Monday, July 9

Sangha Yoga | Kalamazoo, MI

I'm pretty excited for today's review, because it's with my partner in crime (in this class and in life), Jafe—and his first class too! I'm curious to hear his perspective.

LOCATION: The crazy thing about SW Michigan is every street is named Business 94 or Michigan Ave. For some reason Waze couldn't figure out the location I was looking for, so we went to google maps for directions. We somehow ended up on the wrong street, and didn't realize it til we parked. So we did another google map search and walked our way to class. Once we found ourselves on the right street the signage to get to the studio was great. We were late, but so were 4-5 other people, so we were able to sneak in with everyone after the starting meditation (which I was pretty disappointed Jafe missed, but hopefully there will be another class together). Parking is free in Kalamazoo from Fridays at 5pm thru Mondays at 8am, which is pretty great, in my opinion. 
STUDIO: The studio is inside a mall, and check-in was the store front, so to speak. We could kick off our shoes and leave our belongings there. I did it, but wasn't too comfortable with it as it was open to the mall—even if the woman checking us in stayed there the whole time. Since this was a community class we could pay what we like in cash—their normal drop-in fee is $16 (which is what you had to pay if you used your credit card). Once in the classroom (it was packed!!) we grabbed a mat for Jafe and our props (no rental fee), and were grateful to the two guys up front for making room for us. The walls were chocolate brown with the same fabric on the ceiling as the studio I went to the day before (Flow Yoga). There were windows to the side street and entrance of the mall, but they were covered in white fabric... which created a nice glow in the room. The instructor set up at the front on a circular yoga mat, behind her was a small shelf of candles and a statue, I believe. There was a bathroom, but only one and a line to use it after class, so I didn't get a chance to check it out, sorry. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Sangha means community. Community Classes are taught by rotating certified instructors within the Kalamazoo area. Community Classes give students an opportunity to be introduced to new teachers and styles of yoga. Open level, 1-2.
INSTRUCTOR: Ann M. Beattie, RYT discovered yoga at the age of 12 while watching Lilias Folan on TV. When Ann moved to Texas in her 20s, she found her spiritual teacher in Gurubachan Singh Khalsa. She studied Kundalini Yoga for 10 years and taught under his guidance. Upon moving to Kalamazoo in 2000, Ann studied Yoga Fit and began teaching hath a yoga at various gyms and fitness centers. Ann completed her 200 hours RYT training with Karina Ayn Mirsky at Sangha Yoga in 2009. This imbued Ann with new dedication and enthusiasm for her practice and for sharing her knowledge with her students. She continues to study with Karina Ayn and has participated in workshops by Chandra Easton and Gary Kraftsow. Ann believes that with yoga, there is the potential to experience your true self, and she feels honored to be able to help guide her students as they deepen their own self knowledge. 
CONTACT: Sangha Yoga

*Written by Jafe, Anni's comments in italic*

Finally, I made it to my first yoga class ever and it was long overdue. Anni has been telling me to try yoga for a while now to help with some of the aches and pains that come with being me (as did your physical therapist, for the record). Like many people, my lower back tends to give me trouble, but I aggravate other body parts as well. Most of these aches come from playing rugby, where players are never a 100% healthy and a common question asked is, "are you hurt or are you injured?" The answer to this question determines whether you keep playing or go to the sideline/hospital. Thus far (knock on wood), I have only been hurt but have acquired my share of aches. Enough about me and back to the class at hand.

We were in Kalamazoo, MI for a weekend trip and on the night prior to the class indulged in the local nightlife (I shake my fist at you, Old Style). This was not the best preparation for my first yoga experience, but we were on vacation and "when in Rome..." I found the class to be rewarding and well suited for a beginner. Even though Anni has described classes to me many times, I did not give it much thought before we were in the studio—short of being a little worried that I would be unable to participate in some of the poses (I am not often described as limber). However, the movements and poses were not overly complex, and I could do everything instructed, though not as well as anyone else. We spent a fair amount of time warming up the body at the beginning of class with stretches similar to those from other sports I have played. We did some poses, most of which Anni had shown me before (mostly it was back work & table top work—to keep us cool. Once in standing positions we stuck to Warrior I, eagle arms, and a wide-leg forward fold. There were a few twists throughout, it was pretty low-key), and ended with the cool down (sivasana for me, nap for Jafe). This class may not have been as rewarding for someone with experience or looking for a serious practice (it's always good, for me, to slow down and go back to basics—so I wouldn't complain), but for a beginner who had a late night, it was just right.

The instructor created a soothing atmosphere. Everyone in the class was focused on their own practice which allowed a certain anonymity that made it easy to maintain focus (you did say, you liked that we were instructed to close our eyes a lot.. made it easier to pay attention to your own work. I totally agree). What I liked the most about the class was the silence. The yoga and the studio itself created a cleansing space where I could relax and clear my head. I cannot help but think of it like a palette cleansing for your day, like eating a piece of ginger after sushi. I know this is not the most romantic analogy, but it is one that I can relate to (um, big fan of that analogy). My only complaint was that the room was crowded and it would have helped if I could spread out more, but I hear Saturday morning classes are popular. Since this was my first class I have nothing to compare it to, but I found the experience rewarding and hope to try again.

Did it help that there were guys in the classroom, or would you have thought nothing of it? 
It did help that there were guys in the class room. It helped at the beginning at least, it wouldn't have mattered after a little while. Plus they scooted over us, so there you go. The girls didn't move at all, they just threw rocks at us. What?! I'm totally putting that in here. 

Was it ok doing yoga next to me? Would you prefer to have gone on your own?
It was alright doing it next to you, I had no beef. I would have preferred if we weren't hitting each other, a little more space would have been good. (I must have made some sort of face) You wouldn't like more space? I don't like it that crowded, it's why I normally don't go on Saturdays—tooooo busy.

We chanted nine OMs to end the class... that's a lot of OMs. What did you think of it?
I didn't mind it. I don't know if I completely understand the OMs, I guess to bring everyone together? Do you know why? Hayli has mentioned briefly the healing effects of vibrations in the body (referencing the gong bath class Living Yoga Center hosted recently), but good question... let's look it up. I'm not sure if this is the best explanation from Daily Om (this link is to the full article if you want to read more)—so please, other yogis, if you want to explain or provide links in the comments, I fully welcome it.     
Within each human being lies the power to affect change through the power of a chant, the spoken words, or even a gentle whisper. The body's chakras or energy centers, so closely intertwined with their corresponding regions of the body, can be represented in sound, which parallels the energy pattern of the chakras and is symbolic of their essences. These unique sounds are the bija, or seed, mantras. The mantras are the one-syllable seed sounds that, when said aloud, activate the energy of the chakras in order to purify and balance the mind and body. When you speak the bija mantras, you resonate with the energy of the associated chakra, helping you focus upon your own instinctive awareness of your body and its needs. OM is the most renowned and expansive of the bija mantras. It is the mantra of assent and the form of creation, causing energy to surge upward and outward. 
What would you tell others (like a rugby player) out there considering their first yoga class?
It's a nice stretch, good core strengthening, and the spiritual part of it you can get what you want out of it... It's mandatory for the US rugby team, as part of their training, so that says something.

Thanks for going to class with me, baby, it was awesome having you there and your perspective is definitely refreshing. I can't wait to check out another studio with you. 

I have to also add, as it's completely in tune with the current NEOI collaboration with Duck Duck Goose—as we were leaving a car drove by and stopped... I assumed the couple was going to ask us directions, but she said, "Because you just left yoga together, here!" and passed a bouquet of flowers (to her boyfriend who then passed them) to us. It was the kindest random act of... um, kindness. And that's the mission of DDG, so I had to include it in this entry. Thank you random couple with a basket of flowers—you totally added to what turned out to be one of the best days in our relationship! 

Afterwards we hopped in the car and drove to St. Joseph for a day of playing in Lake Michigan (which had to be around 85° water) on the beautiful Silver Beach. I think Jafe is on to something... we started off the day with our palette cleanser and continued on to what is still making me one of the happiest girls. So grateful. 


There are two entrances, this is the main street one.

This is the entrance off the side street.
Our First Class!
The Gorgeous Flowers Complete Strangers Gave Us *heart*

8 responses:

  1. Sounds like a trip to MI. Hope all is well. Love you guys.

  2. Thanks mom! Love you back :)

  3. I really enjoyed this blog!! And I'm happy you two had a great day! Love you guys!

  4. Thank you! We love you too :)

  5. Thanks for visiting Sangha Yoga and for your review. Glad we could offer an accessible environment for Jafe's first yoga class.

    Feel free to use the second bathroom next time you stop by! Multiple stalls are downstairs.

    As for the fabric on the ceiling... we believe imitation is the highest form of flattery! Being the first yoga center in Kzoo, we're blessed to inspire others. ;)

    May your lovelife be blessed!

    Karina Mirsky, Owner/Director, Sangha Yoga

    1. Thank you for commenting, your space is beautiful!

    2. Thanks so much Anni
      PS. love the photos, may I use one?

    3. Of course! What a compliment, thank you!