Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
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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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

joni, just an anonymous thanks. your ventures and ad-ventures are so interesting. at the present time, nearly daily entertainment and education for me. maybe after some time I'll start following very closely and do a LA yoga weekend. thanks for doing the blog. pete

NSfP - Not Suitable for Publication--- that's my view!

6:05 PM  

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