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Thursday, July 12, 2007

a gentle learning experience

Inner Harmony Yoga
579 West 9th Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 521-8804
website: www.inner-harmony-yoga.com

Comfort is the highest priority at Inner Harmony. The studio is peaceful, classes are small and everything is provided for your convenience. Blending the gentle Ananda style with the techniques of Yoga of the Heart (Cardiac Yoga) makes each class a healing experience.

The 8 week Class series format offers the opportunity for a deeper experience. Each group advances at a comfortable pace. The temptation to over challenge or the possibility of becoming bored is eliminated because there are no drop-in students skewing the class level.

in my search for more yoga studios to visit once i got back home, i came across the internet site of inner harmony yoga in san pedro. looking at the schedule, i noted that the classes were taught in the ananda style by kari burgos, an ananda-certified instructor. most of the classes were either beginner, gentle, or level 1; only one was a level 2.

not knowing much about ananda yoga, i thought back to my experience at kaliji's triyoga ashram in malibu, where it turned out that i had ambitiously chosen to take the level 2 class without ever having taken a triyoga class before. i soon realized that there were many basic moves specific to triyoga that one is supposed to learn (maybe even master) in the level 1 class, so i spent the rest of that level 2 class struggling to figure out what i was supposed to do. note to self -- when starting a new style of yoga, it's best to begin with the basics...

so given the choice between the beginner and the level 1 classes, i went for the level 1, hoping that i had enough in my yoga repertoire to get me through the class without getting lost.

rushing to make the evening class after being delayed by a project deadline at the office, i was glad that inner harmony was easy to find; it's located right off gaffey, just a short distance from the end of the harbor freeway. while i had wanted to get there early enough to fill out the usual new student paperwork, i ended up getting there just as class was about to start. at least i wasn't late.

when i walked into the studio, the entire class was already seated on their mats and ready to roll. problem was, i still had to change my clothes. and the bathroom was clear across the room. ugh. so much for trying to avoid a grand entrance. in the meantime, kari, who was already seated at the front of the room, got up and walked over to where i was standing. she looked at me with a puzzled look and asked me if i had been there before. no, i said; it was my first time. and as she pointed to the bottom of the class schedule, she read: All classes are pre-registered, no drop-ins. (oops... how could i have missed that? maybe i was still jetlagged? maybe my brain was still on vacation?) oh. i started thinking about alternate yoga studios that were open late and had classes i might be able to catch...

she then asked me if i had taken any yoga classes before. yes, i'd been practicing daily for over two years now. where do you practice? pretty much all over town. what styles of yoga do you practice? hatha, iyengar, kundalini, you name it. even SRF, i said (knowing that both ananda and and the self-realization fellowship trace their roots to paramhansa yogananda). convinced that i wasn't an absolute beginner, she made an exception and allowed me to join the group. i didn't have to commit to a series; i could pay for that one drop-in class. i thanked her profusely as i made my way to the restroom to change my clothes.

a few more students had joined the class by the time i found a spot at the back of the room. i wanted to stay incognito as much as possible, especially since i wasn't really supposed to be there.

kari teaches with a very gentle and caring style. and the students in the class seemed to care for each other, too. i could tell that they had already bonded; they would tease each other about their little idiosyncracies (like the guy who always falls asleep during savasana). it was clearly a level 1 class, with each pose logically leading to the next. we spent a good amount of time warming up our hips before we attempted triangle pose (with a block to help us get our hands to the floor) then half moon (again, with blocks). after that, we transitioned from warrior 1 to crescent to warrior 3. no stress, no strain, yet it was appropriately challenging.

after the standing poses came some seated poses, followed by reclining twists, and ending in savasana. after we all chanted our oms at the end of class, everyone congratulated mr. sleepyhead (i can't remember his name) for staying awake during savasana. they were such a friendly group to be with!

i later chatted with kari after class and found out the level 2 class covered sun salutations and the more difficult poses. and the only reason why she has only one level 2 class on the schedule is because she finds that most of the students who come to her studio aren't advanced enough to keep up with the strong flow of the class. of course, that now makes me want to try it out and see how difficult it is, but i still have to contend with her "no drop-ins" policy. i wonder if she'll make an exception for me once again? :)

inner harmony is definitely the studio for anyone who's trying to get into yoga for the first time or who wants to learn in a non-competitive atmosphere. and while it's true that you have to commit to a 10-week series of classes (7 for the beginner level), you know that you're starting from the beginning and only transitioning to the more difficult poses when you're ready for them. if you're new to yoga and live in or near san pedro, this is the place for you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Joni,

Wow! You really captured the spirit of Kari's studio, its gentle, open, easy-going, fun-loving atmosphere. I started classes there just under 3 years ago as a yoga virgin, and have since become a certified instructor, largely owing to Kari's warmth, encouragement, and true acceptance. She even volunteered to mentor me as a student teacher over several months--such a loving & generous gift! She is a beloved and rare spirit, indeed. Thank you for writing in such a caring, insightful way that truly honors her in the way she deserves.

Lynnie Hackstaff

7:30 PM  
Blogger joni said...

i'm glad to hear that i did kari and her studio justice. thanks for the kind words, lynnie!

11:53 PM  

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