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Monday, January 08, 2007

alive and well in the south bay

Alive & Well
528 Pacific Coast Highway
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
(310) 318-8449
website: www.aliveandwell.info

Our Mission at Alive & Well is to create a space where you have the freedom to explore the process of your well being.

Our Promise: to provide a variety of quality well being services and products at affordable prices.

just when i thought i'd tracked down every yoga studio in los angeles (but not necessarily visited, at least not yet), a random internet search unearthed yet another one.

while i was at the physical therapist's office a few weeks ago, i ran into maria, a long-time running friend of mine. we were both being treated for our recent maladies -- she was rehabbing from a bunionectomy and i was trying to release my stuck sacroiliac joint (the cause of my lower back problems). we talked about her exercise options until she was allowed to run again; the next thing i knew, i was telling her all about my obsession with checking out all the yoga studios in town.

our appointment schedules were such that our meetings became a weekly habit. and each time, the topic of yoga came up, pretty much because i was always headed to a yoga class afterwards.

last week, while maria and i were chatting in the waiting room, she said she had given it some thought and decided to give yoga a try. apparently, another friend of hers, another ex-runner, had replaced running with yoga and was in her best physical shape ever. so would i be willing to accompany her to a class this sunday?, she asked. always game for yoga, especially with a friend, i agreed to join her.

she left it up to me to come up with the place and the time. it had been years since she last attempted to take a yoga class; it was my job to pick the perfect beginner level class for her.

so i mentally went through the list of studios in the south bay:
mukti yoga in manhattan beach had just closed down. scratch that.
yoga loft manhattan beach was just down the street from maria's place.
planet yoga, where julie rader of mukti now teaches, was close by in hermosa beach.
yogasofia, also in hermosa beach, was equally close by.
and harmony yoga, though a bit farther south in redondo beach, was another possibility.

with all those choices, there was bound to be a class that would work for her.

as far as the early sunday morning offerings, harmony had chappy's level 2/3 class music flow class, a fun challenge for experienced yogis but totally inappropriate for beginners, so i had to rule that out. yoga loft and yogasofia had level 1/2 classes, and planet yoga had a level 1/2 slow flow. while many beginners would be OK in most level 1/2 classes, i really wanted her first class to be a non-intimidating level 1 class, especially since her foot was still healing from the surgery. a nice easy class covering just the basics would be perfect.

on a whim, i typed www.yogafinder.com into my browser just to see if any other studios came up.

there was the bikram studio in manhattan beach. i wasn't too crazy about practicing in a sauna, although i was willing to give it a shot if she was. luckily, she passed.

there was also the yoga center in redondo beach. since i had two unsuccessful visits last year, i didn't want to drag her along for a possible third failed attempt.

but wait... what's this... alive & well in hermosa beach? how was it that i had never heard about that studio? i checked out their sunday schedule, and sure enough, they had the class i'd been searching for: a level 1 (not 1/2, not all levels) at 9:30am. and to make it even sweeter, they had a new student intro: 3 classes for $15 with coupon. sold!

so last sunday morning, we drove down PCH and found the strip mall that housed alive & well, just a few blocks north of the redondo beach king harbor sign. with combined offerings of yoga as well as therapeutic massage, the premises, though small, were almost spa-like. not only was there a nice reception area and boutique by the entrance, but even the bathroom was a bit more upscale than most, providing its guests the use of rolled up hand towels instead of the usual stack of paper towels. after filling out the new student info forms and handing over our discount coupons and payment, we walked down the hall to the classroom. along the prop wall was a bin with complimentary rental mats; maria selected one from the bunch and laid it out on the floor beside mine.

we were joined by five other students; two of them were also new to yoga. soon after, our teacher, ebony price, walked in, cued up her music, and began our 75-minute long practice session.

after sitting quietly to rid ourselves of the residual tension from the week's activities, we started with stretches -- tabletop, cat, cow, child -- then transitioned to a slow sun salutation sequence. ebony roamed around the room, checking to make sure everyone was doing each pose correctly. i kept glancing at my reflection in the mirrored wall beside me to see what my own alignment looked like (sadly, not yoga journal-ready yet. sigh). and because ebony was doing a great job of being very meticulous, i found that i was holding poses for much longer than i usually would in other classes. this supposedly basic class was turning into quite the workout for me!

as with other yoga classes, the standing sequences were followed by seated and reclined poses, with some ab work and an optional shoulderstand thrown in to make things more interesting. after a slow twist this way and then that, we ended in savasana.

as for maria's verdict: not only did she like the class, but she's planning to use up her two remaining class credits this week! she's also looking forward to visiting the new branch of harmony yoga studio that's scheduled to open in manhattan beach sometime next week (more on that when they finally post the details on their website)!

another convert... i think i've just earned my wings in yoga heaven :)