Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
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Thursday, November 30, 2006

the gift of yoga

for my big birthday celebration, besides spending time with friends and family, i thought i would gift myself with yoga classes with teachers who actually knew me well. or at least well enough to greet me by name when they spotted me in their classes. because in a way, that makes them my friends, too :)

so whom did i end up inviting to my "party"? here's how the first half of the celebration went:

day 2: suzanne strachan
suzanne and i had never met before i took her class at the in the mudra yoga studio in canoga park. i was there because it was their grand opening celebration (making it the 69th studio i'd visited), and not only was the class i took with her free, but i also happened to win a 5-class pass in the post-class raffle. needless to say, when all the holiday hubbub dies down, i'll pay another visit to her and her studio. after all, i have all those free classes at my disposal.

day 3: light
light is such a cool guy with a cool playlist! the class i took with him was another of his monthly hot sunday fundraisers at maha yoga in brentwood, with that evening's beneficiary being the children's health environmental coalition. his classes are pretty demanding, and i amazed even myself when i was able to hang in with the group, despite the fact that i had run a half marathon earlier that morning. am i a stud-ette or what? :)

day 4: matthew reyes
the first class i took with matt over a year ago at maha yoga was my first foray into the world of hip-hop yoga. i'd known him since we were both in the same running group many years ago, so when i found out about his SRO classes, i had to go find out why he was such a hit... and i've become addicted to his classes ever since. i followed him out to yogamatt in los feliz when he left maha, then to yogahop in santa monica when yogamatt closed. i guess you could say i'd follow him anywhere. he's a genuine person who's good to his students because he honestly cares about them. and they care about him, too.

days 9 thru 11: then there were the three yoga instructors in philadelphia...

day 13: lisa walford
as far as i'm concerned, lisa's one of the masters of iyengar yoga in los angeles. what i've learned in her classes, i've been able to use in all the others, because as we all know, having proper alignment is key. and she definitely makes sure we are properly aligned at all times. since she only teaches at yoga works montana on mondays and wednesdays at 9am, i knew that once i started working a 9-5 job, i'd never be able to take another of her classes. luckily, i found a reason to take a wednesday morning off, so i was able to get my walford fix.

day 15: william asad
the first time i had visited jiva yoga in the palisades, i had specifically taken billy's class because it was, after all, his studio. i liked the way the class flowed; it wasn't too hard, it wasn't too basic. his music wasn't too loud, neither was it too slow. everything about the class was just right. so when he started teaching at yoga works main street, not only were his classes now more convenient, but they were also more affordable for me (read: free) because i could use my work exchange credits. this latest class i took with him was a "yoga to lift your spirits" session; we were treated to the live sounds of tibetan bowls (courtesy of michael perricone) while we lay in savasana. the vibrations were so soothing that i actually fell asleep during the performance!

day 16: greville henwood
i first ran into greville at maha yoga; i had dropped by to pick up a class schedule and he was standing by the front counter, waiting for students to show up for his afternoon kids' yoga class. he was a very friendly and engaging guy, and i thought it might be interesting to try out a non-kids' class with him. however, it wasn't until he subbed at yoga works montana sometime later that i finally was able to enjoy his creative teaching style. it's no wonder that he's good with kids! anyway, greville has been teaching his newly-acquired version of hip-hop yoga at yogahop for the past few months, so when i found out that he was subbing again at yoga works main street, i made it a point to experience the "old school" greville. and as before, he didn't disappoint.

day 17: amy friedman
i had never taken amy's class before; i wanted to visit yoga madre in arcadia (to add #70 to my list), and her restorative class happened to fit right into my schedule. since the studio's so far away from my home, it may be some time before i take another of her classes, which is too bad because she supposedly has a background in yoga therapy. maybe she could have helped me with my back. oh well.

day 21: saul david raye
you can tell a teacher has an avid following when his classes are consistently packed. when i took his class thanksgiving morning at exhale venice (aka sacred movement), there were almost a hundred (!) students in the room. it turns out that his regular sunday morning classes are just as well attended. and why? because his classes have the perfect proportion of chanting to meditation to physical asanas. the poses can be as challenging as you want them to be; likewise, they can be as calming as you need them to be. sadly, saul no longer teaches his donation-basis classes at shakti's elements, so the only place you can catch him while he's in town is at sacred movement.

day 22: anne van valkenburg
you could say i ended up taking her class as a last resort. due to weather delays, i had spent the morning after thanksgiving playing "now it's arriving, now it's not" with the united airlines flight my friend BDB was on; i was supposed to pick him up from LAX, then we were going to take a yoga class together. by the time his flight was finally airborne (which meant they finally had a definite ETA), i had missed all the morning classes (including seane corn's yoga detox class at sacred movement!) and had no way of being able to make any of the early afternoon ones if i still had to pick him up. thank goodness i had yoga works main street on speed dial on my cellphone; i found out that they had an hour-long lunch flow class with anne. i had just enough time to take her class, rush out to LAX, and pull up to the arrival area before BDB wondered if i had totally given up on him. anyway, given my state of mind, i can't really say i remember much about how anne's class went, which is too bad, because the person at the yoga works front desk had really raved about her teaching style.

day 23: vytas baskauskas
most yoga instructors were either athletes, dancers, gymnasts, or martial arts enthusiasts in their previous lives. not vytas. for some reason, this math whiz got so hooked on yoga classes with bryan kest that not only does he now teach yoga at santa monica power yoga (and maha yoga, where i ended up taking his class), but he also teaches math at santa monica college. his claim to fame, besides being a popular teacher at SMPY as well as at SMC (with a "hotness total" of 9, according to ratemyprofessors.com), is that he's the older brother of survivor:panama winner aras. there's no slacking off in vytas's yoga classes; he pushes his students to their limits. makes me wonder if his math students sweat as much as we do.

day 24: daniel stewart
daniel comes across as a caring and nurturing teacher. maybe it has something to do with his background in psychology. whatever it is, i really enjoy being in his classes. especially since they're always vigorous, yet playful. he teaches both at santa monica yoga and at his new studio, rising lotus in sherman oaks. and even if i can take his classes for free at SMY (due to my work-trade credits), i've actually bought a series of classes at rising lotus just because i want to make sure he succeeds in his new endeavor. and there must be others who feel the same way; his sunday morning class last thanksgiving weekend at rising lotus was packed with other daniel enthusiasts.