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Friday, February 22, 2008


Jai is a Sanskrit word that is used as an exclamation of wonderment, admiration, and deep respect. It could be translated as "WOW!" "Awesome" or "Many Glories!" It is a simple word that describes how hugely inspired we are by the practices of yoga!

thanks, by the way, to jai yoga in brunswick maine for that very apt definition :)

given that, you could say i had a very jai-ful time in san francisco last weekend (and yes, that feeble attempt at a pun was intended).

i had a few good reasons for making another trip to the bay area:
- jai uttal would be performing live at laughing lotus san francisco on saturday, feb 16th.
- i found a ridiculously low airfare deal... something like $100 roundtrip.
- i FINALLY would have enough air miles to renew my premier frequent flyer status.

and there was also the issue of wanting a re-do of last december's visit to the bay area, where both of the teachers i wanted to take classes with were both subbed out :(

once i booked my air ticket, i called laughing lotus to check on the concert tickets. with over a month to go before the performance, half of the tickets were already gone! i immediately gave her my credit card info over the phone to assure myself a spot. good thing i checked...

day one, saturday:

after a brief delay due to the infamous san francisco fog, our plane landed at SFO shortly before noon. i hopped on the BART for the half hour ride to the civic center station, made my way to the hotel right by the subway exit, and was told they had a room available for an early check-in. so far, so good. i then found a decent indian restaurant a few blocks away with a lunch buffet. they had an all-you-can-eat deal, and wouldn't you know it -- i ate all i could. totally stuffed, i made my way back to the hotel, set my alarm clock, and promptly fell asleep. yes, it was 2 o'clock in the afternoon. i must be getting old...

an hour later, i packed my yoga gear into my tote bag and hopped on the BART for the quick two-stop ride to the 24th and mission station. this time i was headed for stephanie snyder's 4:30pm all-levels vinyasa class at the YT valencia location:

Yoga Tree, Valencia
1234 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 647-9707
website: yogatreesf.com/studiovalencia.htm

upon reaching the studio, i found a sign taped onto the front door. the 4:30 class was sold out.


i walked in, refusing to believe that, once again, i'd miss being able to take her class. and sure enough, i was told that because stephanie was back from maternity leave and EVERYONE wanted to take her class, her class was sold out. and that forty students had already been turned away ("forty" sounded like a rather large number; i must've misheard her). i could place my name on the waiting list, but there were already ten ahead of me. it wasn't looking good.

i had to find a way to get into stephanie's class.

but i'm from out of town and will only be here for the weekend, i pleaded... sorry.

you can try to take the 4:30 class a yoga tree castro... but that's a mile away. i'll be late for class by the time i get there... sorry.

ok, so who's teaching that class?... a substitute teacher... so what's her class like?

she didn't know. and neither did stephanie, who just happened to walk past the front desk. i was getting desperate. it was now looking like i wouldn't be able to take any class anywhere.

how about laughing lotus? you might try them... no, they cancelled their afternoon class because of the kirtan they're having tonight. which i happen to be going to, which is why this is the only time i can take a class today...

just then, an angel named katie stepped up to the front desk.

she can take my spot, she said. i work here anyway and can take stephanie's class another time.

are you sure? she nodded and smiled. i threw my arms around her and thanked her profusely. (by the way, if anyone who knows katie reads this, please let her know that in return for her kindness, i'd like to treat her to a yoga class at any studio here in LA. it's the least i can do!)

i quickly ran to the changing room to change out of my street clothes. i'd never worked as hard to get into a yoga class, but regardless, i was in! and it took me almost the entire class to calm down. all the while, voices in my head were battling it out. you were a bitch! no, i was just persistent! you should have kept walking when you saw the sign! but i couldn't just give up without trying! on and on... i'm surprised i was able to hear stephanie's voice at all!

i have to say that all the trouble i went through was all well worth it. it was a sweaty and wonderfully sequenced class, just as i had hoped it would be. stephanie gave clear instructions with various options for the different levels of students in the class, proving exactly why her class is as popular as it is. and by the time i had emerged from savasana, all my inner voices were too tired to argue. thank god!

by the time i left the valencia studio, it was dark outside. the surrounding neighborhood didn't strike me as being particularly safe. even if there were many people moving about, i worried that my being a lone female walking the streets with a yoga mat in tow was a risky proposition. so i quickly hightailed the mile or so to laughing lotus, stopping briefly at a convenience store to buy something to rehydrate myself from all the sweating i had done. once i saw the welcoming beacon from laughing lotus's front windows, i stopped and stood in the doorway. in my rush, i got there much earlier than i had planned; i had over an hour to kill.

dana flynn and her crew were scurrying about inside, getting everything ready. she noticed me standing by the door and suggested that i come back. i couldn't, i said. i was from out of town and didn't know where i could spend the time. i couldn't even stop somewhere to get dinner because, like the pig i was, i was still full from my lunchtime indulgence. i told her that i would be just fine waiting outside the door.

once the performers started walking in and out the door to bring in their equipment, dana invited me to come in and sit in the lobby. is there something i can help you with?, i offered. we'll be fine. just sit there and meditate. she smiled briefly, then continued to scurry about.

by the time the classroom doors opened to let us into the performance space, a large crowd had gathered in the lobby. we quickly picked our spots and plopped ourselves on the brightly-colored blankets that were neatly arranged on the floor. i was excited; i had never heard jai uttal perform live before!

and once again, it was everything i had hoped it would be. jai was accompanied by daniel paul on tabla and a mother-daughter duo who led us as we sang the familiar chants. while the overall sound wasn't as full as i what i was used to hearing in his recordings, just hearing that unmistakeable voice LIVE was magical enough.

there was a touching moment when jai invited his two-year-old son, ezra, to sit on his lap while we all sang sita ram. it was even more amazing to see this little boy singing along while he was nestled contentedly in his father's arms... and yes, while those same arms continued to play the harmonium.

at the end of the evening, i managed to score jai's autograph on one of his CDs: kirtan! - the art and practice of ecstatic chant. another wonderful addition to my growing kirtan CD collection!

day two: sunday

during the course of my previous evening's brief conversation with dana flynn at laughing lotus, she mentioned that she was teaching the 11am class the next day. since that was almost an implicit guarantee that her class wouldn't be subbed out, i made it a point to be there. and to make sure i didn't get closed out of class (all i needed was a repeat of the previous day's fiasco), i got there extra early. so early that i had enough time to check out their retail shelves and buy one of their cool logo shirts with a large PEACE emblazoned on the front :)

if there's one word that describes dana's level 2/3 lotus flow class that morning, it's: KALI-ente! she had us moving briskly to a hot latin soundtrack and had us laughing along with her as we shouted caliente! at various times during our practice. at times, i found myself struggling to keep up with her brisk pacing, wondering what possessed me to stay close to the front of the room. but i was having lots of fun, despite my klutziness. and given some time, i'll eventually get the hang of it.

i'm already planning my next trip...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, love kirtan.
the Temple Bhajan Band, from LA, is coming to Berkeley. June 20th

i found this info at highertaste.org

cant wait to see them!

7:47 AM  
Blogger joni said...

i hope you get a chance to chant with them!

8:12 AM  

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