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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the french connection

round-trip train ticket from the irvine amtrak station (with free parking!): $36
overnight stay at the downtown rodeway inn (with free breakfast!): $85
one-day MTS day-tripper ticket (with unlimited bus and trolley transfers!): $5
sunday's inversion workshop: $40
monday's vinyasa flow class: $14
experiencing yoga in san diego: priceless

i regretted not having been able to take gerard arnaud's class at his studio while i was in paris last october, so when i found out that he was going to be teaching a workshop here right here in southern california, i felt that i was being given a second chance to learn from this seasoned yoga guru. and since i didn't have to go through the traumatic experience of watching my stash of hard-earned dollars convert into a measly handful of euros, it was an opportunity i couldn't afford to pass up.

arnaud's two-day workshop was going to be held at ginseng yoga in san diego, with the schedule listed as follows:

"Foundation work" for beginners & intermediates
Saturday, December 1st, 1:30 - 4 pm
Cost: $40 in advance / $45 at the door
Intermediate/Advanced workshop focusing on Inversions, Arm Balance, Advanced Spinal Twist, Hip Openers
Sunday, December 2nd, 12 - 2:30 pm
Cost: $40 in advance / $45 at the door
Both Workshops: $75 in advance / $80 at the door

knowing that i would probably get more out of sunday's inversions and arm balances workshop than saturday's foundation class, i considered heading south to san diego sometime late saturday morning, taking an afternoon class when i got there, spending some time with my friends that evening, taking the workshop on sunday afternoon, then heading back home before nightfall. it sounded like a great way to spend the weekend.

so all i had to do then was find a saturday afternoon yoga class. but where?

i remembered the YOGAone CD i had picked up at the global mala event. it's a blissful compilation of music from my favorite quango artists -- bliss, cantoma, bitter:sweet, thievery corporation, MIDIval punditZ, and more -- all selected and sequenced by amy and michael caldwell, owners of the yoga one studio in san diego. so there was no question what that second studio was going to be.

there was only one problem, though -- yoga one's last class on saturday started at noon. right around the time i had planned to leave LA. bummer.

i needed to re-think my plans.

i narrowed it down to two choices: i could take the saturday workshop at ginseng then the sunday morning class at yoga one, or i could take the sunday workshop as planned then take a monday morning class at yoga one instead.

making a long weekend out of it seemed like a wonderful way to start the holiday season, so after getting an OK to take monday off from work, i went ahead and firmed up my travel plans. the key was to make the trip as inexpensive and stress-free as possible, so after weighing all my options, i ended up spending saturday night halfway to SD at my sister's in orange county, taking the hour-and-a-half train ride on sunday morning, catching a city bus from the train depot, and arriving at ginseng with time to spare before the noon workshop began.

Ginseng Yoga
2985 Beech Street
San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 338-YOGA
website: www.ginsengyoga.com

At Ginseng we strive to bring you the best yoga instructors that San Diego has to offer in a studio that is clean, warm and supportive. Although we offer a variety of classes and styles of yoga, all of our classes share one thing in common... a comfortable safe space in which to explore the body, mind and soul.

ginseng is located in the south park neighborhood, a few blocks east of the southeastern edge of balboa park. the studio is right at the corner of beech and 30th, just a half block away from where the #2 bus dropped me off.

as soon as i walked in the front door, i knew i would like it there; and it wasn't only because there was so much to see and touch (and buy!) on all the shelves that surrounded me in the lobby. i was greeted by a very friendly face behind the reception desk who turned out to be cindy bennett, owner of ginseng. she was also responsible for selecting all the cool stuff in the studio's retail area, which made my shopping experience even more delightful. but wait... i was there for the yoga, wasn't i? :)

and the yoga workshop didn't disappoint, either. gerard was fluent enough in english to instruct us capably through our vinyasa flow. and where there was some doubt on his part whether we got what he was saying, he would have his assistant, charlotte, demonstrate exactly what he wanted us to do. the sequence of poses was very similar, yet slightly different, from those taught by teachers i'd practiced with. and that's what made it enjoyable for me, because not only was i able to follow along comfortably with what was familiar, but i found myself being challenged, or at least having to think about, the moves that were unfamiliar.

we spent a good amount of time going through sun salutations as well as the standing and seated poses. we worked on inversions with our partners and spent some time doing headstands, forearm stands, and handstands as arnaud and charlotte circulated through the room to point out alignment tips.

unfortunately, we never got around to the arm balances that i was hoping to learn more about, so i'm still left with having to struggle through those on my own. oh well.

all in all, i enjoyed my experience at ginseng. i especially enjoyed interacting with all those i met, from those who were in the classroom with me -- arnaud, charlotte, and the small group of students whom i had a chance to work with -- to the those behind the front desk, namely cindy and her husband brad (who had taken her place while the class was in session).

given this great yoga studio find, i was amazed that it didn't find it when i searched for yoga studios the last time i was in san diego, especially since it's been around for around five years now. i'm glad that my google search for gerard arnaud led me to this wonderful place; i've added it to my must-return list!

after spending the rest of the day walking through the gaslamp quarter, then visiting with my marathon buddy mark and his family for dinner, i spent a relaxing evening in my hotel room, recharging my batteries for the next day's yoga class...

Yoga One
1150 7th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 294-7461
website: www.yogaonesandiego.com

Located in downtown San Diego, Yoga One has been voted "Best Yoga Studio" in San Diego for the past four years. We offer quality yoga classes in a variety of styles and levels. Our mission is to compassionately guide students toward enhanced well being.

since the yoga one CD is basically a compilation of music sequenced for a vinyasa flow class, i was determined to do just that. the first vinyasa flow class on monday morning wasn't until noon, so i had the entire morning to just kick back and relax. ahhh...

yoga one was just a couple of blocks from my hotel, so with nothing better to do, i got there early, hoping to be able to do more retail therapy. but all i found in the lobby was a table with informational flyers and a flight of stairs leading up to a locked classroom door. there was no smiling face behind a front desk, no assortment of items for sale :( there was a note, however, that said that the classroom would remain locked until right before class started, so i spent the extra time scanning the framed magazine pages on the wall by the staircase.

there were articles from various local and national publications -- san diego citybeat, 944 magazine - san diego, nostika, LA yoga, shape, fit yoga, yoga journal, and more -- which touted yoga one's status as best yoga studio in san diego for the past four years (this is from san diego magazine):

After studying with the world’s top yoga masters in India, Amy and Michael Caldwell opened their downtown studio, Yoga One (1150 Seventh Avenue, 619-294-7461), which just celebrated its five-year anniversary. Amy was recently featured on the cover of Yoga Journal and appears in a new pictorial calendar created by acclaimed dance photographer Lois Greenfield.

there were also reviews of their compilation CD (this one's from the light connection):

... Bruno Guez' Quango Music Group has led the way, breaking musical ground with sounds from musicians around the world to inspire relaxation and reflection. It was Guez and Quango that brought us the music of Talvin Singh, Kruder and Dorfmeister, Zero 7, Koop, and other artistic geniuses that have lulled and nurtured us over the last few years with their easygoing downbeat and chillout sounds.

Like other yoga teachers around the country, Amy and Michael Caldwell, yoga instructors and operators of downtown San Diego's Yoga One Studio, have been playing Guez' music in their classes. Struck by the thought that “a specially sequenced CD could be an incredible support for [their] students,” they made their way through the L.A. traffic to meet with Guez. Out of that meeting came Yoga One, a collection of world, dub, and chillout grooves, each track selected and ordered to fit with the flow of Yoga One's interdisciplinary Hatha Yoga classes.

The album is unique, from start to finish. I practice my own brand of yoga at home between writing and editing sessions, and I love the way this CD starts me out slow and gets me moving, freeing up my body and mind for… well, for Nothing At All. If you live in north county and never make it past the merge—or maybe you're not a SD resident at all—don't think there's nothing here for you. No no no. I'm sure it's fabulous at the studio, but it'll bring out the yogi in you wherever you are. And put a relaxed smile on your face.

with those built-up expectations of what was to come, i reached the top of the stairs, sat by the classroom door, and waited.

eventually, bonnie jones, our teacher for the class, entered the lobby and made her way up the stairs to unlock the door. i followed her in and placed my mat on the floor to reserve a spot in the large room. i was quickly followed by others as they, too, jockeyed for position in the room. there were some cubbies along the side wall to place our belongings, a clothing rack with items for sale on the other side of the room, and a floor-to-ceiling mirror covering the entire length of the front wall.

since there is no front desk help, in addition to meeting and greeting everyone who walks into the room, each teacher has to also collect money for classes and purchases and make sure that all new students fill out the required information forms. while bonnie was taking care of all of that, i managed to squeeze in a conversation with her about my trip to san diego and about how i had taken arnaud's workshop at ginseng the day before.

to my surprise, not only did she tell me that she had actually taken many of his classes in paris (and that she stays in the same neighborhood where my hotel was while i was there), but that she was also responsible for bringing him to san diego to teach at ginseng, where she also happens to teach. it was at that point that i realized that someone up there had planned for me to show up at her class; i mean, how else could anyone explain the coincidence?

i enjoyed bonnie's all-levels vinyasa flow class immensely. it consisted of the usual array of basic poses, but she also included modifications for the more advanced students that were so challenging that just thinking about attempting them made me work up a sweat! and yes, she did have some great music playing in the background, but i was so busy moving with the flow that i couldn't tell whether it came from the CD compilation or from some other mix.

whether it was because she knew i was a yoga aficionado, or because we had that brief bonding moment, she always seemed to be right there for me, whether i needed help getting into a pose or just needed a little adjustment. for a moment there, i thought i was personally being given the VIP treatment, but after hearing other students' comments to her after class, it sounded like she was there for everyone, not just me, which just goes to show how good of a teacher she actually is -- she made us all feel special :)

on my way back to LA, while enjoying the view of the setting sun over the pacific from the comfort of my train seat, i thought back on my short adventure in san diego. while it was true that i was a bit limited in my ability to get around because i didn't have a car, i still was able to find some great yoga places that were located close to downtown and the amtrak station. i'm sure there must be more that are just as easy to get to; i'll just have to track them down the next time i'm in town!


Blogger Yogadawg said...

Dropped into Yoga One and Ginsang a couple of years back and still think Ginsang was the most friendly studios I ever practised in. Too bad you didn't get to Bamboo on Coronado. With the Navy jets taking off and landing in Miramar, I thought the studio should have been named Top Gun Yoga:)

4:02 AM  
Blogger joni said...

hey dawg --

so when are we finally going to meet up again for some yoga? any chance you might be headed towards this coast any time soon?

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a big fan of Yoga One and the only reason I continued to go there was Bonnie. I always felt that both students and teachers are not very friendly. Definitely don't like the atmosphere there.

8:31 AM  
Blogger joni said...

hi anon --

it's too bad that your experience at yoga one was less than pleasant. at least it's nice to know that i happened to pick the one teacher you liked!

10:28 AM  

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