Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
Click here to view the accidental yogist's map of los angeles yoga studios in a full-size page

Monday, October 30, 2006

following doctor's orders

i suppose the good thing about my having to cut back on athletic yoga classes is that i now find myself taking the gentler variety that i normally wouldn't have even considered taking a few weeks ago. gone are the days of strength-based level 2/3 classes; easier level 1/2 classes are now the norm, at least for the short-term. i hope. sigh. i miss all that sweating, all those screaming muscles. i must be a masochist.

anyway, i spent the past weekend at my sister G's in orange county, and even if i had to forego practicing headstands in stacy hemingway's anusara class at yoga works costa mesa and doing push-ups to the point of exhaustion in newton campbell's fig yoga class at triad yoga (both of which i did the last time i was in the OC), i still managed to get in some yoga without being totally bored out of my mind.

armed with a few yoga works credits from my last volunteer stint, i opted to cash them out at yoga works mission viejo, just a few miles from G's place. besides, not only had i never been there before, but all their classes were level 1, 2, or 1/2. in other words, there was no way i could "accidentally" find myself in a 2/3 class. sometimes, self-control can only go so far.

saturday found me showing up for yoga for your back (very apropos, i must say), which was to be taught by maggie lewis. when i walked into the room, the majority of those who were already there had their mats lined up against the walls. they were resting in viparita karani (legs up the wall) pose. obviously class regulars, they looked like they were just waiting to be told what to do next. but because they were using three of the room's four walls and were facing in different directions, i stood at the door, unsure if i should just go ahead and plop down my mat in the open spot in the middle of the floor. besides, i wondered, if i did that, which direction should i face? i felt guilty about rousing the peaceful group to ask the question, but i did. after all, someone had to wake them up sooner or later.

it turned out that maggie couldn't make it to class; instead, megan mccarver was to be our teacher that afternoon. well aware that most people who attend a yoga for your back class are likely to be nursing a back injury, or any other injury for that matter, megan spent a good amount of time going from student to student before starting the class, asking us about the details of our injuries. one had a shoulder issue. another one was hamstrings. someone else developed sciatica pain from another yoga class. and of course, there was me with my bad back. while she was doing her rounds, megan mentioned that she used to teach yoga classes at a PT office in los angeles. i made a mental note to ask her after class where that office was...

the first thing megan did was to have us rearrange all our mats so that we all faced the front of the room (ha! so i wasn't the only stickler for uniformity). after we spent some time reclining on our backs to relax and get centered, she led us through some easy sun salutations and standing poses. and just as i was beginning to get antsy from moving so slowly, she said the magic word: ropes. yes, we were going to do some supported downward dogs along the rope wall! since there were more students than rope pairs, she asked for volunteers. i rushed for the wall, found my spot, and stood at the ready. if it was going to be as much fun as when i hung upside down (see earlier post), i wasn't going to miss out on this opportunity!

she demonstrated the procedure we were to follow. get lower left rope, thread it between legs, put right foot through, loop goes up to top of thigh. repeat with the lower right rope and the left leg. carefully walk forward until the ropes are pulling away from the wall. lean forward and touch floor with hands without letting ropes slide down legs (which i found tricky to do because i was hesitant to lean that far forward). once hands are on floor, keep hips up and walk legs back slowly until they're up against the backboard. tah dah! megan said that the ropes would help reduce the stress on our arms and shoulders. and by golly, they certainly did. these ropes are an amazing prop. i must find me more of these yoga-on-a-rope classes!

after we did some tree poses, some seated twists, and other easy-on-the-body poses, we finished with a nice long savasana. once class ended and most of the students had left the room, i walked up to megan and asked her about that physical therapist's office she had referred to earlier. it turns out that it was in santa monica, near my home, so i asked for more details. during the course of the conversation, she mentioned something about being a massage therapist at a place on ocean park, near 17th. next thing i knew, she was talking about how she co-founded santa monica yoga with her friend misty carey. talk about it being a small world! i told her about how i volunteered there and was acquainted with bruce, the current owner of SMY. as i left the room, she asked me to send him her regards, and i promised i would.

the next morning, i headed back to the studio for jon burras's level 1/2 class. thinking it was going to be a lazy sunday morning class, i showed up a mere five minutes before class started. big mistake. it turns out that jon's class is one of the more popular classes at that studio. by the time i got there, the only free spot was wedged between the side door and the wooden unit that housed the cd player; i had an equal chance of getting hit from behind by someone opening the door and hitting my head on the corner of the shelf. but after looking at the faces around me that were eagerly waiting for class to start, i figured it was worth the risk.

again, the moves were a notch less difficult than what i was used to. we started out with kneeling lunges rather than full-on crescent poses and warrior 1's, cobras instead of upward dogs. we moved through warrior 2's, extended angles, triangles, half moons, revolved triangles, revolved half moons, and prayer twists. and as we progressed through the series, jon kept cautioning: level 1's, do this. level 2's, add that. and the harder i pushed, the better i felt. although when it came to backbends, i stayed with the level 1's and kept things gentle. yes, i was still trying to be good when it came to following doctor's orders, although i can't say that i wasn't tempted to just throw caution to the wind and do at least one wheel pose (don't worry, i didn't). thank goodness he didn't offer plow and a shoulderstand as an option; otherwise, i might be sitting here with a heat pack around my back again :(

yes, i did good, as they say, this weekend. my back is feeling less antsy, but the twinges still pop up every now and then. i'm hoping i don't have to go more than another week with this restricted practice; wouldn't it be ironic if i had to go back to running because i couldn't do yoga? i sure hope it doesn't come to that!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

returning the favor

it thrills me to no end whenever i come across another blog site that gives a nod in my direction. so to return the favor, i'm passing along the links to these kind bloggers:

liz barker, who posted this on the thisnext blog last oct 12th, 2006:

Be a yogi...or just look like one
... Still, my personal fave in yoga wear is still American Apparel, also a brand of choice for The Accidental Yogist (who says her sweatshop-free cami-and-yoga-pant combo helped her to look like an “honest-to-goodness yoga student” when she was still brand-new to the mat)...

"words and steel", a fellow filipina, at the cult of pop,
who includes a link to my site but doesn't have anything to say about it. at least not yet.

and greg rzeczko at monster blog sack,
who added my blog to the "religion and spirituality" category last aug 24th, 2006 and gave it a "stainless steel sack" rating (just one down from the highest "colossal diamond cutter sack" rating. woo hoo!)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

happy changes

maha yoga in brentwood has always been known as the home of steve ross's happy yoga.

the liner notes of steve's book, happy yoga: 7 reasons why there's nothing to worry about, describe his take on yoga:

"Ross lives and teaches according to his belief that the secret to yoga is not obsessing over whether your feet are parallel or whether you can bend as far as the person on your left can, but about transcending the serious and allowing joy into your life, your body, your mind, and hopefully your yoga practice itself. It's about lightening up."

when i started practicing at maha, i found that most of the classes followed that exact philosophy. no one seemed to care if your posture was all wrong; all that mattered was that you enjoyed what you were doing. so whenever i showed up for class, whether it was taught by steve, tom morley, matthew reyes, or missy costello, i knew that i would find myself blissfully sweating in a crowded room, straining at times to hear the instructions of the teacher over the loud pulsing beat of the gospel, reggae, and hip-hop music and the incessant chatter of the happy students around me. it was fun for a while, but i soon grew tired of it and ventured off to expand my yoga practice. i continued to drop by every once in a while, though, to relive the happy experience.

teachers came and went, and the focus still remained the same; when matthew reyes left to open up his own hip-hop yoga studio, light stepped into his time slot and taught a similar strength-based music flow class. matt's groupies were wary at first, but they quickly warmed up to light's style of teaching. and his style of music.

gradually, the teacher and class mix at maha changed. missy costello and greville henwood left to teach at yogahop. vytas and aras baskauskas came in and brought over their more-power-less-music style of yoga from santa monica power yoga, where they still teach. kathleen kastner moved cross-country from maya yoga in kansas to the westside to teach her blend of ashtanga/vinyasa yoga. adriano sarmento, an import from brazil, brought over his mellow music and his not-so-mellow yoga. but in order to convince the students to give the new teachers a try, maha threw in a juicy incentive: they cut the price of these new classes to $10. and many students took them up on the offer; i being one of them (me, pass up on a deal?).

not long after, things changed once again. kathleen kastner moved down the street to mark blanchard's new yoga studio, adriano returned to brazil to attend to family matters, and meaghan townsend, a long-time maha teacher, left to teach at yogahop (yes, she too!), in addition to her other gig at exhale.

it was at that time that maha's schedule seemed to go through a complete overhaul.

for one thing, kathleen kastner is back to teach an hour-long lunchtime class on mondays and wednesdays.

plus a whole new group of very capable teachers have been recruited from yoga studios all over los angeles:
- will duprey (who's also at santa monica yoga and bala yoga) teaches on tuesday and thursday mornings.
- kishan shah (who's also at santa monica yoga) teaches on tuesdays and thursdays at lunchtime.
- ciela wynter (who's also at exhale) teaches pre-natal classes on tuesdays, thursdays, and sundays in the early afternoon.

and if that wasn't drastic enough, maha now offers kabbalah classes (free or by donation!), taught by david kaplan.

not to worry, though; the mainstays of maha's music flow classes are still there -- steve, tom, and light -- along with ashtangi jorgen christiansson, power yogi ish moran, and yogi times contributor stephanie phelan (whose class i still have to take!).

in my opinion, maha has now positioned itself so that it should be able to attract more students to its door. not only will it continue to cater to the young, athletic ADHD types who want to burn calories and have fun, but it now offers classes for more more serious yoga students who want to work on form and balance.

it should be interesting to find out how this new schedule works out for maha and their established group of students. i hope they realize how lucky they are to have a wonderful assortment of yoga instructors right there for them... not only should they be happy, they should be ecstatic!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

getting adjusted

i've always had this on-again, off-again problem with my lower back. blame it on my hips that refuse to stay level. or my tendency to slouch. or even on the constant pounding from my long distance running. whatever it is, it doesn't take much for my creaky back to start flaring up. if i ignore it long enough, it turns into a cranky back. and if i abuse it like i've been doing the past few weeks, it eventually turns into an angry back, so angry that it refuses to let me forget that it's been pushed past its limits. so when it got to the point that the pain kept me from being able to sit comfortably during the day and sleep restfully at night, i knew it was time to seek professional help.

instead of heading towards one of my usual level 2/3 flow classes last wednesday, i took a detour and stopped at jiva yoga in the palisades to take larry payne's user friendly yoga class. after all, larry's the master when it comes to backs and creaky joints. in fact, he's recently been taking his prime of life yoga on the road; just this past weekend, he held a yoga therapy workshop at golden bridge yoga in hollywood on saturday and a knees, hips, and low back workshop at insight yoga in pasadena on sunday. he also continues to co-teach the yoga therapy RX certificate program at loyola marymount university in westchester. i needed therapy, and yoga therapy sounded like a great idea.

all throughout his class, i listened intently to what larry said. do this. don't do that. doing this will stretch on this body part. doing that could stress that body part. if i wanted to make my back happy again, i had to follow his advice.

fully aware that yoga alone wouldn't ease my back pain, i knew i had to visit a chiropractor. i asked larry for some referrals and he graciously gave me names of some excellent practitioners. unfortunately, neither their office schedules nor fee schedules meshed with mine, so i ended up doing something that i wouldn't suggest anyone else do: i found one on the internet.

so when i walked into the new chiropractor's office, it was like going on a match.com date. we had never met before and no one i knew had ever heard of her. the only reason why i had selected her over all the other unknowns was because she was affiliated with one of the chiropractors that larry had referred me to. not only that, but according to her website:

Dr. X has been a practicing Doctor of Chiropractic for over 18 years. A student of yoga, nutrition, reconstructive massage therapy, rehabilitative exercise and holistic health, Dr. X combines many areas of study for a “whole person” approach to health care.

since she listed yoga ahead of everything else, i figured that if anyone knew which yoga poses would cause my back pain to flare up, she would.

during that first visit, she evaluated the severity of my back problem then treated the affected area with massage, ultrasound, and traction. afterwards, she recommended thrice-weekly visits, at least until things were under control, and urged me to lay off the yoga for the next couple of weeks. when she realized that there was no way she'd be able to get me to go cold turkey for that long, she compromised and told me that i had to limit myself to gentle yoga, at least until my back calmed down. in other words, no extreme backbends nor extreme forward bends. no shoulderstands, no headstands (like i could do them that easily anyway). and if i wanted to do pigeon pose, i had to do it on my back, bringing my knees towards my chest, rather than sitting upright and bringing my chest to my knees. i was so depressed about having to tone down my yoga that i ended up skipping class altogether that evening.

the depression didn't last long; i bounced right back the next day. and so far, i've been good about following doctor's orders. i've been limiting myself to level 1/2 classes. i've also made it a point to tell my teachers about my back restrictions before class so they can point out any modifications i need to make during class. and i've been moving into poses more slowly so that i can stop and ease up whenever i start feeling any kind of strain on my back.

making all these adjustments to my practice is going to take some getting used to, but this temporary setback has hopefully taught me a lesson -- that i really need to listen to my body instead of insisting that my body listen to me. and the next time i forget, i'm sure my back will be right there to remind me :(

Saturday, October 21, 2006

alphabet soup

suffering from a case of writer's block the other day (me, with nothing to say?), i found myself staring at my blogsite, wondering what i could do to make it more useful. and at first glance, i couldn't think of anything else that i could throw in.

after all, i already have a lot of stuff out there:

for those who can't make it to yoga classes, there's the yoga podcasts section that lists sites with downloadable audio.

for those who want to learn more about yoga and want to read what the "experts" have to say, there's the yoga reads section with links to informative websites.

for those who want to find out what the other yoga bloggers are writing about, there's the yoga blogs section.

for those who'd like to find things to buy for their yoga practice, whether it be equipment or clothing, there's the yoga props and yoga shops sections.

and for those who are new to yoga, new to town, or just curious about what's out there, there's the oh-so-useful platial map at the top of the page that pinpoints exactly where every yoga studio is. pick an area on the map, zoom in, and you'll instantly find out which yoga studios are in that general vicinity. while i've been diligently blogging about my yogic discoveries, i've been religiously updating the map with all the places i've been to. and just as my blog is a work in progress, so are the capabilities of the platial tool; each time i find my map needing a new feature, the kind folks at platial have been right there with me, trying to figure out how to get around a limitation (thanks, tracy!). my map has gotten so large and so bizarre that if there's any bug in the software, i'm bound to find it. in fact, if you check out the entry for body mind & spirit, the studio's listed at the right address, but the marker insists on showing up 3 miles west. and yes, we're all working on getting that fixed.

eventually, i focused my attention on my studio list -- 67 studios in los angeles where i've taken at least one class (although only 66 actually exist today; yogamatt has been replaced by yummy yoga and matt reyes has moved to yogahop). the list continues to get longer and longer. and if i were looking at it at the first time, i'd be overwhelmed. so many to choose from, which one to visit?

and that's when it dawned on me: why not indicate what kind of classes are taught at each studio? sure, some places are self-explanatory, based on their names. you can take bikram classes at bikram yoga downtown and bikram's yoga college. and iyengar at the bks iyengar institute. and power yoga at the places with "power" in their names (earth's power, inner power, progressive power, and santa monica power). but how about the places with more generic names like black dog yoga, city yoga, and yoga house?

hence, the new codes that i've added after the studio names. it's fairly straightforward; all the studios teach some form of hatha yoga. but some teach more specialized versions. so for starters, using the styles that were listed in one of my previous blogs, i've indicated what's offered where using these letter codes:

A - Ashtanga
B - Bikram
I - Iyengar
N - Anusara (since "A" was already taken)
R - Restorative

and because i thought these are just as specialized, i've added in:

K - Kundalini
M - Meditation

so there you have it. now that you know which studios you can get to and which ones teach what, you have no excuse not to try a new place!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

yoga and running

the latest issue of the yogalife line e-newsletter arrived today in my email inbox. the subject of this "special marathon season" edition is Run Farther, Recover Faster with Yoga. it focuses on the link between yoga and running; specifically, how using yoga as a cross-training tool can help one run longer and stronger and recover more quickly. this was of particular interest to me, especially since i've resumed my long distance training so that i can complete my 50-state marathon goal. with one half marathon (running, not walking!) under my belt since my knee surgery, i still have that other half left to train for. and i definitely want to make sure that no other injuries get in the way of my finishing that next marathon. and all the others after that.

there was a link to the iyogalife.com running page in that issue, and of all the featured yoga-and-running articles, i found this particularly helpful:

Yoga for Runners
By Nicole Kwan

This might sound a bit counter-intuitive, but improving your running skills might require moving slowly and deliberately. Athletes of all sorts have discovered that yoga is the perfect cross-training tool. Stretches and poses will make you feel better when you run by loosening you up all over. In time yoga can help you tap into energy you didn’t know you had. Suddenly you are effortlessly running longer, recovering faster, and racing injury-free.

We took the most common running goals and asked the experts to target yoga routines that will help meet those goals.

1. YOU WANT: Total-body fitness (not just legs)
YOU NEED: Upper-body strength
Running motions lead to very tight necks, shoulders, hamstrings, and hips. “Yoga brings more movement into your body, much more movement in the hips, and a more relaxed face and shoulders [than when running],” says Barbara Ruzansky, owner of West Hartford Yoga in West Hartford, Connecticut. Yoga will also help develop your upper body to balance your already strong legs. Try the following pose to take the stress off your legs and build strength in your arms. If anyone asks, you’re practicing your slide-between-walls spy move.

TRY THIS: Side Arm Balance pose
This beginner version will help develop upper-body strength and awareness while also working abs, says Sandy Blaine, codirector of the Alameda Yoga Station in Alameda, California. Start in full Plank pose. Lying face-down, smoothly push your body off the ground just 2 to 3 inches and hold it there, palms flat, elbows squeezing tightly toward one another. Make sure your belly is in and each muscle is engaged. Then turn so the right side of your body faces the ground and your left side faces the ceiling. As you turn, bring your left hand to rest on your left hip so you rest on your right hand. Bend your left leg, placing your left foot flat on the floor in front of the right knee. The goal is to push the right leg away from the floor and not sink into the floor. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Then switch to the left. A strength move like this is best done 2-3 times a week to see improvement.

2. YOU WANT: Pain-free running
YOU NEED: Increased strength and flexibility
Yoga will eliminate tightness that leads to pain by opening up your joints. But remember, safety first. “The tighter people are, the safer they need to be; especially with runners, who tend to be goal oriented,” says Christine Felstead, owner of Yoga for Runners in Toronto. “The muscles you use for running are strong but you don’t use all your muscles. A yoga pose requires all the muscles work in tandem.”

TRY THIS: Sit cross-legged
Sit in this pose after a run. “Sitting cross-legged is the simplest way to start opening up hips and increase the lateral (outward) rotation of your hip joint,” Felstead says. Make sure your hips are higher than your knees when you sit. To balance hips and knees, sit on a rolled-up towel, block, or phone book. After a while you may feel fatigue in your spine but engaging your abs will add some core work while you stretch the arches of your feet, ankles, knees, and quads. Sit for as long as you feel relaxed and be sure to switch the foot that’s in front every few minutes. You might stay there for only 3 minutes to start but you’ll be able to sit longer over time, Felstead says.

3. YOU WANT: Injury prevention
YOU NEED: Perfect posture
“If you run and don’t do anything to maintain flexibility, chances are almost 100 percent that you’ll end up with a running injury sooner or later. It’s just critical to maintain a range of motion and stretch out the muscles that get tight from running,” says Beryl Bender Birch, owner/director of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute in East Hampton, New York. Besides helping you avoid injury, that extra flexibility and movement makes for a better time in the bedroom, so stand up—you’ll look taller, too.

TRY THIS: Mountain pose
This simple but challenging stance will create better awareness of your body and improve your posture. Stand against a wall to find your postural alignment. This means you’ve got to properly line up your body to the wall, which is harder than it seems. Bring your heels to the wall and tuck your chin slightly under. You’ll have two pockets of space at lower back and neck where your body does not touch the wall. Stretch your body gently upwards; you should feel taller. Then step away and try to maintain your posture. By straightening your spine away from your lower back you lengthen your body, avoid shoulder pain, and keep your joints healthy. Apply this posture when you’re waiting to cross the street or to pay in the checkout line or anytime you find yourself slouching (like now). Straighten up!

4. YOU WANT: Agility
YOU NEED: Correct stretching
You stretch before you run, but practicing a few yoga poses post-run when your muscles are warm will make you feel a whole lot better the next day. “Think of yoga like a clay pot, if you just try to bend it, it will break. If you add warmth, you can bend into anything. When it relaxes and cools off it stays in shape,” says Mark Blanchard, founder of Mark Blanchard’s Power Yoga Centers. You actually strengthen muscles by making them soft. “The definition of health in a muscle is not hardness. Even though a muscle may feel hard it’s actually weak,” says Jean Couch, owner and director of The Balance Center in Palo Alto, California. Tense muscles don’t receive blood, so use yoga after you run to keep your muscles open for movement-enabling oxygen.

TRY THIS: Reclined leg stretch
Lie down with your right foot through a doorway and left leg against the wall. Your legs should be extended but knees shouldn’t be locked. Hold for 5-10 full breaths for a good stretch into your hamstrings, says Sandra Safadirazieli, instructor at the Piedmont Yoga Institute in Berkeley, California. As you loosen up, bring your upper body closer and closer to the door until you can put a strap around your foot for a stronger stretch. If you don’t have a strap, use a belt or sturdy scarf. The ultimate goal is to hold on to the big toe with your second and third fingers, but work your way up slowly.

5. YOU WANT: Faster recovery
YOU NEED: Consistent yoga practice
Yoga can help you recover faster by preventing a buildup in scar tissue. “Yoga uses the elastics of the body and breathing to move oxygen, which moves scar tissue so it doesn’t coagulate and settle in one spot,” says Blanchard. He recommends alternating days of running and yoga but practicing Sun Salutation every day. This flow makes for a good pre-run warmup to energize and focus your mind and body, but don’t cheat—it’s not a substitute for a regular yoga routine. The entire thing will take 15 to 20 minutes but work at your own pace and follow your breath.

Watch our video to learn Sun Salutation, the total body workout.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

i don't leave home without it

my KCRW fringe benefits card, that is.

now that i have a fresh source of disposable income to spend on yoga classes, i've been finding more reasons to pull out my purple KCRW card. with an average $2 savings per class, it may not sound like much, but it does add up. if nothing else, it easily covers the starbucks grande-iced-green-unsweetened-ez-ice that i treat myself to after class.

to save me (and you) the trouble of having to continually check the fringe benefits directory to find out who offers a KCRW discount, i've indicated the yoga studios on my list (see sidebar on right) that honor the card.

for those who have no idea what i'm talking about, here are some answers to your questions, courtesy of the KCRW website:

what's KCRW?

KCRW, a community service of Santa Monica College, is Southern California's leading National Public Radio affiliate, featuring an eclectic mix of music, news, information and cultural programming. The station boasts one of the nation's largest arrays of locally- produced, nationally-distributed talk program content. The non-commercial broadcast signal reaches 550,000 listeners weekly and is supported by 55,000 member/subscribers.

what's a KCRW fringe benefits card?

It's sent to all those who subscribe to KCRW at the $50 level or higher.

Use your Fringe Benefits card for great discounts at more than 700 Southern California restaurants, retailers and cultural venues.

why should i subscribe to KCRW?

besides the fact that you receive a discount card that saves you money at various establishments in the los angeles area, your contribution helps keep KCRW and its incredible music programming on the air.

KCRW is a recognized tastemaker for new music from around the world, with trendsetting hosts such as Music Director Nic Harcourt, who features live in-studio sessions and interviews with established and emerging artists on Morning Becomes Eclectic and the nationally syndicated Sounds Eclectic; music supervisor and electronica music champion Jason Bentley (The Matrix series) with Metropolis; indie and alternative rock on The Open Road with music supervisor Gary Calamar (Six Feet Under). Other programs include nu-soul and funk on Chocolate City with Garth Trinidad; Nocturna with Raul Campos features dance rhythms and Latin beats; New Ground with Chris Douridas spotlights the latest singer-songwriters and music in all genres; and more.

you can listen to KCRW if you live/work in the following communities:
89.9 FM KCRW: LA, Orange Counties
89.1 FM KCRU: Ventura County
89.3 FM KCRI: Greater Palm Springs area
88.1 FM KCRY: Kern, Northern LA Counties
106.9 FM: Santa Barbara
90.7 FM: Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley
89.7 FM: Gorman
90.9 FM: Banning
107.1 FM: Ridgecrest
102.3 FM: Santa Paula, Moorpark, Fillmore
102.1 FM: Ojai
89.9 FM: Lemon Grove, Spring Valley

and if you find yourself outside the reaches of the KCRW radio signal, there's kcrwmusic.com on the internet.

KCRWmusic.com puts the best of underground flavors, independent records and progressive major releases within reach 24/7. KCRWMusic.com boasts the same variety of cutting edge music that defines 89.9 KCRW’s eclectic identity, featuring electronica to progressive pop, Latin alternative to modern soul, hip-hop, trip-hop, world music and more.

i don't know about you, but if all i had to listen to on the radio were the same-old same-old top 40 stations, i'd tune in just long enough to get the news, weather, and traffic reports, then switch back to my CD player. or maybe i'd even subscribe to satellite radio, like XM or sirius, for the variety it offers. but since subscribing to KCRW costs me much less, i'll keep doing whatever i can to make sure it stays around for a long, long time.

and after you read this post, hopefully, you will, too :)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

yoga for the cure

Yoga at the Village
1306 Sonora Avenue
Glendale, CA 91201
(818) 265-9833
website: www.yogaatthevillage.com

Excerpts from The Anti-Yoga Trilogy, or Why I Can't Do Yoga, by Elyse Briggs:

Excuse #1: I'm not flexible enough to do Yoga!
Not flexible enough to practice Yoga?? Get over yourself. No one in class is watching you. They're all worried about their own problems. It's really all about you and you being okay with where you are right now, today, this minute. Some ask me, "Does Yoga really work?" My answer? "Only if you practice it." Yoga calms my mind and works my body and although I'll never be a "Type B" personality, I'm proud to say that Yoga has made me a solid "A minus". My mind and my body occasionally connect and when that happens, it's magic. Decisions come more easily and are made with clarity. I'm not so mad at people in traffic anymore and my hand gestures, I proud to say, changed from one finger to two. Peace man.

Excuse #2: I don't have time to do Yoga!
If you drag yourself out of bed just once to get there, the effects are so profound and life changing that it's hard to ignore and you just might want to do it again. If you don't do it the first time, you'll never know. "Oh come now," you're saying as you roll your eyes clear to the back of your head. It's true enough though. Students tell me time after time that their whole day or night was different because of what happened to them in class, that they appreciated everything a little more than before. I'm all about appreciating every moment these days. Time does go by so darn fast…too fast. The faster we charge through our lives the faster time rushes by. I happen to like my life. I want to hold on to it for as long as I can.

Excuse #3: My religion does not permit me to practice Yoga.
I've been a student of yoga for 30 years and haven't once felt compromised … but that's me. When I'm in a yoga class, I'm not thinkin' religion, I'm thinkin' mind/body connection and sculpted abs, butt and thighs … but again, that's me.
My yoga class is a time for self-reflection, and connection to "the bigger picture," the universe or why that sperm hit that egg at the precise moment to make me! Why think about such things? Well, when I think large, I no longer sweat the small stuff. It's how I use MY yoga practice.

some time ago, while i was compiling my yoga studio hit list, i came across yoga at the village in glendale. it sounded like a really fun place to practice, thanks to owner elyse briggs and her sense of humor, which is reflected throughout the studio's website. besides, a place that caters to "computer geeks, the yoga challenged, and the skeptical" as well as those more yogically-inclined has to be worth a visit or two. or maybe more.

but my biggest problem was that glendale wasn't exactly in my backyard. plus most of elyse's classes were in the morning, which meant that i'd have to sit with all the worker bees in rush-hour traffic just to get there. of course, i always had the option of taking any of the other classes that were later in the day, but i wanted to hold out for a chance to take one with her.

well, i finally got that chance today, when yoga at the village held its second annual stretch for the cure, a fundraiser for the susan b. komen breast cancer foundation. it was a two-hour yoga class co-taught by elyse briggs and amina ann rosen, a fellow teacher at yoga at the village. besides the fact that i'd finally be able to meet elyse and take a class with her, i chose to make the 45-minute trek to glendale because the event raised funds for a disease that i can't afford to ignore; after all, my mother's a breast cancer survivor (almost 25 years and still going!), which, unfortunately, increases my risk of getting the disease.

yoga at the village is relatively easy to get to. it's near the intersection of the 134 and 5 freeways, at the corner of sonora and kenneth, at the edge of kenneth village in glendale. there is ample FREE parking right beside the studio, a big plus in my book. surrounding the studio are little stores and boutiques -- a flower shop, a bakery, a market, a pharmacy -- a rarity these days in the big city, primarily because they're slowly being overrun by the wal-marts and the costcos. these mom-and-pop shops looked like places i'd like to browse through if i'm ever in the neighborhood again.

elyse went all out for the fundraiser. not only was there an assortment of cheese, fruit, and crackers for all the guests, but there was also a silent auction featuring items donated by businesses in the area. in addition, as participants in the event, our donations to the komen foundation earned us each a thank-you gift from the array of items with the breast cancer logo: t-shirts, camisoles, and bracelets. naturally, i wanted something to wear to a future yoga class, so i chose a pink camisole with the yoga at the village logo and a pink ribbon embroidered on its front. functional, yet stylish. perfect.

amina ann, a breast cancer survivor, started the class with a set of sun salutations, followed by some standing poses. i'm glad the moves were fairly gentle; my legs and lower back were still sore from the 12-mile training run i did the morning before. soon, it was elyse's turn to teach the class. she led us through some pretty intense stretches. i had body parts that were screaming for mercy, but because of her lighthearted demeanor, i tried to laugh along with her even if there were a number of times when i wanted to throw dagger looks in her direction. at the end of the class, amina returned and talked us gently into savasana.

there were about a dozen of us in the mixed-level class. we ranged in ability from those who depended on props to get into some poses, to those who beautifully flowed from asana to asana (it turns out that a couple who were in the latter category also happened to be teachers at the studio, like steven vincent and shari goodhartz) . we also ranged in age from senior citizen all the way down to pre-schooler (it was amusing to watch the four-year old daughter of the florist next door as she did her best to keep up with the rest of us, at least until she decided to re-join her mom at the flower shop). having such a wide variety of students in today's class just emphasized how yoga at the village truly accepts everyone with open arms.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

going to a strip joint

Body Mind & Spirit
Yoga Pilates & Poledancing
19710 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 108
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
(818) 702-0390
website: www.yopipo.com

Clients that come to Body Mind & Spirit
Yoga, Pilates & Poledancing
are serious about working with commitment
to see and feel change.
Whether you are looking for relief from injuries, to lose weight,
gain flexibility or to learn how to relax your spirit
we are here to support you.
The studio offers Yoga, Pilates, Poledancing classes
and spiritual nutrition in a variety of healing arts.

it's bad enough when you get caught viewing a non-work related website at the office. it's even worse when the website window's title bar announces Stripping Poledancing. it's downright embarrassing, especially when you're new and no one really knows you that well. god, they must think i do some pretty kinky stuff in my spare time!

it was while i was trying to jot down the address of my latest valley yoga studio discovery that the office computer tech just happened to stop by to install more software on my PC. i quickly clicked on the close button when i sensed him standing behind me, but the damage was probably done. needless to say, he spent a lot of time in my cubicle trying to troubleshoot a problem that surfaced during the install. i have a feeling that if i ever call the help desk for any subsequent PC issues, i should have no problem getting him to run to my rescue :)

and no, i wasn't trying to take a yoga class at a strip joint. but the studio does teach poledancing, of all things, in addition to yoga and pilates. despite the fact that it goes by the name body mind & spirit, its website address, www.yopipo.com, is a subtle mnemonic for the types of classes taught at the studio.

so when the tech finally left my desk, i revisited the website to get the information i needed. a 6pm ayuryoga class with ashley osler... in a shopping center at the corner of ventura and corbin... but do they really teach stripping?... hmmmm...

i later found myself walking into a place that had pilates reformer machines on one side and stripper poles on the other. the poles were right in the middle of what appeared to be the yoga studio floor. i could only imagine how they would come into play during our yoga class.

as it turned out, they didn't. we placed our mats on the hardwood floor, away from the poles. before class started, ashley told me that she usually gears her classes towards the abilities of the students. and after observing the elderly woman beside me struggling to get from downward dog to a runner's lunge, i knew that it was going to be 90 minutes of slow transitions and simple poses. at least poledancing would have been more of a workout!

it was a very gentle class. a bit too gentle for my taste. if i still had the luxury of being able to take a morning yoga class, i'd probably go back and take an anusara class with either judy narvid or tim waters, both certified anusara teachers. as it is though, with my only evening option being a gentle class, i really don't have much reason to go back.

unless, of course, i decide to try out the six-week ecstatic pole dance class series. me, spinning on a stripper pole? maybe i should stick to yoga for now...

Monday, October 09, 2006

are you sure those are YOUR flip-flops??

a few months ago, i walked out of vinnie marino's class at yoga works, reached for the cubby in the lobby where i had left my metallic gray havaiana flip-flops, and found it empty. stunned, i checked the other cubbies and found a pair that looked exactly like my silver duo. i put them on, and to my relief, they fit (of course, i happen to wear the same size as most other women).

but i kept wondering if they were really the same pair i walked in with. did someone forget where they had stashed theirs, saw mine, and took them, thinking (and/or hoping) that it was theirs? or did someone take my pair, realize it wasn't theirs, and put them back in another cubby? since there was no way of knowing, i went ahead and took the pair i found, scrubbed them with detergent and VERY hot water when i got home, and swore never to leave my good flip-flops in the public bins ever again.

then sometime last week, i found this posting on the yogahop lost and found webpage:

Brown Havaiana Flip-Flops - SWITCHED!

If you took home the wrong Brown Havaiana flip-flops during the first two weeks of September, return them. Your Flip-Flops are here awaiting an overdue reunion.

and last night, i found a note posted on the yoga works main street bulletin board that said something to this effect:

if you took my brown havaianas by mistake, please call xxx-xxx-xxxx...

so is the same scatterbrained yoga student responsible for all these brown havaiana mix-ups?

(and wouldn't you know it; i just happened to buy myself a brown pair a few weeks ago. needless to say, i'm now leaving them at home when i go to yoga class.)

anyway, if you're one of those who gets so blotto after savasana that you can never seem to remember where you left your flip-flops, there may be hope for you yet.

you can either wear something so unusual that there's almost no chance that anyone else has the same pair as yours. or you can put something in the cubby that uniquely identifies it as yours. like maybe a folded class schedule, or the cup you were holding when you walked into the studio.

on the other hand, if you're one of those who feels the need to take someone else's flip-flops because they look better than yours, shame on you! may the karma gods strike you with a painful back spasm while you're doing an intense backbend... and may the pain persist until you return all the pairs you stole!

in the meantime, my flip-flops will continue to follow me right into the asana room, where they sit hidden under my folded yoga mat bag. after all, what you can't see, you can't take...

Friday, October 06, 2006

yoga with matt

i've always wanted to take a class with matt reyes. let me clarify that; i've taken many classes with him as the teacher, but never with him as a student. after all, given the grueling workout he puts all his hip-hop yoga students through, i've always wondered if he'd be able to do all those strenuous moves himself.

well, i finally got my chance to go mat-to-mat (pun somewhat intended) with him last night.

yes, i know that yoga is supposed to be a non-competitive sport, but sometimes i find that i can't help myself, especially if i'm standing beside a fellow marathoner. once that adrenaline gets going, all of a sudden everything becomes a challenge.

but i should start from the beginning.

about a week or two ago, i received an email from the lululemon store in santa monica about their new LULU running group. it was going to be headed by lulu ambassador matthew reyes and assisted by bridget tremblay, both accomplished marathoners:

We will meet EVERY THURSDAY EVENING beginning October 5th.

6:00pm: MEET at lululemon Santa Monica
6:15-7:00: LULU RUN, 2 pace groups available
7:00-7:15: YOGA STRETCH at lululemon Santa Monica

Participation in the running group is free and all are welcome.

then after all that running, if we still had any energy left, we were welcome to take a yoga class at yogahop, just a short drive away (regular class rates apply; not everything in life is free, unfortunately).

not wanting to miss out on either the running nor the yoga, i showed up shortly before 6:00 with running and yoga gear in tow. there were two pace groups; one speeding off at an 8-minute pace and another one doing a more leisurely 10-minute pace. since i knew that i had an hour of fairly physical yoga at yogahop after the run, i specifically chose to stick with the slower group, hoping that it would be a nice, social run that would essentially be my pre-yoga warmup.

unfortunately, that was not to be.

most of those who showed up seemed intimidated by the designation "faster group" and chose to run with the slower group. problem was, many of them were NOT slow runners (since when do 20-something men run slowly?). so instead of my doing an easy jog along the beach boardwalk, i found myself pushing to keep up with the frontrunners. after a couple of miles, i let them go. it didn't matter if i was missing out on the chance to chat with the group; i was running too fast to talk anyway. i slowed down my pace and continued to run the course, watching the youngsters pass me as they sped back to the store. by the time i rejoined them at the end, i realized that my planned warmup had turned into a full-on speed workout. oh well. i'll know better next time.

once everyone else got back, we did a quick post-run yoga stretch, then put our names in the hat for some raffle prizes: lulu clothing and a yogahop class. and no, i didn't win anything. again!

at that point, with no other takers, matt and i headed off to yogahop to catch greville henwood's level 2/3 class at 7:45pm.

there were a total of 4 students in our class that evening: matt and myself plus a father-daughter duo. if they had only known the craziness they were going to be witness to...

for the most part, i kept trying to see how perfectly i could do each pose. and matt kept trying to see how imperfectly he could do the same poses (of course, only when my head was turned in his direction). greville watched matt quizzically at first, until he realized that both matt and i were laughing at his display of how not to do a pose.

as expected, matt had no problem keeping up. i, on the other hand, was struggling to find the energy to get through the class. he did five push-ups for every vinyasa, as instructed. i gave up after a couple of sets. he gracefully transitioned in and out of all the balance poses; i barely hung on while standing in warrior 3 and half moon. he kept cranking out the sit-ups while i kept taking breaks due to my burning abs. if i were truly competitive, i probably would have been totally frustrated at that point. instead, i used matt as a benchmark, knowing that if he could do it, i would eventually be able to, too. if i keep working at it, that is.

likewise, if i keep working on my running, i may actually be able to keep up with those youngsters... or maybe even pass them as i move on to the faster pace group!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

good things come in threes

Garden of Yoga
22284 Buena Ventura Street
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
(818) 932-9849

Inner Power Yoga
22233 Mulholland Highway
Calabasas, CA 91302
(818) 591-2639

Yoga Desa
120 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard
Topanga, CA 90290
(310) 455-9551

topanga, california. because of its proximity to the wooded trails of topanga state park and the rolling waves of topanga state beach, and its relative isolation from everything else, it continues to be a community of nature-loving free spirits. establishments named theatricum botanicum, inn of the seventh ray, and country natural food store reflect the way of life in the canyon. in fact, i wouldn't be surprised if it was the inspiration for the name given to the hippie child on the 90's hit show, boy meets world: topanga lawrence.

creative types such as musicians, actors, artists, even yoga gurus call topanga home. so it's no coincidence that there are a number of yoga studios located just off topanga canyon boulevard, the scenic road that connects topanga to calabasas and woodland hills on the northern end and malibu and pacific palisades on the southern end.

the garden of yoga is located in a private home in a quiet residential neighborhood a few blocks west of topanga canyon boulevard. outside, there was a small seating area in the garden where one can listen to the gurgling fountain while sipping the complimentary tea and browsing through their collection of yoga magazines. as for the inside, i have to say that compared to the other home-based yoga studios that i've visited so far, this studio gets kudos for interior design. everything was carefully chosen, from the polished hardwood floors, to the sponge-painted walls, to the artwork, to even the fixtures in the luxuriously-appointed bathroom. the owners obviously spent good money to provide their students an inspiring place to practice.

stefan storace, a co-owner of GOY, was teaching his vinyasa soul flow class on the day i visited. ours was a small class of three, which allowed stefan to give us personalized attention. he would often bring props to us as needed so we wouldn't have to stop and break the flow of the class. he is an avid follower of matthew cohen's yoga/tai-chi fusion style of yoga, so it was no surprise that many of his moves were similar to matthew's. we moved slowly and expansively and linked our breath with each movement. the class level was just right; it was thorough but not overly exhausting.

all classes at GOY are donation-based, which is a great plus for those on a tight budget.

just south of the garden of yoga, about a quarter mile west of the boulevard in the gelson's shopping center, is inner power yoga. for all intents and purposes, you may as well consider inner power the valley branch of bryan kest's power yoga. almost all the classes are taught in the kest power yoga style; in fact, bryan teaches a two-hour deep stretch class once at month at inner power.

and that's what drew me to inner power the other day. i wanted to see if there was any difference between bryan's classes at SMPY east and those at SMPY north, um, i mean inner power yoga. since it was called a deep stretch class, i honestly thought that it would be a restorative class of some kind, although i wasn't quite sure why we needed all of two hours to stretch.

but what i thought we were going to do and what we ended up doing were two completely different things! let's just say that the class was very similar to those taught at bryan's santa monica location, with more poses thrown in to fill in those extra 30 minutes. yes, it's tougher than his usual level 1-2 classes. and might even be just as demanding as his level 3-4 classes, although because it was an all-levels class, he readily accommodated the less experienced students.

unlike at SMPY, the classes here are not donation-based. classes range from $13 (if a series of 10 classes is purchased) to $15 (for a single class purchase), pretty much the going rate in town.

as you continue to wind your way down the canyon road, once you reach the center of town, you will find yoga desa (pronounced day-sha) in what could be considered the nearest thing to a shopping center in topanga, perched on a hill overlooking the bend in the road. yoga desa offers two to three hatha yoga classes a day, plus a kirtan once a month (after all, chanting is just so... so topanga).

i had shown up for annmarie solo's level 2 class last week when i decided to take topanga canyon to avoid the freeway traffic on my way home. she also teaches at yoga works main street, one of the studios where i volunteer, so i found it odd that i had never taken any of her classes until i visited yoga desa.

many of the students must have been regulars because annmarie seemed to know everyone's name. she also knew the level many of them were at; she would often suggest different variations to different people in the class. many times it felt like she was keeping a close eye on me, which i very much welcomed. hers was a strong vinyasa flow class, with some time spent on arm balances and inversions. it definitely was not for beginners.

the class prices aren't posted on the yoga desa website, so when i got there, i found out that it was $14 a class (and probably less expensive if i had bought a series). i also found out that they only take cash or checks. no credit cards. so if you make the mistake of showing up with nothing but plastic in your wallet like i did, be prepared to drive the short distance to the ATM in the liquor store so you can get the cash you need to pay your teacher.

all three yoga studios -- garden of yoga, inner power yoga, and yoga desa -- offer excellent classes with excellent teachers. it's definitely worth leaving the hustle and bustle of the city to find your center in the peaceful surroundings of topanga canyon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

auspicious celebrations

In many northern hemisphere cultures, this time of year brings a focus on the days getting shorter and the crops getting ready for harvest. It is not surprising that so many religious events focus not only on family, community, feasting and celebration, but many also focus on the balance of purification and readying for the dark months ahead.

On September 23, 2006, the Jewish people will honor Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and commemorates the creation of Adam. It is a celebration filled with a lot of symbolism, some of which comes about in foods consumed for the holiday. To greet someone on Rosh Hashanah, you say, "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." This is based on the idea that every person is judged on Rosh Hashanah, with that judgment sealed ten days later on Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur, 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, is the end of the Jewish high holy days and probably the most important holiday in the entire Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement" and is the day when God seals the judgment for sins against God during the previous year. This is the last opportunity to repent and make amends. Most Jews commemorate Yom Kippur with a total fast from sunset on the previous evening until sunset on Yom Kippur. There are religious services throughout the day, ending at sunset with the sound of a long blast of a "shofar" (a special ritual horn).

Also beginning on September 23 is the Hindu festival of Navaratri. Navaratri (nine nights) is a harvest festival and a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. In Hinduism, one of the main mother goddesses is Durga. This festival commemorates Durga's victory over the demon Mahishasura in a battle that lasted nine nights. It is a time to honor the blessings of harvest and the sacredness and strength of women. Many of the Navaratri celebrations these days blend into the holiday of Dasera, this year on October 2. The hope is that the blessings bestowed on this day will ensure success for the months to come in all of one's endeavors.

The fall equinox, which occurs this year on September 23, is known by many Neopagans as Mabon. It is also a time of balance as, once again, the days and nights are of equal length. There is also a focus on the balance between life and death, as the world looks back at the life-giving days of the summer months and looks forward towards the inward-reflecting days of the winter to come. Many groups celebrate this sabbat with a feast or some other form of community gathering, enjoying some of the last good weather of the season before the chill of the fall air takes over.

For followers of Islam, the month of Ramadan begins on September 24, 2006. This month commemorates the Qu'ran being sent from heaven down to earth to provide a source of guidance for followers of this faith. The most familiar practice for Ramadan is the entire month of fasting - no eating, drinking, smoking or sexual relations during the daylight. The 27th day of Ramadan is known as Laylat-al-Qadr, the Night of Power. This night celebrates the revelation of the Qu'ran to Muhammad. Islamic teachings state that on that night, Allah determines the course of the world for the next year. The month of Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al Fitr, a time of great celebration. -- from
if, a journal of spiritual exploration

yesterday morning, i began my day giving thanks to the freeway gods -- thanks for the congestion-free traffic conditions that got me to the office in much less time than it normally did. in fact, for a brief moment, i wondered if i had made the mistake of driving to work on a sunday!

it was only later in the day when i finally realized that it was yom kippur, the jewish high holy day of fasting and atonement. many, i suppose, had chosen to take the day off and spend it at home or at synagogue. is it possible that the jewish community in LA is so large that it can actually affect traffic patterns in the city? i wonder if mel gibson realized that when he made those now infamous remarks...

my trip back to the westside later that afternoon was just as blissful. i opted to take the scenic route down topanga canyon to the coast, then cruised all the way south to venice, to sacred movement (aka exhale venice) where shiva rea was scheduled to teach her signature vinyasa flow class.

the parking gods must have also been looking down upon me, because despite the fact that all the street parking was taken up by those attending yom kippur services at a nearby temple, i managed to find a spot that i barely managed to squeeze into... and i can only imagine all the westside SUV drivers who desperately tried to fit into it... and couldn't :)

unbeknownst to many (including some of the exhale staff), shiva rea had decided to treat her students to a night of chanting and yoga. the reason for the celebration: the nine-day period of navaratri, a hindu festival that honors the divine mother in her three aspects: as durga, the source of power, as lakshmi, the source of wealth, and as saraswati, the source of wisdom. last night was the tenth day, also known as vijayadasami, the day of victory, a most auspicious time for starting new ventures.

auspicious. a word rich with meaning:
Having omens or tokens of a favorable issue; giving promise of success, prosperity, or happiness; predicting good; as, an auspicious beginning.

which reminds me of the nepalese bracelet i bought some time ago from reena at kathmandu imports in santa monica, the one with the eight auspicious symbols on it. this sounds like the perfect time to put it back on; i could use some success and prosperity right about now...

but i digress.

shiva invited many of her musician friends to join the celebration, including caitanya and joey lugassy and craig kohland. with hardly any time between classes to get set up, the musicians tuned their instruments and did their sound check while the rest of us arranged our yoga mats in a circle around the tall lamp shiva had placed in the middle of the large room. with the musicians ready to chant and the students ready to move, she started the celebration.

shiva led the class through a quarter-mala of 27 sun salutations. 22 slow, deliberate surya namaskar A's, followed by 5 more vigorous surya namaskar B's. she cautioned us to take it easy in order to get through all 27, and that we should consider stepping rather than jumping forward and back, maybe even keep our knees bent during the forward folds. i started out gently, per her advice, until i got warmed up, then went through the salutes in my normal fashion, floating forward and back, and trying my best to maintain a much slower and relaxed pace so as not to speed ahead of her and the others. surprisingly, i got through all 27 with energy to spare, probably thanks to all those power yoga classes that have built up my stamina!

she then followed the namaskars with a series of kriyas, or asana sequences, that opened our hips, shoulders, and heart centers. finally, after 90 minutes of intense moving and sweating, we laid ourselves down in heavenly savasana. at that point, the musicians began their kirtan chanting, and as we were ready, we joined in one by one until the entire room was filled with our combined voices.

who would have guessed that a regularly-scheduled class would have turned into such a joyous event? so lucky of me to have been at the right place at the right time!

i can only hope that this auspicious celebration heralds the start of my auspicious new year...

Monday, October 02, 2006

an inspired practice

The Absolute Yoga and Pilates Studio
20855 Ventura Boulevard
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
(818) 226-0695

Welcome to The Absolute, an inspired Center for Absolute Wellness, promoting vibrant health, healing and empowerment of the individual. At The Absolute, we offer mindful classes and workshops in a variety of yoga and meditation styles including Hatha, Kundalini, Anusara, TriYoga, Flow, Gentle, Intro To Yoga, Prenatal, Post-natal/Parent & Me, Kids’ Yoga and Qi Gong. We also specialize in individualized exercise programs, including The Pilates Method, Pilates Mat, and The Gyrotonic Expansion System® .

Our unique environment is designed to enhance body, mind and spirit, regardless of age, fitness level, flexibility, prior experience or specific physical challenges. All are welcome to come and experience increased feelings of health and well being!

Come visit our store featuring favorite yoga books, videos, music, yoga clothing, candles and supplies! Thank you for choosing The Absolute. We look forward to serving you.

if you've been following my blog, you'd know that there's a soft spot in my heart for anusara yoga. don't get me wrong; while i still consider vinyasa flow and music flow classes the meat-and-potatoes of my yoga practice, i like to think of anusara classes as an occasional treat. something like an exotic fruit salad, the kind with pineapple and mangoes and kiwi. yum! not only is it good, but it's also good for you. although depending on where you live, it may not be easy to come by.

so i was excited to find out that there was a yoga studio near where i work that teaches anusara classes. correct that -- anusara-style classes. yes, apparently there's a difference between the two.

it seems that it all depends on the certification level of the instructor. according to the anusara website:

Certified teachers have earned their elite status by completing a comprehensive evaluation process of their teaching skills and knowledge. Certified Anusara Yoga teachers are among the most highly trained and skilled yoga teachers in the world.

sounds impressive, doesn't it? the requirements must be pretty stringent because there are only a dozen of these certified "experts" (at least according to the anusara website) in los angeles county. another twenty LA-based teachers are considered affiliated, i.e., they have the requisite training but just haven't gotten around to getting certified. and lastly, there's the next tier down: those who are considered anusara-inspired. they've successfully passed their anusara training and are on their way to building up their teaching hours to get to the next level.

and that's where the anusara vs. the anusara-style (aka anusara-influenced) difference lies. anusara classes are taught by anusara certified and affiliated teachers. anusara style classes are taught by the anusara-inspired, as well as the teacher-training grads.

up to this point, being the yoga gourmet that i am (!?!), i've only taken anusara classes with teachers at the affiliated and certified levels. after all, it makes perfect sense to me. if i want to learn anusara the way john friend intended it to be taught, i should be learning from those who've proven themselves to him. you see, it's like learning skiing or golf. my first lessons have always been with a pro. sure, i probably could have learned either sport from a friend, but then again, i may not have been taught the little pointers that only an expert knows. or worse yet, that weekend warrior could have taught me his bad habits (and i prefer to develop them on my own, thank you).

but it's gotten to the point where i felt it was time for me to broaden my horizons, so to speak, and open myself up to the experience of taking classes with teachers who are just getting started on their road to anusara certification. or at least that what i told myself when i chose to take georgina purple's mixed anusara style class at the absolute.

the absolute yoga and pilates studio is one of those places that teaches more than just yoga in order to attract a wider student audience. others are exhale, which teaches yoga and core fusion, and swerve, which offers yoga, dance, and weight training. the absolute has facilities for yoga, pilates, and gyrotonic. two of the their three rooms house the pilates and gyrotonic machines, and the third (located across the parking lot) is where the yoga classes are held. there aren't many yoga classes offered at this studio; during the course of the typical day, there's one class in the morning and two in the evening.

georgina taught the only mixed level yoga class of the day, so i had to sneak out of the office early just to make her 5:30pm class. if you ask me, given the choice of taking a yoga class or sitting at my desk trying to look busy, yoga seemed like the better choice :)

we started out following the prescribed anusara sequence. the class selected a page at random from the book she brought to class, and after she read the passage on that page, she tied it in to what our focus was going to be that day. something about dispelling clouds to clear our outlook on life. then came the three oms followed by three rounds of the anusara invocation (and georgina was nice enough to hand out copies of the invocation to us who still hadn't committed the words to memory). then we started moving... to dispel those clouds that were hovering over our heads...

since our class was smaller than most of the other anusara classes i'd taken, i got more hands-on time than usual. georgina pointed out that my shoulders weren't pulled back far enough while i was in downward dog. and that my tailbone wasn't tucked in enough while i was in triangle. it's always good to have your bad habits pointed out before they become hard to break!

i'd take more of georgina's classes if they were held later in the day. but if i want to continue taking classes at the absolute after work, my choices are limited to either a beginner anusara class or a mixed kundalini class. so for now, i'll keep scouting out the neighborhood to see what else is out there...

by the way, the $10 new student deal mentioned on their website is no longer available; in fact, all the prices have gone up. so be prepared to pay a bit more when you visit.