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Thursday, November 08, 2007

researching the triangle

The Research Triangle Region of North Carolina gets its name from the world-famous Research Triangle Park that was created out of pine forests in Durham County more than 40 years ago.
The three points of the "triangle" are anchored by the research facilities at Duke University in Durham, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh. However, the Research Triangle's beneficial effects on North Carolina have spread much farther than those three communities...
Not the least of those influences is that the Triangle Region has become one of the most vibrant and exciting places to live in all of the United States. It is consistently rated among the best places to live by polls and magazines that chart such things. But people who live here don't need polls or magazine articles to tell them they've got it good. They just have to look around them.
-- trianglerentallink.com

i just got back from my recent trip to raleigh, north carolina, where i finished (yay!) the inaugural city of oaks marathon.

and despite my being there for only two half days plus one full day -- and where the marathon took up the better part of that full day -- i managed to get in a whopping THREE yoga classes at three different studios in three different cities! i suppose i could have found other things to do while i was there, but for some reason, visiting yoga studios seemed more interesting at the time than visiting the usual tourist spots. ok, call me strange...

here's how it all went down:

saturday and my pre-marathon warm-up

after landing at the RDU airport, picking up my race materials at the race expo, then checking in at the hotel, i changed into my yoga duds and checked the class schedules i had brought with me. the only yoga class i could find for that afternoon was all the way out in durham, 22 miles away. but because i really didn't have anything else planned, other than the pasta feed later that evening, i had a good four hours at my disposal. so off to durham i went.

blue point yoga
2816 erwin road, durham, NC 27705
(919) 383-9184
website: http://www.bluepointyoga.com/

Our purpose is to provide a space for practitioners to find peace and stillness in a world characterized by persistent change and chaos. When on the yoga mat at Blue Point, yogis find compassion, mindfulness, clarity, stability, balance, playfulness, presence, spaciousness, joy, curiosity, courage, and openness. At Blue Point, we strive to bring you the highest quality instruction in studios that are clean, warm, and supportive. Although we offer a variety of styles of both yoga and pilates, all of our classes share a common concern providing a comfortable and safe space in which to explore the body, mind and soul. As we practice yoga at Blue Point, we find that living in the present is the best place we can be.

located near the campus of duke university, blue point was easily accessible by freeway (less than a mile from the NC-147) with lots of available parking behind the building.

everything at blue point gives off that new-studio feel -- clean white walls, polished hardwood floors, modern minimalist furnishing, large bright windows -- which is no surprise because the studio is new; it opened around this time last year.

i had shown up for the 3:00-4:15p.m. All Levels Forest class. at first, i thought it was a forrest-yoga class; it was only after i looked closely (and noted the spelling) that i realized forest was the teacher's name. duh.

as it turned out, forest was subbed out that afternoon by ingrid yang, the owner and founder of blue point. which worked well for me because i was able to talk with her a bit about how blue point came to be.

interestingly enough, ingrid is a california girl who now calls north carolina home (except for the times she goes "home" to visit her family in the OC). she followed the career path most parents can only dream about for their kids: an econ degree from ivy league barnard/columbia, followed by a law degree from top-ranked duke, then a stint doing corporate law in new york city. wow. yet she decided to push that all aside to return to durham to open a yoga studio (makes you wonder why us yogis end up doing the things we do).

before starting, ingrid asked if we -- the three students who showed up for class -- had any special requests. one said she wanted a good workout. the other said she was hoping for a more gentle experience. and i, like baby bear, wanted it just right; because i was in town to run the marathon, i needed a good stretch, yet i didn't want to aggravate my hamstring injury nor cause any new ones.

so that's pretty much what we got. there were times when i could easily follow along without much difficulty, and there were times when i had to back off. perfect.

and being the consummate tourist, i landed myself the perfect durham souvenir, courtesy of the blue point boutique -- a tank top with the blue point logo on the front and this catchy phrase on the back:

durham. bringing sexy back.

me, sexy? i can't see why not :)

sunday and my post-marathon stretch

upon hearing that i was doing the marathon on sunday, one of the students at blue point mentioned that there was a wonderful restorative class there on sunday evenings. it sounded tempting, but because i'd already been there, i hunted for something just as gentle elsewhere.

and i lucked out, because there was going to be a deep stretch class at 6pm at triangle yoga in chapel hill, one in a series of FREE community classes offered the first sunday of every month. it was late enough that even if i were the last person to cross the marathon finish line before they shut it down at 2pm (and by the way, i wasn't), i still had enough time to shower and snooze before driving the 25 miles out to chapel hill (this "triangle region tour" was turning out to be one massive triangle!)

triangle yoga
930 martin luther king jr boulevard, chapel hill, NC 27514
(919) 933-9642
website: http://www.triangleyoga.com/

On their FREE once-a-month Community Classes:

We believe that providing yoga is a community service. Offering these classes for free is an expression of KarmaYoga, our desire for individual calm, and world peace.

triangle yoga is a well-established yoga studio in the research triangle region. opened in 1996 by tracy bogart, a southern california yogi who had trained and practiced with erich schiffmann, chuck miller, maty ezraty, bryan kest, and many other LA-based gurus, it is considered one of the premiere yoga studios in the area.

besides offering a regular selection of karma yoga classes, it also participated in the worldwide global mala event last september. here's an excerpt from their press release:

Triangle Yoga will host two events: a “trance dance” with Rebecca Drake on Friday, September 21 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and a Yoga Mala, 108 sun salutations, on Saturday, September 22 from 1 to 4 p.m. Locally, all donations will be given to the nonprofits Trees for the Future and Yoga for Peace.

which is another reason why i was willing to drive for half an hour, sore muscles and all, to find out what triangle yoga was all about.

by the time i had made my way through the dimly-lit streets of chapel hill and found my destination, there was one spot left in the parking lot. i followed the trail of yoga mat-toting students who were making their way up the stairs to the studio on the third floor. hmmm.. sure looks like a popular place. and sure enough, when i reached the classroom, with a good 15 minutes still to go before the start of class, there weren't many open spaces left.

deborah klinger, our karma instructor for the evening who also happens to trace her yoga roots to los angeles, gave us a taste of the deep stretch class she teaches on friday mornings at triangle:

Remaining close to the floor allows you to penetrate deep beneath the surface of your body. Through twisting and stretching you can unlock and release enormous amounts of tension. Relaxing into the realm of your hips and shoulders, you can immerse your attention and heighten your level of awareness.

not quite a restorative class, the prop-intensive class made generous use of blocks, straps, and blankets. with soothing music playing in the background, the gentle stretches we held for long periods of time coupled with the pose adjustments provided by deborah delivered everything that was promised. it's just too bad that i couldn't remain on the floor in savasana until the next morning; i had to get up and drive all the way back to my hotel before i could lay my exhausted self down for the night...

monday and the morning after

with not much time available for me to take a class and be able to get back to the hotel and shower before check-out time, i had no choice but to take a class in raleigh. especially since i was moving around very slowly, thanks to the black toenails that had developed over the course of the 27+ miles i had covered during the marathon (yes, a marathon is 26.2 miles long, but due to an intersection that wasn't clearly marked -- just after mile 25, no less -- i missed the route to the finish and ended up having to circle back to claim my medal. argh!)

again, things worked out perfectly; i found a level 1 anusara class only 10 minutes away...

gateway yoga
1818 oberlin road, raleigh, NC 27608
(919) 571-YOGA
website: http://www.gatewayyoga.com/

We invite you inward to experience your own fullness at a deeper level. Upon moving across or through any threshold, one automatically assumes a shift in perspective or consciousness. To move through a gateway is to accept the invitation to more fully engage with one's own Being, with one's own consciousness, and with the power and mystery of one's own heart. Being called to do this is a gift and a way to open to a richer life, one with more profundity and meaning.

it seemed appropriate, at least for me, that our teacher was named patience armstrong. patience... something i definitely needed a lot of, what with all my existing aches and pains as well as my newly-acquired ones :(

oddly enough, even if it was the closest studio i had visited, it was the only class i was late for. it didn't help that i was barely able to drag myself out of bed that morning; missing my exit off the highway and having to find another way to get there without a map didn't help, either.

by the time i arrived, the class was just about to chant the anusara invocation, so i had to wait outside the classroom until i heard their final om.

patience and i briefly introduced ourselves while i set up a borrowed mat on the floor. and it was during the course of the class that i was able to share with her the different limitations i was dealing with that day -- the pulled hamstring, the lower back issue, the stiff post-marathon muscles. i'm surprised she didn't tell me to just go home and get some rest!

with her background as a trained yoga therapist, patience gave me very helpful hints on how to work around my injuries. she also pointed out that by my favoring my bad side, i was throwing off my alignment, which could increase the chances of my hurting myself even further. so while i started to feel like i was regressing instead of progressing, it was all well taken. after all, things sometimes get worse before they get better. at least i hope so!

it's safe to say that gateway yoga is the home of anusara yoga in raleigh. both lila pierce-brown (gateway's founder) and patience armstrong are anusara-certified teachers; all the other teachers on staff are anusara-inspired. so when you take a class with them, you know that you'll have a well-trained set of eyes and hands guiding you through your practice.

all in all, i have to say that it was a very productive trip, at least as far as my yoga exploration went. as for my marathon achievement, let's just say that i can now check north carolina off my to-do list. i just hope that i'm not as injured the next time i attempt to cover all those miles on foot!