January 14, 2005
— by Diana Reynolds Roome
A guide to inner peace... and flexibility, balance, strength, endurance...
"I remember way back trying not to use the word yoga -- it was too strange. Now it's everywhere," said Elise Browning Miller, founding director of California Yoga Center at the San Antonio Shopping Center.
Though yoga classes have been available locally for years, centers are now so plentiful that choosing between them and various yoga styles can be almost as hard as practicing the Rajakapotasana, or king pigeon pose.
Energizing and calming at the same time, yoga is an ancient path to physical and mental health originating in India.
"Yoga is meditation in motion," said Joseph Hentz, founder of Yoga is Youthfulness on Castro Street. "It's about the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. You learn to be present, and slowly, slowly you ... gain health and energy, and with that, a buoyancy so that you're able to deal with negatives and become more optimistic and daring."
Based on the physical disciplines of postures and breathing, yoga increases endurance, strength and flexibility. It also relieves stiffness, tones the body, reduces mental stress and leads to deep relaxation.
Though traditionally rigorous, modern American yoga can be gentle or energetic, and "can be modified for all levels," explained Ann Merlo, instructor at the California Yoga Center where the Iyengar style is taught. "It works with wherever you are."
Mental and spiritual benefits are emphasized to different degrees according to individual teachers and yoga styles. Though classes vary in style or emphasis, all the centers mentioned in this article accommodate a wide range of participants, from beginner to advanced. And teachers often adapt postures (asanas) at different levels of difficulty.
"Asana means easy, comfortable position, so finding that ease is more of a learning process than an exercise," said Julia Roberts, founder of Yoga Explorations in Sunnyvale. "It's not about getting it right but what's going on inside."
Yoga is done without shoes, and clothes should be loose and comfortable. While yoga enthusiasts take their own mats, many studios have mats to lend. Classes are usually one to one-and-a-half hours. Most teachers, especially in smaller classes, will gently adjust individual students' poses.
The following guide is designed to help in finding the yoga class best suited for your needs and goals. (Note: This guide may not cover all local classes.)
California Yoga Center
570 Showers Drive, Suite 5, Mountain View 947-9642, www.californiayoga.com The lowdown: Founded in 1980 in Palo Alto, CYC is one of the first yoga centers in the area. It has some venerable teachers, including Lolly Font, Ann Merlo, Ben Thomas and Elise Miller, both on faculty at Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco.
All classes are based on the Iyengar method, a classic form developed in India where yoga originated. It emphasizes precise alignment and inner awareness. Postures can be modified for all levels; teachers discuss poses and often work with individuals to find their best way to achieve an asana. Emphasis: How you learn is just as important as what you learn. Extras: Classes for back care and scoliosis, prenatal, and pranayama (rhythmic breathing) Nice touch: Workshops and retreats Fees: 8 classes for $112; $14-$17 for drop-in
Center of Balance
1220 Pear Avenue, Suite 1, Mountain View 967-6414, www.centerofbalance.com The lowdown: This studio was listed in "Yoga Journal's" national round-up of the best yoga studios and in "San Francisco" magazine's 2004 Best of the Bay Area.
There's a strong emphasis on physical fitness. Owner/instructor Tom McCook's customers include Olympic athletes and others who want to strengthen performance in other areas.
Beginners, pregnant women or those with injuries progress at their own pace and can benefit from private sessions. Pilates is also incorporated into most classes. Besides a yoga studio, there is a well-equipped pilates studio. Emphasis: Personal development through private and group instruction Extras: Massage, yoga store Nice touch: Juice and apples available after class Fees: 10 classes for $130, 30-day unlimited pass for $135. Student rates available. Private instruction $90-$110 per session. $18 for drop-in
Dahn Yoga Center/Brain Respiration
1776 Miramonte Ave, Mountain View 960-1717, www.DahnWorld.com The lowdown: One of 150 centers in the U.S., Dahn offers a system of exercise, breathing and meditation based on the ancient Korean healing tradition of Dahnak. It's not yoga in the Hindu tradition though it contains some similar elements.
Classes vary but include certain themes: fast, dynamic floor exercises to get the chi, or energy, flowing, stretching, and chanting. Emphasis: Opening meridian channels to increase chi Extras: Individual assessment, aura photograph, small store Nice touch: Cheerful yellow-and-green decor; circle exercises give a sense of class unity. Fees: 3-month pass for $390, no drop-ins
Yoga is Youthfulness
590 Castro Street, Mountain View 964-5277, www.yogaisyouth.com The lowdown: The core staff of 10 instructors offer classes that cover Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, Vinyasa flow (synchronized breath and movement) and restorative yoga. An early morning self-paced practice known as Mysore is provided with one-on-one teacher guidance. Many teachers trained in India, and classes are taught in context of yoga's philosophical basis. Emphasis: Yoga as meditation in motion; learning to be present and focused. Extras: Yoga for kids (5-12) and post-natal yoga; workshops and retreats; YIY hikes. Nice touch: Sculptures and artwork Fees: 10 classes for $115; 1 month unlimited pass for $130, $14 drop-in or 3 classes for $20
Yoga of Los Altos
343 2nd Street, Suite 3, Los Altos 941-9642, www.yogaoflosaltos.com The lowdown: Fifteen teachers, including Tom Abrehamson, Ben Thomas, Marti Foster and Osha Hanfling, offer a wide range of approaches from introductory classes to workshops focusing on therapy for the neck and shoulders. Their styles are eclectic, but include Iyengar, Anusara and Vinyasa flow. Early-morning classes encourage personal practice in the company of others.
New classes help seniors and those with physical challenges to increase flexibility, walk, stand and sit with ease, enhance breathing and concentration, and sleep better. Emphasis: Yoga for physical and spiritual well-being Extras: Private sessions for individual problems Nice touch: Meditation session at no charge Fees: 10 classes for $120, $14 for drop-in
Yoga Explorations of Sunnyvale
822 W. Iowa Ave, Sunnyvale (408) 746-2752, www.yogaexplorations.com The lowdown: YES takes an exploratory approach to traditional asanas, helping students understand their own bodies better rather than trying to conform to an idea of how a posture should look on the outside.
Small groups, moving slowly to develop the potential of each asana, work well for anyone concerned about limitations or injury. Instruction is mostly based on the Iyengar method. Emphasis: Individual yoga exploration for all, including seniors, prenatal, children and back care. Extras: Meditation, Aikido, Aikido for kids Nice touch: Personal attention; bright upstairs studio. Fees: 10 classes for $120, $15 for drop-in
2400 Grant Road, Mountain View 969-7204, www.ymcamidpen.org The lowdown: Though its focus is on fitness, classes are based on Iyengar and Vinyasa flow and taught with full regard to the spirit of yoga.
Classes often attract a crowd in the big gym where teachers demonstrate postures, adapting them to most levels. Attention to breathing deepens postures and relaxation between poses. Yogilates classes combine yoga and pilates. Emphasis: Well-being and safe pace Extras: Props may increase intensity of workout. Nice touch: Quiet background music Fees: Free to YMCA members
Yoga for Teens
City of Mountain View Recreation, Community Center, Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View 903-6331 Tuesdays Jan. 25 to March 33, 4-5:15 p.m. Fee: 10 classes for $45 (only Mountain View residents)
These membership gyms and studios in Mountain View also offer yoga classes: Fit from the Core, 934-2673, Gold's Gym, 940-1440 The Club of Mountain View, 969-1783