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Friday, December 29, 2006

the gift of yoga, part 2

to recap: this story began almost two months ago, when i decided to spend a whopping 50 days celebrating my half century of life. along with meeting up with friends (mostly to eat), i tried to take yoga classes with teachers who knew me, or at least knew my face. and because my yogic ADHD has me constantly moving from one studio to another, there were many excellent instructors who fit that criteria.

i wrote about the teachers i visited those first 25 days in a previous post; here are those with whom i had a chance to practice those second 25 days:

day 27: alicia johnson
i have to admit that the only reason why i ended up at alicia's class was because i arrived late for liz hage's 6:30pm class at liberation yoga (damn LA traffic!). but since i had a fun time with alicia when she and liz team-taught a class a few months earlier, i decided to wait around for her class which followed liz's. besides, both alicia and liz take each other's classes, so if i liked one's style, i was bound to like the other's. makes sense, doesn't it? anyway, alicia teaches a great class that's challenging, yet not impossible. maybe if i work at it for a few more years, i might be able to manage one of those arm balances...

day 28: david romanelli
either david is extremely well-read or he has a great ghost writer! he starts each class by reading a passage from a book, a news article, or a sacred text, then weaves the theme into the day's class. not only does he impart some bit of trivia that is educational and/or amusing, but he also has his students flowing to the great music playlist that he's compiled. if you check out dave's website, you'll see what i mean. by the way, this is the same david of yoga and chocolate and now yoga and wine fame. one day i'll be able to say that i knew him when he used to teach in a little yoga studio called exhale santa monica...

day 30: anthony benenati
anthony is one of the warmest, most sincere yoga instructors that i've met. he teaches anusara classes at city yoga, a studio that both he and his wife, rebecca, own and run. while i enjoy taking anusara yoga in general, there are only a handful of teachers whom i seek out because they really know their stuff. anthony is one of them... although i wish he would teach a class at a time that i can make without having to call in sick to work!

day 31: cathie baker
i had never heard of cathie baker until i showed up at liberation yoga for christine burke's class and found out that not only did i show up almost two hours early, but that christine had called in sick and was going to be subbed out anyway. cathie's restorative yoga class was about to start when i arrived, so since i had just run a half marathon that morning, it didn't take much to convince me that the smart thing to do was to take her more relaxing class. and i was glad i did.

day 33: bryan kest
there's power yoga, and there's bryan kest's style of power yoga. and the best thing about his class is that not only are the poses relatively simple (note that i didn't say easy), but they can be pretty challenging if you move as slowly and deliberately as he instructs you to. i used to put in volunteer time at his studio in santa monica as trade for his donation-based classes, but for this deep stretch class, i caught him at inner power yoga in calabasas where he teaches once a month. the class and the crowd are slightly different on the valley side of the hill, but the results are still the same: a great workout.

day 37: hala khouri, seane corn, and ted mcdonald
this was a seva event by the yoga groove collective at yoga works main street. it was a fundraiser for a peruvian orphanage, and since i'm addicted to these yoga-and-music events, not to mention the fact that my hard-earned dollars were going to a good cause, there was no question that it was going to be the class that i was going to take that day. or in this case, night.

day 38: christine burke
since i missed christine the last time i visited liberation yoga, i knew i had to make another attempt before my 50-day celebration ended. and this time, i succeeded :) christine is probably the sweetest and friendliest yoga teacher in town, so it's hard to believe that she teaches a very demanding flow class. she will put you through your paces, but you can't help but smile back while straining to follow along. christine used to be a fixture at the center for yoga on larchmont, that is, until she left to start her own studio when yoga works took over the center.

day 40: vinnie marino
there are few teachers around town whose classes can make me sweat as much as i do in vinnie's class at yoga works main street. maybe it's because of all the body heat that's generated by the 80 or so bodies crammed mat-to-mat in the studio. or maybe it's because he really makes us work hard. who needs bikram yoga when we have vinnie to make us sweat all the toxins out of our pores? all i know is that my birthday yoga celebration wouldn't have been complete without a visit to his class, and with 10 days left to go before my deadline, i was relieved that i was able to make it.

day 44: marla apt
it had been a long time since i had last taken marla's class at yoga works montana; i felt it was time once again to get my alignment checked, so to speak. marla is a senior instructor on the iyengar totem pole; she's currently on the faculty of the iyengar institute and is (or was) the president of the iyengar yoga national association. when she tells her class that a pose has to be done a certain way, chances are, iyengar himself would have told us the same thing.

day 45: lee rothman
i showed up for lee's class at the awareness center because the thought of hanukkah yoga intrigued me. besides, if seane corn made yoga feel like a christian religious experience every time i took her class, it would be interesting to see what yoga would be like with a jewish spin instead. and the class turned out to be quite fun and educational; maybe next year i'll try to track down a kwanzaa edition :)

day 49: gurmukh kaur khalsa
you can't say that you've experienced kundalini yoga in LA unless you've practiced at the grand space in hollywood known as golden bridge yoga. and you definitely can't say that you've practiced at golden bridge until you've taken a class with gurmukh, the energy behind golden bridge. name any special event -- full moon, new moon, solstice, equinox, thanksgiving, christmas, new year's -- if there's something to celebrate, gurmukh will hold a special class that'll celebrate the occasion. you'll move, you'll chant, you'll be energized. i took her winter solstice class on the eve of my birthday, and it was exactly the kind of celebration i was looking for.

day 50: kyra haglund
in a way, kyra was one of my earliest teachers. she used to assist max strom at the classes i took with him while he was still based here in LA at sacred movement. as max's assistant, she was very diligent in showing me and the other students the correct way to do poses so that we could get the most benefit out of each one. there was even a time when she spent a few minutes after class showing me how to pull my shoulders back while doing an upward dog. recently, i started running into her whenever she'd teach classes at santa monica yoga, another studio where i'd volunteer every now and then. but as timing would have it, i found myself taking her class over at sacred movement, the place where i first had a chance to learn something from her. how appropriate.

epilogue:

there were many other teachers on my must-visit list that i didn't get a chance to fit into my schedule, other wonderful teachers such as will duprey, tracy krosnoff, andrea marcum, jodi blumstein, ducky punch, and liz hage (if traffic ever lets me get to her class on time!). there were also other yoga luminaries such as erich schiffmann, shiva rea, and steve ross whose classes i wanted to take, but unfortunately, it was just a case of too many yoga teachers, too little time. but as long as they continue to teach locally, i'll get my chance. eventually.

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