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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

in the city of brotherly (and sisterly) yoga

i'm back from my three-day trip to philadelphia to visit my daughters, and besides being able to celebrate my younger one's birthday and my own upcoming birthday, catch "borat" at a movie theatre in university city, visit the darwin exhibit at the franklin institute, and eat the typical touristy goodies like cheesesteaks at geno's and italian cookies at the reading terminal market, i actually found the time to take a yoga class every day that i was in town. talk about great time management skills!

day one found me landing at PHL at 7:15am, shuttling out to the car rental counter, and driving off towards university city by 8am. since it was a saturday morning, there was no traffic to speak of; i ended up having to wait in the car until the first employee arrived to unlock the door for the 9am class.

Power Yoga Works
3527 Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 243-YOGA
website: www.poweryogaworks.com

Power Yoga Works Ltd is the Only Certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga Institute Affiliate Studios & Registered Yoga Alliance Power Vinyasa Yoga Teaching Schools in the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Tri-State Area

there's nothing like a power yoga class to get the kinks out of your body after a 5 hour cross-continent flight!

this is a new location for their philadelphia-based studio (they have another studio in malvern, about 20 miles away). the last time i was in philly, they were located just down the street from my daughter's dorm at upenn; now they're about a mile away. luckily, parking wasn't a problem and i was able to find an empty spot on the street, right under their studio window.

our teacher that morning was nicole hopman, a new teacher on staff, so new that her bio still hasn't been posted on the website. all i could find on her was that she was a sponsored athlete at veganbodybuilding.org and that she penned a brief article on the benefits of yoga.

the class was a blend of power yoga and hot yoga; while we flowed along with the poses nicole called out, large heater fans mounted on the four corners of the room blasted away. and considering that i had just spent a good half hour in my car, waiting in the early morning chill, the heat was truly welcome. it was a mixed level class, and true enough, the students in the class were of all abilities. the petite asian lady in front of me performed every move effortlessly, while the young college student beside me struggled with the more difficult poses. i suppose you could say it was your typical power yoga class; there wasn't anything unusual that nicole did or did not do or say that registered in my memory after the class ended. but then again, i had only about 4 hours of fitful sleep in a cramped airline seat the night before...

for day two, i had to wait until my younger daughter took off for her study session and my older daughter rushed out to catch her flight back to boston. i had two options to choose from -- a restorative class with live music at one studio and a sringara rasa flow class (sringara balances the masculine with the feminine, effort with surrender in a harmonizing class) at another. the latter choice piqued my curiosity enough to make me point my car in that direction. besides, it was dark, the rain was starting to come down in sheets and i didn't want to venture far from my fairmount-based hotel.

Wake Up Yoga
2329 Parrish Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 235-1228
website: www.wakeupyoga.com

At Wake Up Yoga, mindfulness and precision unite with movement and breath to create a juicy practice that is grounded, uplifting, informative and joyous. Discover the simple perfection of breath as you surrender your struggles and embrace the fun of physical challenge with no fear of failure. Get lost in the moment and find your inner perfection. These classes are founded on Mindfulness, inspired by Heartfulness.

trying to find a parking spot in this residential neighborhood was a bit tougher, but thanks to my compact rental car, i eventually fit into a tight space four short blocks away. it was a good thing that i had opted to borrow yoga mats during this trip (covering each loaner with my yogitoes towel, of course, to protect me from any cooties left on the mat from the previous user); due to the downpour, my mat would have been soaked by the time i got to the studio's front door.

again, i arrived early for the 5:30pm class. i needed some extra time to swap my jeans for a pair of yoga pants. fortunately, the instructor, tina dichiara, was already at the studio, getting the room ready.

here's tina's bio:
With a father who is a doctor of Ayurvedic medicine, and parents who are both siddhas of Transcendental Meditation, Tina DiChiara grew up knowing that she is a "citizen of the age of enlightenment." Tina learned the Transcendental Meditation technique at the age of five and learned the pranayama and yoga asana that compliments TM by the age of ten. She fondly remembers showing off her padmasana (lotus pose) to her father, as pose he couldn't approach, while he practiced mayurasana (peacock pose), a pose she still trying to breathe into! At 17, a high school friend introduced Tina to Reiki, a form of Japanese energy healing that she has used to heal herself and others ever since. Tina achieved her Master Level Reiki Attunement in 2003, and completed her yoga teacher training at Wake Up Yoga, Philadelphia, PA in 2004. Since then, Tina has been teaching yoga full and part-time in Boston, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, and has so much fun that she feels teaching yoga is almost better than doing it!

while i was changing in the dressing room, the rest of the students starting getting settled down in the split-level room. i couldn't figure out why anyone would design a studio where some of the class would be at entrance-level while the other others were a step or two up from them, but it seemed to work anyway (come to think of it, the yoga loft in woodland hills has the same set up, so i guess it really isn't that unique at all).

tina had us moving from pose to pose in what i assumed should have been a fluid motion. but since my back was rather stiff and creaky at the time from all the running around i had done with my kids, i found it a bit tedious to get from a downward dog with the right leg raised, to a lunge with the right leg forward, back to right leg up, back to the lunge, over and over again. and then again with the left. i was beginning to wonder if i should have opted for the restorative class instead. at least i wouldn't have had to work as hard. plus i would have had live music. and then i could have shown up the next morning to take tina's yin yoga class -- for only $5! maybe next time...

i chatted with tina briefly before heading out the door. she pointed at the off the mat into the world tank i was wearing and asked if i was from california. apparently, people in the philly area don't really do yoga, tribe and culture nor other "hip yoga apparel" trends. tina commented that there were definitely more students attired in a similar fashion when she took classes in los angeles at sacred movement with shiva rea, erich schiffmann, seane corn, and saul david raye. it's bad enough that my accent clearly identifies me as a californian; now i find out that my yoga duds give me away, too.

wake up yoga just opened a second studio in west philadelphia, at 4916 baltimore avenue, just two miles east of upenn. it appears to have a similar mix of classes, so i've added it to my list of must-visits the next time i'm in town.

day three, monday. one last chance to squeeze in a yoga class before my noon hotel checkout deadline. it was still raining, but since the sun was out, i felt confident that i would be able to find the studio a few miles away in the northern liberties neighborhood without getting horribly lost in the city's maze of one-way streets. this third place was the same studio that had the restorative yoga class the night before. when i got to the front door, i found out that not only had i missed the live music, but i had missed their fall potluck party as well. darn.

Studio B
209 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 733-9053
website: www.studiobwell.com

Studio B wellness center, a fun and eclectic space to enjoy and just B. Voted best Philadelphia yoga studio, Philadelphia Magazine.

the teacher for the 9am all-level vinyasa class was renata gregori, the same teacher who had taught the restorative class the night before. here's her bio taken from the wake up yoga website, since she also teaches there:

Renata Gregori has been practicing Yoga for over ten years. She received her Teacher Certification from Satchidananda Ashram - Yogaville in Virginia, under the guidance of one of the most revered Yoga Masters of our time, Sri Swami Satchidananda. She returned to the Ashram later as a teacher and staff member and also received her certification in Prenatal Yoga. She was on staff for the Ashram's Teacher Training program in Mexico and also at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City. Renata has studied extensively in New York, including with notable Yogi Swami Ramananda and at the Sivananda Yoga Center. She continues to study and practice in Philadelphia, where she teaches at various Yoga Studios and Fitness Centers.

there was no slacking allowed in renata's class. she kept an eye on our every move. she tweaked my down dogs. she corrected my warrior 1's and 2's. she helped me get a better backbend in my wheels. she put a blanket under my hip when i couldn't quite get into pigeon on my cranky side. and she grabbed my ankles and lifted me up while i was in shoulderstand. (i know, doing wheel, upright pigeon, and shoulderstand are still against doctor's orders, but i wanted to see what kind of adjustment she would make when i got into those poses. maybe i would finally find out how i was jamming my back?)

i'll definitely look renata up again the next time in town. it shouldn't really be that difficult since she teaches at a number of places. and if i time things right, maybe i'll be able to enjoy the music and the party that i missed this go-around.

so there you have it. three days, three classes, three teachers, three studios. had i been able to extend my stay a few days longer, there were many other studios i could have tried out, like the iyengar institute beside my hotel, david newman's place all the way out in trendy manayunk, the ashtanga shala near rittenhouse square, or even the bikram studio, hot yoga and all.

there's always next time :)


Blogger Tiger said...

If, during your travels, you are looking for a Bikram yoga studio (yes, it's hot!) you may find http://www.bikramfinder.com useful - it's a Zagat's-meets-Bikram studio reviews & locations site that welcomes your input.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Sungopolis said...

Hi - stumbled on your blog while trying to find the website of studio b. I lived in Philly for the last 10 years and have spent the last six months exploring the yoga scene in the DC area (my new home - I'm still getting used to the idea). If you liked Renata's class, I think you would really enjoy Jill Manning - she teaches at Wake Up Yoga as well.

Keep on blogging - your readers are out there!

12:27 PM  
Blogger joni said...

hi 35 --

i've been wondering what happened to studio b myself. i noticed that i was getting a lot of referrals from "studio b" searches, so i tried to access their website and found that it was offline. really strange. i'll have to look into that the next time i'm in philly :)

11:57 PM  

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