Post#2 in Series of Where to Yoga, Where not to! – The Experience and Reflections on Yoga Studios in California, Las Vegas, Colorado and Hawaii.
As we deepen and diversify our yoga practice, taking our yoga everywhere that we go and integrating it into our travels is important. Every studio, every teacher, every ambiance brings something unique to the practice. Here I write about how this uniqueness enriches or changes my yoga experience on visits to California, Las Vegas, and vacations in Hawaii, and I share my impressions of the yoga instructors, techniques, styles, and even the intangibles of the ambiance.
1. YiY (Yoga is Youthfulness), (Mountain View, California): Highly recommended. This beautiful studio welcomes with its mesmerizing design of long 10-feet long bright yellow drapes, deep blue art, long mirrors, bamboo hardwoods, and a lovely most welcoming staff. My first class was free, and if I had not insisted, I would think they didn’t want me to pay the 2nd time back! They have some of the best yoga I have enjoyed in all of Silicon Valley. The studio is located in the hip, fun downtown Mountain View’s posh little neighborhood surrounded with shops, restaurants and bookstores. My absolute favorite teacher is the Persian Ashtanga teacher Mojdeh. She leads a very solid and rhythmic Ashtanga class with her beautiful voice. I remember her complimenting me on my practice, and adjusting me gently and firmly – the perfect hands of a great teacher. Later in one of my other visits to the studio, I took a Vinyasa class with Beatty which was good, although nothing in particular impressed me about the teacher. Last class I took at YiY was Amy’s Anusara class which I found to be easy, fun and clear instructions. Overall, a very well-run studio with impressive staff and gorgeous studio.
Time spent @ YiY: During 2005 and 2006, took Ashtanga from Mojdeh and Vinyasa classes 3 or 4 times. In October 2008, Anusara.
2. Yoga Center of Palo Alto, (California): Located in one of the most established, posh, and hip neighborhoods of Northern California, the home of Standford University, downtown Palo Alto, this studio was definitely promising from locale alone. As I was waiting for the 10:30 class in the lounge, Lily who was teaching the on-going class there came outside, saw me and invited me very nicely to join her class. She said I can stretch out, do whatever I want. I went in thinking this is just a bonus before the real class. Then as I was getting ready for class, she boldly asked me to pay the full $15 fee of a class for remaining 25 minutes! Alas, I paid and went to settle down. The students were using exercise mats instead of yoga. I was just starting to enjoy it when Lily asked me to not use Ujjayi breathing because it is too loud! After that, all bets were off for Lily. Outside, I met Larry the next instructor and shared my experience with him. He was shocked that she had asked me to pay and told me to not pay for his class. Second shocker in his class: No mats! We started to do yoga on bare hardwood floors. There was very little instruction or structure. We used some mats for floor exercises. I have to admit, Larry was the absolute nicest guy but the class, the chaos, the noise all left me feeling very disappointed with the studio and the caliber of instructors. I simply do not recommend this place.
Time spent @ Yoga Center of Palo Alto: Took a class March 11, 2006
3. Club One (San Jose, CA): Located in the very posh Santana Row, this gym is everything you would want except a yoga studio. My friend checked out the place before I got in town, and yet they still did not have a single (single!!!) yoga mat for me to use during the class. The instructor was not bad, and I was determined to give it a chance so I did yoga with my yoga paws and on hardwood. The accommodations were horrible, and while I usually give this advice, now it is my hard and fast rule: Do not do yoga at a gym. Do it at a yoga studio! The staff was not friendly either, and I will neither go back to Club One, nor recommend it to anyone.
Time spent @ Club One: One class in 2006.
4. Yoga One Studio (San Diego, CA): Sherri was teaching Hatha yoga 1-2 class on Saturday morning, the only class that my schedule fit on my short trip to San Diego. The studio is in downtown next to few other shops, and it is located on the 2nd floor. The room is spacious with 2 sky lights and nice hardwoods. Sherri welcomed me and asked me to pay after class. The mats were extremely old and worn out and the studio was chilly. She asked class about requests, then started class with a sequence of seated poses. She did not have a quiet meditation or setting of intention in the beginning, and so the get-go, I was not entirely at ease. She seemed knowledgeable and provided nice adjustments, but class was at best average for me. As Hatha has no flow, I prefer a teacher that can truly connect the poses and make them seem like the words in a song, all belonging in their place. While Sherri did have some new ways for poses against the wall, I found nothing particularly wonderful about class or the studio. I did not feel the vibe or the warmth of the ambiance I had been looking for. Yoga One was rated one of, if not the, best studio in downtown San Diego through many sources, and I am disappointed to say that I walked out less than enchanted.
Time spent @ Yoga One Studio: Saturday, Jan 31st, 2009
5.The Studio Maui (Maui, Hawaii): Highly recommended. The studio is spacious, and can easily transform to a dance floor for 100 dancers. The studio is far from major attractions and a good drive from Lahaina. I was very fortunate to take a class at this beautiful paradise of studio and location on our vacation. I was luckier still to be taking class by one of the best teachers: Jennifer Lynn. She taught us so much about yoga and movement and alignment in 90minutes – I just wanted to sit still and absorb it. It was everything that a workshop would do plus the practice we had. She was incredibly beautiful to watch, light as a feather as she did her beautiful balancing poses. I’d go back again and again in a heartbeat.
Time spent @ The Studio Maui: Took a class in January, 2007.
6. Island Spirit Yoga (Maui, Hawaii): This place is a sanctuary. It is located in the quiet corner of a small shopping center in downtown Lahaina, a beautiful studio, reasonably priced, and extremely nice staff. The space is rather medium if not small but classes are also small. The mirrors make the room larger and when evening falls, and the windows are open, the Hawaii breeze and bird chirps reminds you of where you are during savasana. A sweet feeling. I first took Anusara from Marc. He is a John Friend student/trainer and I enjoyed every second of this class. In November of 2008, my husband took his very first yoga class with Debbie, the owner, and I attended along with him. Her basics class, while very good introduction to yoga for him, was just too basic for me. Debbie also did not do many adjustments. That afternoon, Nov 30th Sunday, I was inspired to attend the Anusara workshop by Kelly Haas. In the 3 hours of fun and learning that ensued, we worked towards the final ultimate pose – the full dancer’s pose. I found her to be grounded, knowledgeable, funny and caring. My last class with Tiffany was perhaps my worst experience. She started class 15 minutes late without an apology and if I had not experienced so much better in the studio, I would have never returned. Her class was at best average. Alas, we cannot win them all.
Time spent @ Island Spirit Yoga: Anusara classes taken in November 2005, January 2007 and November 2008, February 2010
7. Om Time Yoga (Boulder, Colorado): The very heart of Boulder boasts welcoming excellent locale, large yoga store up front, warm staff, gorgeous but small studio, and a great pair of instructors. I took the community class co-taught by Shannon and her partner, Joe . They were a beautiful couple, in sync with breath and movement, and showing us the poses and guiding us through each asana. I had never taken a class taught in equal parts by more than one instructor and I love it. My most favorite part was to see Shannon forward jump while holding her lower body up in the air, as though completely defying gravity, for a few slow seconds. It was a sight with awe, and truly inspirational. Highly recommend this beautiful studio.
Time spent @ Om Time Yoga: One class in September 2006.
8. Lululemon Athletica Store in Fashion Mall (Las Vegas, NV): I was the only one, besides the cleaning crew, to be walking the soon to be packed Fashion Mall of sunny Las Vegas on Sunday morning May 24th for Lululemon’s weekly freeyoga class. Kathleen was our instructor and she taught Expressive Yoga that day. We put our mats in a circle and watched her in the middle. The vibe in the store is inviting, and I was able to borrow a mat and find a perfect little spot for this practice. I liked Kathleen’s voice but not so much her music. The music accompanying a yoga practice plays such a key role in setting the mood, and I could have done without the tunes. Nonetheless, Expressive Yoga was interesting, consisting mostly of moving and dynamic poses, perhaps resembling Thai Chi a bit, opposing or complimenting poses, dressed to full with the breathing sounds. I went along with everything, making sounds of “ssssss”, or “shhhhh”, or a long sigh or Lion’s breath. I must have dozed off to heaven land in Savasana. Meditation and calmness found me and embraced me for the rest of the day. Lululemon happens to carry some of the best clothing quality for yoga, and their staff is warm and attentive. I’d go back and do another yoga class in a heartbeat.
Time spent @ Lululemon Athletic Yoga: One class on May 24th, 2009.
9. 8 Limbs Yoga Center at Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA): This is the closest yoga studio with highest ratings and ravings to my hotel as per Google maps. I had left a voice mail for the studio to ask about drop-ins and a very friendly girl responded right away. I ended up taking the 9:30am Level II flow with Andreas. If you arrive earlier, the studio door is locked, and with rainy Seattle, best to go across the street to the great Coffee Kaladi Brothers shop (see my Seattle coffee tales!) until they open the doors around 9am. The drop-in rate is $16 which is most I am willing to pay for a class. The studio owns a huge real estate on 2nd floor, along with a mini boutique of yoga apparel. Not only that, the views from the large windows looking out at Downtown Seattle and buildings is exciting with a strangely quieting effect. The practice room was warm and toasty. I started to settle in with one of the many worn but still great Manduka mats, and a bolster. Andreas showed up a few minutes before class, and so did a few others making for a small to medium size class in a large space. She started with 3 Oms and a very brief meditation and centering before the flow. She mostly did the poses with us from her mat, but also got up to walk around. The flow, even though level 2, was easier than I had expected, with much slower pace and easy asanas. She adjusted me once; I would have liked more. I really liked the way she entered into some poses, especially Garudasana (Eagle pose) and Vrikshasana (tree pose). We finished with head stands and a 10-minute Savasana. It was a wonderful flow and I enjoyed the space and the instruction immensely, and I loved watching Andreas beautifully show the poses.
Time spent @ 8 Limbs Yoga: One class on October 16th, 2009.
Wherever you are, let yoga find and embrace you!