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Monday, April 30, 2007

old hippies don't die, they move to eugene

... or so they say. and from my recent trip to eugene, oregon to run in the inaugural eugene marathon, i can see why.

while making my way around town, i noticed:

the high percentage of older men and women whose hair is left au naturel, i.e., long and grey
the plethora of tie-dye shirts for sale at the saturday farmers market
the array of organic grocery stores and restaurants
the easy availability of all things hemp (well, sort of).

and can you blame them? with clear blue skies, lush green foliage, and the relative absence of skyscrapers and freeway interchanges, why wouldn't the flower children want to retire in eugene?

while preparing for my trip, i did some preliminary research on eugene yoga studios. with the marathon falling on sunday, i was free to take a class or two on friday and/or saturday. but where? so i google searched. i even checked yogafinder. the pickings were slim. maybe hippies just aren't into yoga?

there was south hills yoga, but the only class i could take was the saturday morning "yoga for arthritis and fibromyalgia" class. i chose to pass.

the yoga studio of eugene only had classes on mondays, tuesdays, and wednesdays.

dharmalaya yoga center wasn't any better; the classes were on mondays, tuesdays, and thursdays.

there was a bikram studio within walking distance from my hotel, but since i'm not really an avid fan of hot yoga, i put it on my standby list and kept looking.

then i found yoga west, eugene. kundalini yoga. there were two saturday morning classes: saturday wake-up call at 8:30am and especially for women at 10:30am. hmmm...

and finally, i came across the four winds center, which offered a varied assortment of yoga styles -- hatha, anusara, ashtanga, viniyoga, and so on -- throughout the day. including friday and saturday. at last, i had choices!

i continued to search for studios, but could find no more.

so late last thursday evening, after flying in from LAX, i arrived in eugene, home of the university of oregon and notables such as track star steve prefontaine, coach bill bowerman, and nike founder phil knight. it was the first marathon in track town, USA since the 1980's, so the whole city was abuzz over the big event.

by friday morning, i was off to a core awareness class at 9:30am.

Four Winds Yoga in the Tamarack Wellness Center
3575 Donald Street
Eugene, OR 97405
(541) 484-6100
website: www.fourwindsyoga.org

Yoga truly does bring about healing and transformation. The practice itself, which works by bringing us fully into present-moment awareness, creates a simple shift in point of view. This shift creates the space for the flow of the magical elixir we may call the Energy of Transformation, Chi, or simply, Grace. Its this shift in mind and body that keeps us coming back to yoga. It’s definitely more than a set of exercises -- it’s magic!

The magic has even transformed this old building, the old Easter Seals School which is now Tamarack Wellness Center. A nurturing quality of wholeness permeates these tranquil rooms that we have now occupied for a full year. It's a healing place to do yoga.

the tamarack wellness center is located in a quiet residential area a few miles south of the downtown area where i was staying. i parked my car beside the aquatic center which has a unique feature: a therapeutic salt water pool that is kept at a constant 92 degrees. the salinated water supposedly reduces the need for chlorination, which then reduces eye and skin irritation. it's also friendlier to the environment. i later found out that there's a pool yoga class that's taught on thursday evenings. maybe if i had caught an earlier flight... darn.

i walked over to the main building and found the office. after filling out the requisite paperwork, i handed over $10 and was told that the class would be in the classroom at the end of the hall. on my way there, thoughts of ab crunches and navasanas (boy, do i love them... not!) made me reconsider taking that core awareness class, but since i knew that strengthening my abs would do my weak back a world of good, i forced myself to go. and i'm glad i did.

honestly, it wasn't a hardcore "core" class. our teacher, donna o'neil, had us working on a series of asanas that had us working the transversus abdominus, or TA, by engaging mula bandha. besides the usual ab-centric asanas, we focused on firing the TA muscles as we did bridge, dolphin, bow, downward-facing dog, and handstand poses. it was a nice level 1/2 class, perfect for someone who was supposed to be tapering for a race. like me.

here's donna's bio:
A natural and lifelong teacher, Donna was certified to teach hatha yoga in 1995 through Ananda Yoga. She is also certified to teach Meditation, Therapeutic, Cardiac Rehabilitative and Restorative Yoga, and continues her studies in Anusara yoga. In her practice of yoga she feels a joy and freedom she loves to share with others. Her classes guide the student in a deep experience of the body and into the heart of our Highest Self. A perpetual student as well as teacher, Donna is grateful to the teachers who have guided her.

on saturday morning, since i had taken care of most of my race-related errands by then, i decided to take back-to-back classes: an anusara class at four winds at 8am, followed by a kundalini class at yoga west at 10:30am. after all, it was good training for my upcoming yogathon in june :)

the anusara-inspired level 2-4 class with tom clark was taught in the familiar anusara format, complete with an intro to the class theme, the invocation, asana demonstrations, and yes, inversions. headstands and handstands. both with and without the aid of the wall. we worked with partners, and for some reason, my partner looked strangely familiar. but since she showed no signs of recognition, i didn't give it a second thought.

later, while we were chatting with tom after class, this familiar face mentioned that she was from LA. and that she had been practicing forrest yoga for 15 years (15? did i hear her correctly?). i asked her if she practiced at the forrest institute in santa monica, and it was at that point that she mentioned that she also recognized me; turns out she was gianna carotenuto, former instructor at forrest santa monica. small world! i don't know if she intends to teach yoga during her stay in eugene, but if i remember correctly, she said she was teaching art history at the U of O through july. so if you need to get hold of her, you might be able to find her while she's in town...

as for tom's background:
Tom started his practice of yoga in the Ashtanga vinyasa style in 1995 and is now completing his training in Anusara Yoga. Grateful to experience masterful teachers, he sees yoga as a path for optimizing our own evolution as spiritual beings. Using clear explanations and visualizations, he guides the yoga practitioner to explore not only the body but the essential nature of the heart.

i hopped in the car and drove the short distance to yoga west for the women's yoga class with lexy wellman.

Yoga West, Eugene
3635 Hilyard Street
Eugene, OR 97405
(541) 686-0432
website: www.yogawesteugene.com

No matter what we achieve, what success in the world we have, it ends up being hollow unless we fulfill the soul's yearning to bring higher consciousness into our daily lives. Kundalini Yoga is much more than just a system of physical exercise. It is a dynamic, powerful, tool for expanding awareness. Approach it with respect, with reverence, and openness.

yoga west is housed in a simple one-story building across the street from tugman park. classes cost $8 and are held in a spartan room with beige wall-to-wall carpet. it reminded me of the kundalini places back in LA, like yoga west LA and the awareness center.

according to the class description:
The Saturday Women's Class encourages us to nourish our Selves FIRST in order to more effectively nurture our significant others and our own creativity.

i yet have to understand the concept behind kundalini exercise sets. supposedly, doing something rapidly and repetitively while chanting increases energy. all i know is that while there were times when i felt ridiculous doing what i was doing, there was consolation in knowing that everyone else was doing exactly the same thing -- at least i felt i was in a nurturing environment with happy, friendly people :)

here's what the yoga west website has to say about lexy:
Lexy rediscovered her love for Kundalini Yoga in 1994, completed the Northwest Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training in 1996, and has been teaching weekly classes at Yoga West ever since. Lexy provides basic explanations and thorough guidance for tuning into one's body from the inside. She enjoys teaching beginning students, women's classes, as well as fellow rowers-in-cross-training, and encourages a synthesis of nurturing self and connection to like-minded others.

three yoga classes at two studios in two days. and since none of the classes were particularly strenuous, they served as a good warm-up... and they made me less guilty about eating all those treats i found at the sweet life patisserie :)

and yes, i ran and completed the marathon. the weather on race day was perfect. the scenery was stunning. and the volunteers along the course were extremely enthusiastic and helpful. best of all, i beat my LA marathon time by almost 40 minutes!

before leaving eugene, i made sure i sampled "the hippie life". i ate at vegetarian places such as cafe yumm! and the laughing planet. i bought artisan bread that was baked in a recycled wood-fired oven at the hideaway bakery. i had a hempnut shake at the saturday farmers market. and -- get this -- i even bought a pair of birkenstock sandals :) i just regret that i didn't stop to buy a tie-dye shirt... that definitely would have been SO eugene!