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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!

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