i was about to use up the last class on my series pass, my knight in shining yoga shorts, aka BDB, came to my rescue -- he gifted me with a new series pass for my birthday! that guy sure knows how to please a woman... or is he just buttering me up because his own birthday is fast approaching?

anyway, i have enough classes to feed my yoga addiction for a while, which is great because i've come up with a way to put my unemployed weekdays to good use. more on that in the next installment...

Monday, December 26, 2005

hour of power

YAS (Yoga and Spinning)
1101 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 396-6993

website: www.go2yas.com

no chanting - no granola - no sanskrit

in the past, i had driven by the building with the big YAS sign quite frequently, so when i heard that my friend nathan (another sidelined runner) was taking yoga classes there, i decided to see what it was all about. according to him, it was exactly what he wanted: the stretching and the strengthening without the chanting and the meditation. i guess there are people out there who get creeped out by all that spiritual stuff...

i checked out their website and found some background info on kimberly fowler, the founder of yoga and spinning:

kimberly’s decades of yoga practice and competitive experience as a triathlete were the foundation of a studio with a focus on yoga for athletes. YAS Yoga and Spinning Center, in Venice, California, has yoga and Spinning® classes daily. Additionally, kimberly has created a class specifically for athletes that reduces the risk of injury and enhances athletic performance. YOGA for ATHLETES® is a practice combining elements of Iyengar, Ashtanga and Power Yoga. Selected poses are sequenced to benefit the athletic body by focusing on the hips, hamstrings, core abdominals and upper body. “These are the areas that need special attention in athletes. They are used and abused in sports,” she says.

i keyed on the words athletes, injury, and performance and continued to click on the site links. and lo and behold, there was an offer for a free class!

i printed out the coupon, and the first chance i got, i drove out to YAS and traded it in for one of kimberly's evening classes.

unlike the other yoga studios that made you feel yoga when you walked in, you couldn't help but think gym when you saw the roomful of spinning bikes by the entrance. i could see how athletes would feel perfectly at home here.

since i had dropped by right after getting off work, i looked for the bathroom so i could change. and wouldn't you know it -- it was co-ed, with frosted glass doors on the stalls! shades of ally mcbeal! i could see how men would feel perfectly at home here...

long story short, the 60-minute yoga class was just that -- short. we went through the usual yoga moves: plank, up dog, down dog, warrior 1, warrior 2, triangle. and it seemed to me that most of the students had the routine memorized because they were moving into the next pose even before kimberly called it out.

this comment from kimberly's website explains her philosophy:

I used to go to classes and the teacher would be wrapping her foot around her head, describing the pose in Sanskrit, while the class just sat around and watched. I didn’t relate – as an athlete I wasn’t going to have that flexible a body. I wanted to practice yoga, not just watch it. I wanted to keep my body strong and injury free.

I also used to go to classes that were 90 minutes. They often stretched into two-hour classes in which the instructor would spend too much time talking about how to live my life. My time is precious and I asked myself – How can I make this better? How can I get everything I need in an hour? How can I modernize the practice of yoga? How can I have fun while doing it?

And out of this experience I developed YOGA for ATHLETES, a one-hour class geared toward the muscle groups that tend to be the tightest and most frequently strained by athletes. These poses are specifically designed for the strong, athletic body. The class is designed for beginners as well as more advanced students with the option of a more challenging component to each pose. YOGA for ATHLETES will strengthen your body and increase flexibility in tight muscles.

honestly, this class didn't do it for me. it was too sterile; it didn't give me the spiritual uplifting that i got from sacred movement classes, nor the "let's try a new pose" experience that i'd get at santa monica yoga, and it definitely was not the high-energy, high-sweat class that i relished at maha yoga.

the yoga for athletes class at YAS does have a strong following, including my friend nathan who still attends spin and yoga classes every now and then. but then again, being the type A personality that he is, he isn't the kind to sit and meditate; he wants to get things over with quickly and move on to the next task. this place is perfect for him.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

christmas break

"The phrase "obsessive-compulsive" has worked its way into the wider English lexicon, and is often used in an offhand sense to describe someone who is meticulous or absorbed in a cause. Such casual references should not be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder; see clinomorphism. It is also important to distinguish OCD from other types of anxiety, including the routine tension and stress that appear throughout life. A person who shows signs of infatuation or fixation with a subject/object, or displays traits such as perfectionism, is not necessarily stricken with OCD, a specific and well-defined disorder..." -- wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

my sister insists that i'm very OCD. me, obsessive-compulsive? is that how you describe someone who's felt the need to take a yoga class almost every day for the past two weeks?

note that i said almost every day; since mid-december, there were just two days when i'd skipped taking a class, and it's only because i decided to break from routine so i could spend some quality time with my two daughters (the first day) and my sister (the second day). and i just realized that tomorrow will be the third day because i'll be bonding with my kids AND my sister as we trek down to san diego to spend the day. i think i'm already beginning to experience withdrawal symptoms...

"... OCD is different from behaviors such as gambling addiction and overeating. People with these disorders typically experience at least some pleasure from their activity; OCD sufferers do not actively want to perform their compulsive tasks, and experience no tangible pleasure in doing so."

hmmm... i definitely derive some pleasure from yoga, so it sounds like yoga is an addiction for me rather than an obsession. thank goodness; i'm normal after all (although i'm sure there are those who have their doubts)!

just to prove that yoga does not rule my life, i'm going to stop yoga-blogging right now and go back to spending more bonding time with my family.

merry christmas, and if that doesn't apply to you, happy hanukkah, kwanzaa, or winter solstice!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

breathe in... and out...

"The yoga postures and breath are tools to rebuild and transform ourselves. The goal is not to tie ourselves in knots - we're already tied in knots. The aim is to untie the knots in our heart. The aim is to unite with the ultimate, loving, and peaceful power of the universe." - Max Strom

i miss max.

max strom was big at sacred movement. not only was he a big presence in their yoga scene, but he was also, literally, a big man. around six and a half feet tall, with big hands and even bigger feet, you couldn't help but notice him and his shoulder-length blond hair as he walked around the studio. if there ever was anyone who could be considered a gentle giant, it was max.

and now max has packed up his bags and has moved from LA's bustling metropolis out to the quiet solitude of ashland, oregon. no longer will he have to direct the day-to-day running of sacred movement; he's now free to study, write, and travel around the world to teach his style of yoga to other devotees.

initially, i started taking max's classes because they fit in best with my schedule: since i had PT sessions on mondays and wednesdays, i would take his 7:30pm tuesday and thursday classes after work. i would also take his 10:30am saturday classes right after my runs with my running buddies. over time, i ended up arranging my schedule to fit in with his; you want to do dinner on thursday? i have yoga that evening; how about wednesday instead? or, you want to do ten miles? can we start early so i can be done by 9:30?

max's classes were basic enough for the first-timers, yet challenging enough for those who had been at it for years. he always reminded us to leave our "athlete mentality" at the door. we were not to focus on how our practice compared to those around us; rather, we were to focus on what we were getting out of the practice itself. when the poses required more effort, he would instruct us to replace our "warrior faces" with relaxed eyes, jaws, and foreheads. and in every class, without fail, he would remind us to BREATHE. inhale... take the deepest breath you've ever taken today... deeper... hold it... hold it... now let it out... i remember numerous times when he would stand beside me as i was struggling through a pose, and he would gently chastise me because he couldn't hear me breathing. breathing, he insisted, was what helped make difficult poses more doable. i have to keep reminding myself of that whenever i'm in boat pose...

when i first heard that max's last day was to be on december 17th, i made it a point to take as many of max's classes as i could (within reason, of course). maybe if i OD'ed on them i wouldn't miss them as much. that wasn't the case, unfortunately.

i was one of the lucky ones who was able to attend max's last evening class at sacred movement. i had heard that his earlier class that morning was amazingly attended; there were supposedly 100 students crammed into an area that normally held 60! our later class wasn't as full, but then again, given that it was a 4pm class on a saturday night (aka date night), the turnout was impressive enough. as max moved us through the asanas, i kept trying to remember as much of his advice as i could, and when max adjusted one of my poses, i realized that it was probably going to be a long time before he corrected my alignment again. sigh.

it was during the three OM chants that traditionally ended his classes that i could start to hear sniffles in the room. when he said his final "namaste" and the class responded in kind, the entire room broke into applause. we cheered, we cried, we wished him the best.

he's gone, but he never, ever will be forgotten.

Friday, December 23, 2005

desperate housewives

Maha Yoga
13050 San Vicente Boulevard, 2nd floor
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 899-0047

website: www.mahayoga.com

"Uniting music with yoga is, for me, a natural expression of the fundamental spirit of yoga which is joy and celebration. Although some practitioners of yoga take themselves very, very seriously, the true goal of yoga is the permanent and unbroken awareness of the deepest joy and happiness possible (called ananda or bliss). This bliss is not the result of some progressive path, based on techniques and elaborate practices. It is our very nature right now -- and always." - Steve Ross

when i found out a few years back that my friend BDB had started taking yoga classes at the downtown YMCA near his home, i assumed that this activity was a new supplement to his running. after all, he had suffered some downtime due to miscellaneous muscle pulls, so it made sense that he would want to minimize those injuries by gaining flexibility from regular yoga classes. however, once he started talking about the perky young yogini who taught the class he frequented, i began to wonder if he was also satisfying his love of art and the female form, namely hers. about a year later, i realized that he had become a true yoga convert because not only was he practicing three days a week, but his favorite teacher was no longer a woman but a man, and a taskmaster at that.

shortly after i started dabbling in yoga myself, BDB and i compared yoga stories and i was surprised to hear that he was now driving all the way across town to the westside for his yoga habit. his new yoga studio of choice: maha yoga in brentwood. unlike the downtown Y, where the regulars were the average downtown worker and/or dweller, maha yoga was where the beautiful people practiced. or as he jokingly referred to them, the "desperate housewives" of brentwood. imagine a room filled with women resembling eva longoria, teri hatcher, nicollette sheridan... you get the idea. despite the soaring cost of gas, i could see why this lover of beauty was willing to spend the time and the money to do a downward dog more than 20 miles from home.

it turned out that there really was a legitimate reason for his change of venue: he wanted to kick up his practice a notch, and apparently maha gave him the challenge he was looking for, with the hip-hop music that accompanied the classes adding an uplifting twist.

it just so happened that a running compadre of ours, matthew reyes, taught some of the more challenging classes. in fact, his classes were rated level 2/3+, where "+ indicates a more strength-based practice." so when i got to the point in my own practice that i could do a vinyasa sequence, a half moon pose, and a shoulderstand without embarrassing myself, i knew it was time for me to test out my yogathletic abilities.

the first time i took matt's sunday morning class, i made sure i arrived early to get a spot in the supposedly-packed room. i wanted to make sure i did NOT end up in the front row; i'd rather that i watched the beautiful people bend and stretch than them watch me. as i sat on my mat, warming up my injured knee to make sure it survived the class, i observed the students filing in. being the upscale locals that they were, they were dressed in high-end yoga attire such as lululemon (which also happens to be sold in the studio boutique); many had yogitoes skidless towels (retailing at around $50, also in the boutique) spread out over their mats. so maybe i wasn't quite the fashionista in my target sale yoga pants and my bed bath and beyond $9.99 towel...

the women were as young and attractive as i had heard they would be. and yes, even the men were gorgeous. as an added bonus, my KCRW card earned me a 10% on a series of classes (15% off a single class). i mentally thanked BDB for clueing me in on this valuable find.

when matt entered the room, i walked up to him, greeted him as i gave him a hug, and warned him that i was going to try my best to keep up, but that it all depended on how my knee held up. knowing that i was a die-hard runner, he said he was confident that i would do well. ninety minutes later, after holding extended poses while eminem, U2, and the go-go's played overhead, i was drenched in sweat. it was exhilarating! it clearly explained why people kept squeezing into his classes, with oftentimes barely six inches of space between yoga mats.

i soon became a matt regular, skipping class only if a sunday race got in the way. needless to say, the number of 5K's i ran started decreasing while the number of familiar faces at matt's class kept increasing. and yes, i eventually found myself plunking down hard-earned cash to get my own skidless towel (the socially-conscious pink breast cancer awareness version, of course).

in time, i made it a point to take classes with the other maha teachers, including steve ross, the guru of maha yoga himself. each of the teachers had a loyal following, with many of them teaching packed classes. the only downside was that i couldn't expect to get personalized adjustments in the larger classes. luckily, i was still frequenting santa monica yoga and sacred movement where i was closely monitored and assisted, so i was still able to advance my practice and have fun in the process.

i soon found myself taking more and more yoga classes; it got to the point where i had a collection of printed yoga studio schedules stashed away in my car, just in case i was fortunate enough to have some spare time on my hands.

i knew i had it bad when even BDB accused me of being a worse yoga addict than himself...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

it's my birthday!

i turned a year older today. ok, i know that it really took 365 days for me to get to this point, but as of today, i start writing in a new number by the "Age:" field on race applications. it's going to take some getting used to, but then again, in about a week or so, i'll have to start getting used to writing in a new year, too: 2006. that reminds of the time earlier this year when the orthopod's office filled out a medical form so i could get a disabled person parking placard for my car while i was on crutches. i didn't notice that his assistant had filled out "valid until may 2004" until the DMV clerk rejected it. she insisted that she couldn't issue the placard because it was already december 2004. i told her to note that the form was filled out that morning and that he really meant "may 2005", but she wouldn't budge. so while i stood in front of her, i called the doctor's office, explained the situation, got their OK to make the correction, changed the date, and handed the form back to her. she wasn't too happy about what had happened, but then again, i wasn't too happy that she was giving me a hard time, especially since i was standing there the whole time balancing on one leg, leaning on my crutches...

so on this special day (to me, at least) i'd like to share with you something i found online while researching yoga studios. before i continue, here's some background info on me that might explain why i found this article particularly interesting:

for almost 10 years now, i've been sending out a somewhat-weekly eletter to many of my friends in the marathon training group we belong to, the la leggers. and it's no secret to my readers how i've felt about how, due to our need to make ends meet, our board of directors had allowed a large sports apparel company to sponsor us and dictate to us what we could and couldn't do. we essentially sold our soul to the devil for the money and the supposed prestige. needless to say, the corporate mentality has permeated our organization, and while everyone once used to volunteer where needed to make things happen, it now it seems like people are only motivated to help if they're offered free merchandise or other incentives.

anyway, it sounds like a similar phenomenon is happening in the yoga world, as expressed in an article published in the LA weekly in november 2004. i'm including a somewhat abbreviated version, just in case the link below doesn't work (warning -- what follows below is still quite lengthy; read on only if you have a real interest in the LA yoga scene):

Everything’s Not Zen - As yoga’s popularity explodes, a battle rages for its heart and soul
by Maria Hummel

Beyond the door to the roof of Larchmont’s Center for Yoga looms the new Cingular tower. Installed in late 2003, the cell-phone tower has become an unhappy symbol for the Center for Yoga’s recent surrender to the corporatization of the trend it helped to create. Founded by yoga luminary Ganga White in 1967, the center is the oldest studio in Los Angeles, a major training school and among the first global pioneers of an independent, eclectic approach. In addition to bringing multiple branches of yoga under one roof, it hybridized them, taking rigorous practices like Ashtanga and Iyengar and blending them into a Western smoothie called “Flow.”

But the center’s rich blossoming carried the seeds of its own demise. Flow has been co-opted by gyms and studios to become one of the most popular styles of yoga nationwide. Numerous center graduates have opened their own successful operations in Los Angeles, and the institution’s renowned teacher training is no longer an exclusive commodity. Crippled by debt and its failure to react to the rapidly changing business climate, in late April the Center for Yoga sold out to
Yoga Works, a chain that in one year has spread from two locations in Santa Monica to 11 studios in Los Angeles and Orange County and five around the country — and counting.

At the center, the fallout from the sale to Yoga Works — considered the new Starbucks of yoga in some devotees’ eyes — was fast and furious. Teachers made warning announcements in classes, staffers quit, notes sprouted on bathroom walls, and rumors flew: When it takes over an existing studio, Yoga Works lowers many salaries (true). Yoga Works asks that its teachers sign a non-compete contract (true). Yoga Works is now fronted by two Internet entrepreneurs who have told teachers to jump aboard now because “soon, students will have to choose between us and Bally’s,” and it intends to spread nationwide (true, true, true).

Also true: Yoga Works has one of the best teacher trainings in the country, a devoted student following, and gorgeous locations — and the last three owners to sell to Yoga Works did so almost gratefully.

“Yoga is confrontational,” said instructor Christine Burke during one of her last classes there in July. “Because it’s peaceful, people think it’s passive, but yoga is one of the most confrontational practices there is.” The balance between confrontation and peacefulness weighed heavily on Burke’s mind as she and her husband, Gary McCleery, departed the center this summer to open their own studio on La Brea.

Pastel Yoga Works fliers on the wall are few visible signs of the shift in ownership. But the real changes at the center have to do with how the former independent is now positioned in the yoga world. As Burke confided in hushed tones about modifications to her new studio’s schedule, Yoga Works people were meeting in New York to discuss a merger with Alan Finger’s BeYoga chain, which has four locations in Manhattan.

The differences in scale are what frighten local independents and their constituencies. “The smaller studios have a right to be paying close attention to what Yoga Works is doing right now,” comments editor of L.A. Yoga Julie Deife. “It’s never been done.”

Yoga may be confrontational as Burke said, but it has also been a bit oedipal in Los Angeles. Back in the 1980s, an Israeli yoga teacher named Maty Ezraty was living at the Center for Yoga when Alan Finger invited her to move across town and open Yoga Works in Santa Monica.

Under Ezraty’s and later her partner Chuck Miller’s keen business eye, Yoga Works developed two popular studios and a flock of star teachers.

Then, just as yoga’s taut-bellied bodies began to seduce mainstream audiences, several stars left on negative terms. Some departed because their teaching styles conflicted with Yoga Works, others over compensation, and one because he was forbidden to have a romantic relationship with the general manager. They launched their own operations —
Sacred Movement, Maha Yoga, Forrest Yoga Circle, L.A. Yoga Center and others — each settling in painfully close proximity to Yoga Works.

“That tremendously increased Chuck and Maty’s concern and paranoia,” says Mark Stephens, the former owner of L.A. Yoga Center, now Yoga Works’ Westwood location.

Stephens claims that as teachers and their students started to peel away, Yoga Works’ business practices began to change. Yoga Works was the first and still one of the few studios to force teachers to sign non-compete contacts that restricted them from teaching at competitors’ locations within a strict radius. (When he sold L.A. Yoga Center, Stephens signed away his own right to teach at any Los Angeles studio, gym or private class of more than two people for two years.) The chain also required that every teacher take the same training with a standardized approach that blends three main traditions — Ashtanga, Iyengar and Viniyoga — includes an emphasis on basic safety, and uses the same language to describe the asanas, or postures.

Finally, in 2003, Yoga Works passed the business operation into the hands of George Lichter and Rob Wrubel, two guys who made their first marks in business during the ’90s Silicon Valley boom. A collective that Yoga Works folks collectively keep mum about now owns the chain.

Lichter and Wrubel met 12 years ago and have worked together often since then, first when they created Jumpstart educational software and later when they headed up the Internet search engine Ask Jeeves.

"Something’s happened in yoga in the past year, and the yoga studios, especially the oldest and best of them — they can’t make it,” Lichter says and proceeds to unveil his eclectic-studio-as-endangered-species theory.

Predator No. 1, says Lichter, is
Bikram Choudhury, the shamelessly entrepreneurial guru who’s as famous for his Speedos and gold jewelry as for his hot-room, fixed-sequence approach, now franchised to 1,500 studios worldwide. “In L.A., these McYoga franchises have grown up rapidly and they’re very popular,” Lichter says. “We can say what we want about America, but it’s undeniable that the Mc-ing of anything changes the landscape for small retailers.”

Predator No. 2 is the health clubs, which have successfully incorporated yoga into their schedules. Lichter cites the ’80s aerobics studio trend as an example of how a fractured and fragile scene can simply vanish into the Bally’s maw. “The instructors make good money at gyms, so they don’t want to blame them,” says Lichter.

The exponential growth of small studios is Predator No. 3, a hapless, self-consuming creature. According to figures from L.A. Yoga magazine, Los Angeles has 101 studios, the largest concentration in the country.

No matter what caused the financial collapse of three quality yoga studios in the past year, the 5,000-year-old Eastern spiritual tradition is a tough fit for Western capitalism. In India, yoga classes are traditionally free, the gurus supported by communities, and such yogic principles as ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truth-telling) and aparigraha (greedlessness) are not so bruised by the constant fight for profit.

Everyone agrees that yoga will evolve in the United States, but differences arise when they discuss how. This fall, the Kundalini yogis of
Golden Bridge are putting the finishing touches on a serene 1933 Hollywood warehouse that will feature four studios, retail space, a wellness center, tea garden and vegetarian café. A spiritually soaked practice that emphasizes repetitive motions and chanting, Kundalini doesn’t get the fad fitness traffic of Flow yoga, but Golden Bridge proprietors Gurmukh and Gurushabd are still making savvy moves to secure their following.

Gurushabd insists that the mall-like scope of his plan emerged only after he found the building and knew it was the one for Golden Bridge, even if they had to raise $1.5 million to do it. “It’s God’s project, not my project. It’s His will that we create a space for people to awaken their souls.”

Gurushabd’s righteous attitude underscores the deep ideological differences underlying the turf war between Yoga Works and the independents. They’re not just battling over students but rather whose business model is more yogic. Is it the small-studio approach where instructors are free to define their own teaching styles and locations but have no real job security or health benefits? Or the Yoga Works method, which offers health insurance, paid time off, retail discounts and opportunities for career growth to instructors who teach eight or more classes — but insists on a codified teaching practice, squeezes out independents, and underpays staff and less popular teachers? Is it more ahimsa to protect diversity or protect your own?

When former Center for Yoga owner and current director Lisa Haase bought the studio in 2001, it flourished in the peaking yoga market. “The infrastructure was strong, the aesthetics got better . . . ,” she says. “And then I surprisingly got pregnant.”

After Haase gave birth to a son, she promoted Burke and Alison Crowley, the marketing director, to help McCleery run the studio while she cared for her newborn. The threesome became the public faces of the center, operating everything from retail ordering to bookkeeping to washing yoga mats.

Haase says that about a year ago the center’s financial status started to change. Enrollment for free monthly demos dropped, merchandise sat longer on the shelves, and new students stopped pouring through the door. “Things got tighter and tighter, and I realized I had a choice: to lay off my staff and come back to work full time or find another solution.” So she started to cast around for a business partner.

Over the winter, Yoga Works called. At first, Haase didn’t seriously consider the chain’s interest in the studio, but she soon began to see it as the best prospect for saving the center. Before Haase signed a letter of intent, however, she hammered out her priorities: to retain the center’s name, to give the center long-term financial security, to keep her teachers’ situations the same, and to ensure the jobs of her full-time staff.

Although the first three items have been accomplished, the latter is a matter of debate. The new owners immediately offered McCleery his same position but axed Burke’s and Crowley’s jobs, providing them only vague employment possibilities — and not at the center, where the two desperately wanted to stay. After spending 15 years combined inside the peaceful caverns of the center, Burke and McCleery quit.

This fall, Yoga Works’ Lisa Walford will join longtime center trainer Diana Beardsley in teaching the philosophy section at the instructor training. The two women took their very first class together at Center for Yoga back in the 1980s. “I see the Center and Yoga Works as a marriage of two families,” Walford says. “It takes a while for families to get to know each other, but it will happen, with mutual understanding and respect.”

Meanwhile Burke and McCleery have bought YMI Studio on La Brea, renaming it and bringing Crowley along to work with them.
Liberation Yoga has the outward trappings of a potential success: valet parking, a graceful garden, and a good location on the fancy furniture strip. But for the trio, deep physical and spiritual teaching is the heart of the studio — and of liberation itself. “We want to create a space for people where they will have our respect and trust to realize themselves,” Burke says. “Yoga’s not about the answers but the questions.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

need advice?

Yoga Works Los Angeles

Larchmont Village
230 1/2 N. Larchmont Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 464-1276

1426 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 393-5150

Main St
2215 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 664-6470

1256 Westwood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 234-1200

website: www.yogaworks.com

The Yoga Works story began back in 1987, when in a sunlit studio on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Maty Ezraty and Alan Finger decided they could change the way Yoga was being taught in America. For the first time, students would sample a range of different styles of Yoga under one roof. They would meet experienced teachers from a myriad of disciplines. They would show up unschooled, pick up a mat, and get started on their first day...
Chuck Miller soon joined with Finger and Ezraty and the trio’s vision - to make a home for all the various yoga systems - heralded a new era for the practice in the U.S. and contributed to its evolution from the esoteric to the mainstream. With a charter to make yoga accessible to all, they set about combining styles and systems and even opened an in-studio store, where students unfamiliar with the ways of yoga could purchase props and clothes they never knew they needed...
In 2003, yoga aficionados Rob Wrubel and George Lichter, the men behind Internet success story Ask Jeeves, came in to refinance Yoga Works and establish a national yoga school specializing in high-quality yoga in a variety of styles. Yoga Works now comprises fourteen studios that, together, offer more than a thousand yoga classes a week.

the attraction of having a yoga works series of classes is that their four los angeles studio locations were all convenient to me: the montana location was only 2 miles northwest of my home, main street was 2 miles southwest, larchmont was 3 miles from work, and westwood was just about halfway between work and home. i could practically be anywhere at anytime and find a suitable class nearby. so their intro special of $40 for a 30-day unlimited class pass sounded well worth it. not only that, but the first class was free.

i checked out their class schedules posted on the internet and came across a sunday evening level 2 candlelight flow class at the main street location. it sounded interesting enough, so i drove down and signed in.

i was assigned a yoga adviser, whose role was described thusly: "The work of a yoga adviser extends from helping students find the right class to explaining the history and science of Yoga. The adviser can match you with the teacher, class or system of yoga that’s right for you; provide answers that can make your first class less foreign; or discuss a physical or emotional experience that may have surprised you during class." seems to me that i was able to do that just fine on my own at the other two yoga studios with the assistance of the people at the front desk. is this what happens when yoga goes corporate?

i walked into the windowless room with the rest of the students while the teacher went around lighting votive candles on the floor. it was quite dim, and maybe that was a good thing, because once the class got going, i realized that i was in over my head. like the energizer bunny, we kept moving and moving and moving. just as i got into one pose, we were transitioning into another. so this was what flow was all about? hmm... while i wasn't at that level yet in my practice, i figured it was something i could aim for. in the meantime, i struggled to keep up. maybe i should have consulted with that adviser...

despite that iffy start, i did end up signing up for a month of unlimited yoga. bumping the difficulty down a notch, my next class was a level 1 class at the montana location. it was a chance to check out the location surrounded by multi-million dollar homes. not a bad place to be. maybe i would run into a celeb or two? not this time. oh well.

the teacher was a highly-regarded instructor, so i felt i was in good hands. the problem was that the class was TOO basic for my taste. she went into excruciating detail as she explained how to get into each pose; it seemed like this was a class for first-time yoga students. i gamely followed along, but kept thinking: if a level 2 class was too hard, but a level 1 was too easy, was there such a thing as a level 1.5? goldilocks (that would be me) would have to continue her search for something that was just right...

after consulting the handful of printed class schedules (one for montana/main, one for westwood, and one for larchmont), i kept trying out various classes at various locations at various times. i even consulted with my yoga adviser (who pretty much looked at the class schedules like i did to suggest classes i should take). i finally settled on a class that worked for me: amy lafond's tuesday/thursday level 1&2 hatha blend class at the larchmont location. getting to class, though, was a pain and a half since i had to fight rush hour traffic to get there after work (it's amazing how it took an hour to drive THREE miles, find a parking spot, and get to the studio ten minutes before class started!) her class was small enough so she could give us personalized attention, and she covered a variety of poses from the most basic to some that were quite challenging. and whenever my form wasn't quite up to par, she was always there to give me an adjustment or to offer advice.

as much as i enjoyed learning from amy, i couldn't see continuing with a class that wasn't very easy to get to nor easy to get home from (larchmont was east of the office and i lived west). it was ironic that with all the locations that were literally a stone's throw away from home, i ended up at a place that was the farthest out. so when the pass expired, i didn't bother renewing it. maybe again in the future, but not now.

with no other introductory specials readily available, i decided to put a hold on the search and spend more time getting settled in my practice.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Sacred Movement Center for Yoga and Healing
245 South Main Street
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-7676

Abandon the competitive mind-set.
Yoga is absolutely non-competitive. It is not just a "work out" it is not just "cross-training" it is a spiritual practice which makes the body stronger, more flexible, and generally much healthier. But the aim is to calm the mind, open the heart, and accelerate our spiritual evolution.

Keep your eyes on your own practice.
We practice from the inside-out. When you can finish your practice without knowing what the person next to you was wearing or even who else was in the room, you'll know you were truly focused.

Be kind and loving to yourself by accepting where you are.
Rest sometimes. "Do what you can, with what you have, with where you are." Remember: Wherever, whenever in our life we begin yoga is perfect. No experience or flexibility required.

when i pushed open the glass doors and walked into the lobby, i knew i was in a special place. after all, this was where revered yoga instructors such as shiva rea, erich schiffmann, and max strom held court. the space was beautiful -- a tiled entryway, high ceilings, light walls, dark cabinetry, polished wood studio floors, and an abundance of indian sculpture and artwork. a hindu mantra was playing faintly from the overhead speakers, and from behind one of the closed studio doors came the sound of "om" being chanted by the students. ah... a truly sacred experience.

i was here because i was lured by an introductory deal that sounded too good to be true: 30 days of unlimited yoga for only $30. that's a dollar a day, assuming of course that i could practice everyday. unfortunately, i did have a daily 9-5 job plus two late afternoons of physical therapy a week, so i was limited to taking classes on the weekends and maybe two other nights a week. however, if i just showed up once a week, i would more than break even compared to the single class rate, so i handed over my credit card and signed up.

by this time, i was armed with my own yoga equipment: a manduka purple lite mat and a barefoot canvas yoga mat bag (both of which i had spent seemingly endless hours researching on the internet, first to decide on which brand/models to get, then to find online vendors who could beat the regular retail prices), and was also clothed appropriately in a pair of yoga pants and a stretchy camisole top that i picked up at the local american apparel store. i now looked like an honest-to-goodness yoga student, but would i be able to keep up with the rest of them?

it seemed appropriate that my first class at sacred movement would be a level 1 class. after all, i had just completed the fargo marathon the weekend before and was still a bit sore from my 6+ hour walk. my knee wasn't particularly happy about it (and neither was my physical therapist, steve paulseth, who just groaned, knowing that not even he could knock any sense into my stubborn head). just like the teacher at santa monica yoga, this first teacher asked around if anyone had any injuries (again, my hand went up as i explained my knee problem) and she continually monitored me as we progressed through the class. very nice. i was getting used to being a special-ed student...

for the 30-day period, i tried to take as many classes as i could with as many different teachers as possible. and they were all wonderful. by the time the pass expired, i had "graduated" to level 2 classes. there were students like me who were still learning the ropes, so to speak, but many looked like they had been practicing for years. they were the ones who made everything look effortless; not only could they touch their hands to their toes, but they could also touch their noses to their knees... while smiling serenely. as for me, i was finally gaining back the flexibility in my knee. my right-sided poses almost mirrored my left-sided poses. and best of all, i was contentedly "doing what i could, with what i had, with where i was."

a big selling point (pardon the pun) was their in-house boutique. they sold CD's (complete with listening stations), DVD's, books, yoga mats and bags, yoga props, jewelry, artwork, and clothing. at least once a week, i would stop by the sale bin and check what new items were marked down 50%. and more often than not, i would end up with a new top or bottom by OMgirl, prana, hardtail, or be present. this yoga thing was quickly becoming an expensive habit!

the sacred movement vibe was right and i felt that i had found my yoga home, but it made sense for me to check out more places before settling down. whenever i'd tell people that i was taking a yoga class in santa monica, they'd almost always ask if i was going to yoga works, so i figured, what the heck, i'd give it a shot:

studio - yoga works
class - with four studios alone in the los angeles area, the possibilities were unlimited!
cost - a new student deal almost as good: $40 for 30 days of unlimited classes, with a 20% KCRW discount on individual classes (but sadly, not on a series pass)

more adventures through the yoga frontier were looming ahead...

Monday, December 19, 2005

child pose

Santa Monica Yoga
1640 Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 396-4040
website: www.santamonicayoga.com

Benefits of Yoga

Body Strength and Stamina
Increased body strength and physical stamina are the most obvious benefits of practicing yoga. Muscles and joints grow stronger. The increased muscle tone and improved posture makes you more attractive.

Yoga also concentrates on flexibility. This is one of the major differences between yoga and other forms of exercise. A flexible body is a more comfortable place in which to live. The muscles and joints are more resilient to the jolts and shocks of everyday life. This can help you prevent accidents and injuries.

Rehabilitating and Healing Injuries
Yoga used therapeutically can rehabilitate and heal problem areas. Select exercises that do not re-injure already weakened areas and then use appropriate exercises to strengthen the injured area. Yoga also includes opening up to "healing energy." Be patient. Problems usually do not arise instantly. Instant solutions are rare.

it was a cool spring morning when i first walked into the studio at santa monica yoga. the sun was streaming through an open window and it nicely warmed up the small room. i picked out a mat from the pile in the corner, found a spot near that window, and lay the mat on the wooden floor. i carefully knelt down and started to sit on my heels. problem was, my knee was so stiff that i couldn't get my bottom to make contact with my right heel. i had always been quite flexible pre-accident, so this was a very discouraging development. previously, i had taken a few yoga classes at the gym and was familiar with the usual poses: down dog, plank, cobra, warrior 1 and 2, as well as my favorite "i need a break" pose, child pose. and now i couldn't even get into child pose without ending up with my butt in the air. argh.

i turned my head to check out the other students in the class. some were dressed in the usual body-hugging yoga attire; many were in t-shirts and sweats. as for myself, i was training to walk the inaugural fargo marathon and had put in some miles earlier that morning, so i had shown up in my running tights and a freshly-changed sport top (out of consideration for my fellow practitioners). i then realized that i had just come up with a great excuse to buy more clothes...

sarah bates, our yoga teacher, walked into the room. she introduced herself, then asked around the room to see if anyone had any health issues. there was an assortment -- backs and shoulders and hips -- and to those, i added my knee. she then cautioned all of us to listen to our bodies, and if any pose felt uncomfortable, to let her know so that she could modify the pose accordingly. i liked that. every now and then, she'd walk around the room and offer a blanket or a block to help provide support. this was definitely different from my gym yoga experience, where the students' "athlete mentality" would essentially make it a competitive event. thank goodness this wasn't the case in sarah's class.

at the end of the ninety-minute session, i felt comfortably stretched and relaxed (laying in savasana has a way of doing that to people), but i really didn't feel that i was challenged enough. i had to quiet down the athlete in me and keep reminding myself that i was still healing; the last thing i wanted was to get reinjured. besides, if their claim that "The increased muscle tone and improved posture makes you more attractive" was indeed true, why wouldn't i want to keep at it?

i rolled up the mat i had been using, put it back on top of the pile, and made a mental note to buy my own. not only did i not relish the thought of laying face down on a mat that someone else had used, but i figured that investing the money in one would commit me to making yoga a part of my ongoing rehab (but then again, i remembered the same issue i had with using a rental wetsuit when i got scuba certified... and when was the last time i went diving in that suit that i had bought??)

i continued to show up to class on saturday mornings after my training walks, and when my introductory pass expired, i decided to give another studio a try.

again, the KCRW fringe benefits card and the internet helped me figure out my next stop, which was to be:

studio - sacred movement yoga
class - the level 1 and 1/2 weekend and evening classes, which worked well with my busy schedule
cost - another new student special: $30 for 30 days of unlimited yoga. and 5-, 10- 15-, and 20-class passes were 15% off with my KCRW card. such a deal!

my journey to wellness through yoga continued...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

in the beginning...

it was quite by accident that i got into yoga. literally. up to that time, i was a marathon runner and a few-trips-a-year skiier. as fate would have it, it was during the first hour of the first day of my first ski trip of the 2004-2005 ski season (a season that had phenomenal snow conditions, i must add) that i had that pivotal accident. long story short, i twisted my leg and fell on the slopes. when the ski patrol helped me up to my feet, my knee buckled when i shifted my weight onto my right leg. oh no, this is not good, was my first thought. and i was correct; once i got back home, the orthopedic surgeon confirmed that i had torn my anterior cruciate ligament (also known as the ACL). i could kiss skiing goodbye for the rest of the season, and more tragically, my running would have to be put on hold, too.

after a month of crutches, a knee brace, and pre-surgery rehab, followed by ACL-reconstruction surgery and a period of post-surgery rehab, i was cleared to start building back up my exercise routine. my first goal was to get back the flexibility i had lost in my knee. plain old stretching didn't sound like the most interesting activity to me; however, that body-contorting exercise that my good friend BDB was addicted to sounded like a good alternative. so to supplement my ongoing physical therapy sessions, i was going to add in yoga therapy sessions. i would build back up my strength AND flexibility, and if i worked at it long enough, i might even become the lean, mean running machine that i had always hoped to be. and if my orthopod had actually transplanted that kenyan tendon i had asked for, maybe i had a chance at winning a race or two...

so where to start?

i needed a yoga expert, someone who could show me exactly what i could and couldn't do with my injured knee. i needed a studio that was convenient enough so i couldn't find an excuse NOT to go. i needed classes that would fit in with my work and walking (in lieu of running) schedule. and most of all, i needed the cost to be reasonable enough so i wouldn't go broke in the process.

armed with my KCRW fringe benefits guide, i sat in front of my computer and started googling. and it didn't take long before i found what i was looking for:

studio - santa monica yoga
class - sarah bates' level 1 GENTLE class on saturday mornings
cost - a new student intro special: 3 classes for $25, and if i REALLY got into it, i could get a 10% KCRW fringe benefits discount on a 5-, 10-, 15- or 20-class pass

according to the studio's website, here's sarah's background:
"Sarah Bates invites those who think they can’t do yoga to think again. Learn in a safe, non-judgmental setting with a gentle, experienced yoga teacher/yoga therapist. Stretch, strengthen, balance, relax. Sarah holds RYT-500 certification and is a trained occupational therapist."

now armed with a goal, a plan, and the determination of a marathoner, i was on my way to what was, hopefully, a better knee...