Harmony Yoga Retreat | Yelapa, Mexico

This was my first time out of the country and my first yoga retreat, so it was an amazing adventure, to say the least.

Yoga Journal Conference Midwest

Dharma Mittra, Seane Corn, Aadil Pakhilivala, Maty Ezraty, Jim Bennitt... Need I say more?

Thursday, August 22

Infinite C-U | Champaign, IL

Bonus review! This isn't about a yoga studio, but I've taken up a four-week boot camp class to kick my ass back into gear. Since I am tracking my own progress as much as sharing with you all, I thought I'd document my first week of classes here!

LOCATION: Just off of Mattis, behind the Sonics (ironically), on Springer Dr. Very easy to get to and includes a free parking lot.     
DOJO: Class is held at Song's Kung Fu. Big, open, and with padded floors. There are some windows and mirrors, but I pay little attention to anything outside my space once things get going. Bare bones, really, which I love. And on Fridays, if the weather is kind, we go outside! 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Infinite CU is not a quick fix program. It is not a fad. It is not a magic pill or potion or elixir.  It is more than just fitness. It is more than just nutrition. It is more than just community support. Infinite CU is a lifestyle. We want you to develop healthy HABITS. Whether you do 1 boot camp or 20, we want to give you the tools to be healthy the rest of your life! ($120 for a 4-week session, three classes a week, an hour each—I paid online.)
INSTRUCTORS: Keybeck: On March 22nd 2011, I began teaching a fitness class that I called Infinite. I would teach it at my dad's Kung Fu studio during times when there wasn't any marital art classes. I didn't want my class to just be about losing weight. I wanted to connect with PEOPLE. I wanted people to get the same experience out of fitness that I did. I wanted people to completely change their lives by first "Starting with You Health". Just like I did. In February 2012, Infinite CU transformed from a group fitness class into life changing 4-week boot camps with a thriving community! It has been awesome to help so many others change their lives and to now develop others into boot camp trainers... so they can help people the same way I do. Back in 2010, I could not have imagined I would be doing this!

Marcela: I have been with Infinite for about 2 years now. I’m also a beachbody coach. Fitness has always been a part of me. I participated in extracurricular activities in school. In junior high I was in the cheerleading squad and volleyball team. I also like to participate in running events. In high school I was part of the dance team, tennis and soccer. The workout programs I have completed so far P90X, P90X2, INSANITY, TURBO FIRE, Insanity Asylum, and currently doing Les Mills Combat. In April I will be participating in the Illinois Marathon, I will be doing the  I-challenge (5k on Friday and Full marathon Saturday). In May I will be doing the Tough Mudder. I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself. My favorite types of workouts are cardio and anything that involves kicking and punching. Turbo Fire is by far one of my favorite workout programs.
CONTACT: Infinite C-U

I've had a rough go at it since my buddy, Qi, passed away. I thought I was getting through everything the best I could, but suddenly it had been six months and I hadn't been to my regular yoga classes. I now I have back and knee problems from not taking care of myself. I put on way too much weight. When did this all happen? It was time to change. As I started seeing a new acupuncturist (who I adore, and highly recommend), he had me on some supplements to tackle the digestion/hormonal issues that had been plaguing me for years. He also took me off of wheat and sugar. Meanwhile, I'm also seeing regular posts on facebook by my pal, Janet, talking about how amazing she felt after her boot camp classes. Well, you read that enough times, and you think, "I want to feel like that too!" So I just signed up and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, I was out of town when the first two classes started, but as of tonight I've been through one round of classes (legs, chest/back, arms/shoulders ). Holy. Crap. My first day at class was legs, which Keybeck snickered at a bit by saying I picked a hard day to start with—but I figured I would at least know right away what I was in for at it's worst (best?). Yeah, that class kicked my ass... or legs... or... As I walked into my house, barely, wobbling, my boyfriend laughed and asked how it went. I was fearful of having to hike the next day with my girlfriend. Quite sure I would fall over. But I loved the sense of accomplishment. The format was a cardio warm up—a bunch of leg work via evil things like burpees—ab work—cool down.

Day two: I'm just barely getting over my legs—over three days later. We go into back and chest working with resistance bands. We start with cardio (crap, my legs again!) and then go into a bunch of moves using the bands and a TON of push-ups. Uh oh. I can't do even one push-up. But I trudge through, doing half push-ups and note where I am. How cool will it be when I do my first full push-up? Two or three? Make it through the whole class?!?! We end with ab work and a little bit of cool down, but definitely show up early to do your stretching + maybe finish with a little bit too (this is a great time to take advantage of all that yoga knowledge you've accrued—not only in stretching, but in activating your core throughout class and remembering your form... shoulders down, pelvis positioning, relax your jaw/hips, knowing your edge and going there. Those are some of my internal reminders anyway).

Day three: My shoulders are still killing me—I wonder what we'll do today. What did you say? Arms and shoulders? Well, crap. Ok, let's do this! Come to find out, my favorite work out so far. I needed a little ego boost after all those push-ups (or whatever you call what I was attempting to do). From the cardio warm up to the arm work to the ab work—that class was made for me!

Tomorrow we do legs again—eeks! But I'm so happy with not only my few accomplishments, but also for what will come, in seeing how far I go. Keybeck is an excellent instructor, always kind in his encouragement and with amazing energy. The class I'm in comes in all shapes and sizes, so that was comforting for this out of shape girl. And, as I said on facebook, "I hate going, I don't like being there, but I just keep repeating to myself it's only 1 hour out of your day, keep pushing... and when it's all done, I feel amazing + ridiculously proud of myself + stinking (p-u) with accomplishment."  

Thank you—to Janet for inspiring me and to Keybeck + Marcela for being a fantastic coaches—namaste

Four Elements Yoga | Austin, TX

That sweet, lil bunny face was the mascot of our class—and the only good thing I can report about this experience, unfortunately. Buckle up, I have to conquer a bad review, which I hate doing more than anything on this blog. <sigh>

LOCATION: Hoofing it around Austin again, there really is so much construction I can't imagine driving anywhere around here. But this city will be gorgeous in a couple years. That being said, pretty easy to find and near my hotel, so bonus!   
STUDIO: I liked the set up of this space, which is upstairs from a restaurant. Two practice spaces (one with aerial yoga and one with aerial silks). The instructor told us the space was built for the aerial work—with reinforced steel beams that are high enough to allow some decent air between the silks and the ground, if needed. There was a bathroom I didn't check, when you walk in the front door you're immediately greeted by the front desk. I do wish I would have known which room we were going into, we all hung out in the reception area until class started. And that was awkward.
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Aerial Asana (All Levels)—Aerial yoga is a unique class blending yoga and aerial work. Yoga asanas or poses are practiced in, around and supported by a fabric hammock similar the ones you might see an acrobat dance in at the circus. Aerial yoga can be a gentle and restorative class for those who wish to stretch and move at a slow and gentle pace; aerial yoga can also be tailored to the more advanced practitioner looking to deepen and explore poses in a new way. This type of yoga is easy adaptable to any fitness level and a perfect place to begin working towards inversions with the gentle support of the fabric. Yes, tricks, flips, spinning, swinging and conditioning in the air are also available for the adventurous at heart! $25 (I paid online to reserve my spot, I highly recommend this for Aerial classes, if you just show up there's a good chance you won't get in).
INSTRUCTOR: Lydia: Lydia is Four Elements Co-owner, having opened Four Elements blending her life-long love of movement and her understanding of healing through movement. Lydia has a bachelors in Psychology having graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. Edward's. It was during her time studying psychology that she began to understand how movement, dance, yoga and aerial arts can offer deep change and lasting healing and personal transformation. Lydia put her PhD aspirations on hold indefinitely and instead turned her energies to sharing the inspiration and passion for aerial movement and aerial yoga that she had discovered. Aerial Yoga confronts your limits, trust, fear, self-love, are just some of the areas that you can expect transformation in Lydia's Aerial Asana classes. She strives to make aerial movement accessible to everyone and welcomes the brand-new beginner! Expect to break through your barriers!

So... yeah. I really did try to question myself. Are you reading this wrong? Are you being sensitive? Are you staying open? No. No. Yes. We started off class talking about what people needed, as Lydia brought down the swings from the ceiling (which was a really smart set up, by the way, short of the fact you can't adjust them for different people's heights). I asked for shoulder openers, as I often ask for—saying I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Lydia dismissed that pretty quickly saying, "Yeah, we all do that." Ok.

Lydia moved me to a new location, so I could swing freely of walls, but she moved me to a swing that was too tall for me. At this point, I'm staying quiet to see how this all unfolds. This is only my third class, so maybe she has something different in mind I haven't experienced yet. We then spend probably half the class working with arm strength + shoulder openers (my biggest weaknesses on both accounts, so this is needed!). But with every shoulder opening she would walk over to me and say, "Open up! You need to move your shoulders back and down." She would try to guide my shoulders back further. She even went so far to say, "You asked for this, that's why I'm picking on you." We pick on people in yoga classes? Finally on the last, frustrating instruction from her I say, "Sorry, that's as far as they go—it's why I asked for shoulder openers." Yep, Lydia, I spend over 15 hours a day at a computer. Maybe that's more than what everyone does....

But I honestly wasn't irritated at this point—swear. It's the whole class that built up to my current disappointment. We eventually move into some downward dogs (that I can barely touch the floor for + the swing is now digging into my hips—and at this point I realize there are other ladies struggling with the wrong heights of their swings too. Lydia does instruct me to get a towel to pad the swing. Saying we have to fidget with the swings to get them to work with us—sure, totally agree. But starting with the correct height would do me wonders at this point). We learn to activate the back muscles and to fly/swing back and forth. This is fun. One women struggles with this pose, and the instruction to her is also a bit abrasive. Then we go into a position where we stand in the swing with both feet and basically move into a position which frees our feet and we're using our arm strength to hold ourselves up. Again, I have horrible arm strength, so this wasn't successful. But, as always, I try challenging poses three times to help train my brain into a new way of activity for my body—knowing at the very least I'm going in a good direction, even if I can't accomplish the position. After those three times I wait patiently as others work on the pose + admire those who have been working with this class for awhile. Lydia checks in, "Are you doing ok?" Not in a nurturing way, so much as it seemed to be in a "You're in over head, aren't you." kind of way. I responded with, "Yep, great! Thank you."

We then move to sitting in the swing—and this is just horrible timing, but the bunny decided to flop on his side and show us all his belly. No one else noticed this but me, and so I was the only one who let out a giggle when Lydia asks us all to sit in the swing. She responds with, "You think it's funny to sit in the swing?" ... pause, it's official, she doesn't like me. "Um, no, I think it's funny that bunny flopped over and showed us all his belly."

So... we go into some upside down hanging poses, which feels so good on the spine. Lydia is definitely excited by more advanced students—which I know has to be pretty normal for instructors, but at this point in the class I'm just insulted.

And then we're asked to watch as Lydia demonstrates the harder moves that some of us may not be able to do (ahem, Anni)... she then flips into the only three moves I know how to do on my home set up (did I mention I put in an aerial swing in my garage? I love it, but definitely need some more classes so I can do more than these three positions):

gargoyle, vampire, and shoulder stand

So—I get into the swing, I flip around into all three poses and I decide to take advantage of some core work and hold the shoulder stand for as long as possible. Now I have Lydia's attention—she compliments me on my core strength, but unfortunately, it's just too late. There's no way we can connect during this class. I've checked out. I'm so disappointed. In my other aerial classes I've had so much fun, never feeling judged for my abilities (or lack there of), but thanks to the internal awkward moments of "No, really, I'm ok... I know I'm a curvy girl who looks like she has no fitness what so ever, but I got this." Or the other funny moment for me—when Lydia first asked if I mind being adjusted, I thought she said, "Do you like tex mex?" Surely she didn't say that, "Huh?" Again, "Do you like tex mex?" Ok fine, I do, "Sure!" She then went to adjust me... oh... curvy girl is apparently a little hungry too, lol.

I really would like to think that Lydia and I just weren't on the same page—she seemed amazing with her regulars. But if I were to visit Austin again, and this studio, I would opt for a different instructor.

Monday, August 12

Be Yoga | Austin, TX

First yoga class in Austin! I hadn't been feeling very good all day—something I ate. So I thought I'd try sweating it out. Whew, it worked. Check out my first experience with Forrest Yoga.

LOCATION: There is a lot construction going on in downtown Austin—so I'm guessing driving to here may not be as easy, and on top of that a lot of parking spots are missing for the construction. I, luckily, walked and had no problem. Plus, on my walk I discovered all of Rainey St and how cool it is.  
STUDIO: What a refreshing space. It's the first floor of a corporate/city building.  The front is clear from the street, name and all. The inside is sparse and calm. All in one room, you walk straight in to the check-in desk. This is where you pay (donation-based of $10-20, cash or charge). Behind check-in is a water fountain and bathroom, the rest is all practice space. One wall is all mirror, which I'm not a fan of, but I took off my glasses and once we started practicing I wasn't aware it was even there. There was high ceilings with exposed beams—slightly industrial, with beautiful lighting.    
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Forrest Yoga, designed by Ana Forrest, uses dynamic pose sequencing, taught with compassion, to deeply engage the breath into every cell while building strength, intelligent body awareness, and flexibility. In a warm setting, we infuse the benefits of sweating out toxins with teaching students to deepen their relationship with their authentic selves. The classes are a series of carefully constructed postures designed to strip numbness from your core, help you breathe and move in ways that release emotional shielding, and prevent and heal injury.
INSTRUCTOR: Rebecca Bachman: I came to yoga six years ago as an intensity junky with with sport ADD and anxiety. Fueled by coffee, I haphazardly pin-balled from one minor injury to the next, practicing asanas as a mere cool-down/physical therapy, where I could challenge my brain to be a little more still, with only a vague awareness of the connection between the two. And then, one fateful morning last fall, I found myself deep in my first Forrest Yoga sequence and thought, "Aha!" Finally, it found me: the intersection between athleticism and relaxation; intensity and safety; inward exploration and bold expression that I always craved. With the balance between these extremes in mind, I set out to learn the tools to heal, strengthen, and thrive inside and out. I completed a 200 hour teacher training with Ana Forrest in May, 2013. Now fueled by heat and energy harvested from deep within, I am itching to share the tools for exploring this exciting new balance.

My first class in Forrest yoga and my first class alone—I ended up being the only student. I've been one of two before, but never the only one. And I always thought it would be amazing, but once confronted with the scenario, I was pretty intimidated. The instructor would only be watching me, eeks! But Rebecca was wonderful and calming—the attention to detail was amazing and nurturing. Short of my fear of tooting + knowing I couldn't pretend it was someone else, it was great! :) 
I do have to say this—Forrest yoga, pretty similar to Hatha only Rebecca did really have me focus on stretching and tailbone positioning to protect the spine. Not that Hatha wouldn't do that, but because Forrest was created by a woman, it takes into consideration the female body and how to adjust to it more (which again, I'm guessing most of my female instructors are too by default of their own bodies). But I believe the way Rebecca focused in on locations was a little different. Most obvious was the instruction  to let the head go. Triangle, reversed triangle, even coming up from a a laying position—let it go. It was a real nice release to let gravity open up the neck while I'm working on a balance pose. It also was an interesting way to change up the balance and activate the core more. 
Speaking of core, holy cow. The other part of Forrest is it activated a lot in me, I can't believe how much sweat poured out while holding these poses. I felt bad when I was adjusted—I was disgusting! But, thank goodness, I felt like I had completely detoxed by the end of class, and was grateful for the extra push Rebecca provided through each pose—through how long we held, through increasing the breath more, through the release of certain parts for a nice stretch, and through activating the core through pelvis/tail bone positioning. 
I don't feel like I know enough about Forrest yoga to really say what worked or not—or how it worked, but I'd like to take a couple more classes to see if I react the same way and know if it's really for me. It may intimidate someone as a very first class, because it asks a lot out of the body. But the beauty of it is you're in the pose longer to understand it more—which is priceless for a newbie.
Thank you for a wonderful experience, Rebecca, namaste.  

Tuesday, July 23

Water Yoga | Indian Acres Swim Club

What?! I can do yoga during the sweaty months of July and August in the water? For $5?!
Sign. Me. Up!

LOCATION: Indian Acres Swim Club is a family-oriented swim club in the Lincolnshire neighborhood with four pools of varying depths. Normally you would need a membership to go in, but they offer drop-in classes to non-members. Score!
STUDIO: An outdoor pool (the lap pool, so it's shallow + all at the same depth) with blue skies and greenery around the outer fence. Pretty great. I've hear at the earlier classes (I went to a 7pm class) it can be more rowdy with kids. Free parking. Cash only.     
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Aqua exercise has been a popular way of staying fit for years. Generally more low-impact than land-based aerobics, water classes have most of the fat-burning and endurance-building benefits that you get from other forms of aerobic activity. 
INSTRUCTOR: Jessica Nolen, a Champaign-Urbana native who works as a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Master Teacher and Practitioner. A University of Illinois graduate, she lived in Berkeley, Calif., and Hawaii before returning here. She is passionate about yoga practice and teaching — in home and at Green Yoga Spa in Urbana.
CONTACT: Indian Acres Swim Club

I so love getting to know more and more of the yoga community—recently my yoga gal pals introduced me to Jessica at the Yoga in the Park last weekend. And they told me she taught water yoga... hold the phone, I can do yoga in the pool? 

So you can imagine how excited I was tonight, to try water yoga. When you arrive it is a bit awkward—it's late enough in the day there is no one at the front to check you in. There isn't a waiver form—and if Jessica didn't happen to be in front of me when wandered through the ladies room to get to the pool I would have probably just left and gone home. But don't! Look for an instructor grabbing a pile of pool noodles and laying out her mat (she stays out of the pool). Then, if you're not a member, you give your money to the instructor and hop on in the pool! 

Jessica started us up with a little bit of warming up—swaying in the water, kicking our legs up in the back, moving the water around with our arms. Then it was like a regular yoga class (short of laying down on our mat... or a mat at all, for that matter). We did warrior one into warrior three. We moved in and out of goddess pose + dancer pose. 
Goddess Pose
Dancer Pose

Then we took our practice to the pool edge for some more warrior poses into triangle. It was amazing working through all these balancing poses and being challenged by the movement of the water! You couldn't help but giggle a little bit and then go back into some major drishti work (the practice of drishti is a gazing technique that develops concentration). We still ended in savasana, floating around on a noodle in complete bliss. I cannot wait to go back for more classes. What a wonderful way to experience a gentle class. 

Jessica, thank you so much for a lovely experience. Namaste.

If you want to learn more about Jessica and (bonus!) support her effort to win a yoga teacher training scholarship, please go to this link and like/share. I'll be honest, I think it's unfortunate that the studio offering this scholarship is basing it on popularity of your facebook post—but I also want to support Jessica + see her win this because she really does deserve it. *heart*

Saturday, July 20

Yoga in the Park | Urbana, IL

Ever since I went to my first Yoga in the Park in Des Moines, IA I have wished Champaign-Urbana would do the same thing—and my wish came true! But, as summer goes, my weekends kept booking up, so when I found out my friend and instructor from Living Yoga Center was teaching this Saturday AND I was free—pure excitement!

LOCATION: Meadowbrook Park is probably one of my favorite places in Champaign-Urbana—it's a sculpture park in Urbana with paved paths, community gardens, and regular deer sightings. When you need some quiet time, but can't get too far away—the perfect little walk there will bring you back to you. 
STUDIO: Blue skies, rolling clouds, green grass, and a beautiful prairie behind the instructor. Can't argue that!   
CLASS DESCRIPTION: The Urbana Park District invites you, your friends and family to spend a relaxing and rewarding Saturday morning participating in a free weekly yoga session at Meadowbrook Park. Conducted on an open lawn overlooking beautiful Meadowbrook Prairie, this is an ideal environment to relieve stress, achieve a sense of calm, and enjoy a great workout! No prior yoga experience is necessary, all ages and abilities welcome! 
INSTRUCTOR: Jodi Adams, RYT, has been practicing yoga since 1991.  Jodi believes in the restorative benefits of yoga.  No matter one’s age or flexibility, she offers a practice to awaken strength, balance, and a mind/body connection.  Yoga has served Jodi well through adversity and times of stress, and she is ultimately inspired to empower others to tap into their own inner strength, to find their voice, their breath, and their true Self.
CONTACT: Yoga in the Park—Urbana Park District

What a beautiful way to start a weekend! Before I go into the practice, here is a little list of things to bring with you to any outside practice: your mat, a beach towel, bug spray, sunglasses, and water. 

OK! Jodi chose a gentle, cooling practice for our somewhat muggy morning.We stayed close to the mat for over half the practice (bug spray!), and just as we go into our first downward dog—rain! It was amazing. Although I questioned whether the rain would be dangerous on a mat (beach towel!), to go through the sun salutation with your face pointing toward the sky, rain pouring down. Incredible. 

Then, once the rain stopped, the locust starting chatting... One fella started chatting so loud, I felt like I was zapped into a scene from Trainspotting or a rave or something... seriously, techno music was inspired by locust. Hands down. Listen next time, you'll want to grab your nearest glow bracelet and baggy clothes to start dancing your ass off. 

So—as you can tell, I wasn't necessarily focused on just my yoga. But it was part of the beauty of the practice, to be honest. Peeking over at my friend's mat with two pools of water where her hands and feet would go—made me smile. The kids laughing hysterically at the park—made me smile. All while being led in a beautiful practice by my friend—made me smile. I am very grateful for this Saturday morning. 

After our sun salutations we went into a warrior sequence on both sides, followed by balancing into warrior 3. I love balancing poses during outside practices—with the uneven ground and occasionally a breeze—you really learn  about what to activate and be strong. You're a tree! After a little bit of heat, Jodi cooled us down again. We did some hip openers, a little core work, and of course savasana. A little bit of everything—it was great. 

Jodi is also a photographer, her current project in the making is asking people to write down their intentions after class (if they like) and matching them with her photos.  So every class starts with her encouraging people to find their intentions. Leading them through how they may find their intention. With my back and knee being in so much pain and keeping me from all forms of exercise—this has been a wonderful reminder to be patient. Patient with myself, patient with my ego, patient with my healing—patient with all the parts of my life that aren't exactly where I thought they'd be. Thanks to this reminder I've been able to slow down and appreciate what is present instead of always looking to the future. Thank you, Jodi. Namaste. 



Monday, July 8

Yoga with Elin | Venice, FL

I've been attempting to do yoga every day in July—ok, I actually was attempting to do it everyday in June. Then June became July... and it feels like July is quickly becoming August. Bleck! I've somehow slipped into this horrible habit where everything else is getting in the way of what I really want to be doing. So, I'm trying to break that habit with this one month challenge. I know I will keep trying, and small successes will just become the way of life again. But geesh... So! When I had the opportunity for some free yoga on the beach, you can bet your sandy bottom I was there.

LOCATION: I had to do a little more sleuthing (sometimes Facebook pages are more useful than websites) to get a specific address besides Venice Beach—type The Esplanade at Venice Beach into your GPS, and it will take you to a free parking lot just North of the corner of West Venice Ave + The Esplanade S.
STUDIO: Can you complain about the beach, a clear blue sky, and the gulf? Nope. But when you go to free community yoga classes like this or yoga in the park remember your mat/water/necessities for your yoga class, because there won't be any equipment or props. Since I was traveling and knew this was going to be on the beach, I just grabbed a beach towel. I would also recommend bug spray (hey, I can plug my mom's new business Poppy's—she's a distributor of a natural bug spray called No No-See-Um™), sun screen, and sunglasses.  
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Increase your energy and learn how to breathe as nature intended. Yoga classes with different levels to fit everyone’s abilities and needs—including beginners who have never practiced yoga before and students with disabilities. 
INSTRUCTOR: Elin, a certified yoga instructor who bring’s her unique style to Yoga with Elin – Venice Beach Florida, to share with all. Her goal is to provide an environment where people feel comfortable and safe to practice this amazing discipline.
CONTACT: Yoga with Elin | Facebook

This is a really nice set up for people curious about yoga. The first half hour is a really gentle yoga, then Elin breaks for a bit so people can pack up and leave if they choose to. The second half hour is a little bit more challenging, although still friendly to beginners. The moves, for the most part, were very basic with little instruction for adjustments. I say for the most part, because during the second half we did sun salutations that led into a balancing star pose (Extended Half Moon Pose or Utthita Ardha Chandrasana)... on the sand. Which takes balancing to a whole new level. I enjoyed the challenge (and giggle, for that matter), but would have been concerned about this pose with my grandmother (who I was trying to get to go to class with me, but opted to sleep in a bit longer). Overall, it was a nice way to start the day, as always! Namaste, Elin!

Friday, June 7

JP Centre Yoga | Boston, MA

After a really intense + inspiring conference at Dartmouth College (where there were absolutely no yoga studios in walking distance... sigh), I was able to catch a class in Boston the night before I flew back home!

LOCATION: A friend of mine lives in Jamaica Plains, so she drove me to the right spot. Street parking was packed near the studio, but down the road there were plenty of spots available. It was in the evening, so the meters weren't charging.
STUDIO: I think the studio is new—because there was absolutely no signage. Once inside the building still no signage, but a little sign near the stairs pointing upwards. On the top/third level is the studio. Great entrance, great lounge area, cute little changing rooms, large/bright practice spaces, and a sweet kitchen in the back with water and hot tea. They take credit cards. Mats are rented at $3 each. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Deep Stretch: This class is designed to stretch the muscle and fascial tissue with the aim of improving circulation and range of motion within the joints. Beginning with stretches to warm the body, the class will progress into a series of postures that stretch the hips, back, neck/shoulders, chest and legs. More attention will be placed on muscular release than on strength building.
INSTRUCTOR: Brenna Matthews has always had the understanding that everything is connected. When she started practicing asana and meditation regularly, she felt herself truly wake up physically and mentally. She teaches because she wants the world to be a more loving place and thinks it can start by more people looking within. She is ever grateful for the many teachers she has had throughout this journey, most significantly Ame Wren, Schuyler Grant, and her rescue dog Fey who has shown her the meaning of trust and unconditional love.
CONTACT: JP Centre Yoga

Though it was difficult to find with it's lack of signage—once inside—this space and the people working there are so nice! I love the simple yet urban way the space was designed. The layout is roomy and refreshing. The class was exactly what I needed after my week of travel and still a couple flights ahead of me.

Brenna described the class as a sort of yin style of yoga—where we would hold the poses for longer to get the deeper stretch. We barely left our mats short of one downward dog, and just soothingly moved from pose to pose. Brenna style of teaching was gentle with a few details to get us in the stretch. Often there was a gentle reminder to adjust and get further into the pose.

It really was rejuvenating class that was well overdue for this girl. My only complaint was I couldn't hear Brenna at certain points, so I would recommend sitting closer to the front of her class. So grateful for this evening of yoga.

Community board in the foyer was where you kick off your shoes
Love the huge orange door to the lounge

Saturday, May 18

Lululemon at Keystone Crossing | Indianapolis, IN

Well this was a new experience. And yes, yoga in a mall before it opens is new. But what I didn't see coming was my lacking desire to do yoga today. Today was my first half-assed yoga class. So please take this review in stride, as I strangely didn't want to be there, and of course that will influence my perspective.

LOCATION: It was easy to get to the mall, but if you've never been here what door do you go to? The first one I tried was locked, the second one wasn't but was on the opposite side of the mall. Sigh. Park by the Cheese Cake Factory + Starbucks, using that same entrance. Parking is free!  
STUDIO: It's a Lululemon store—long narrow room with clothing racking of drool-worthy yoga clothing/gear pushed to the side. We faced the back of the store to avoid the distraction of mall-walking glory, I assume.
CLASS DESCRIPTION: I was under the assumption that these were beginning classes that would introduce you to instructors at different studios surrounding said Lululemon location. Similar to the places who have a Yoga in the Park program in place (which I love + you should take advantage of if you live near one). This class felt a bit more advanced.
INSTRUCTOR: James Jafari, after decades of practicing a variety of eastern arts found Yoga, during an extremely stressful period in his life. Yoga has provided him a way to find inner calm as well as blissful freedom from pain due to chronic injuries, received during years of participation in competitive athletics. James is a dedicated student of Yoga and in 2012, received his 200 hour certification from Cityoga under the instruction of Nikki Myers and Marsha Pappas. James brings his knowledge of the human body gained from his years (since 2000) as a full time, self employed, and Nationally Certified, Therapeutic Body Worker/Massage Therapist. James strives to serve students through an alignment based Yoga practice that is designed to deepen their body awareness, build strength, increase flexibility, strengthen focus and coordination, while maintaining poise and grace.
CONTACT: Lululemon's Facebook Page at this location

So yeah, I so didn't want to be at this class, but I shuffled in and set up in the back of the practice space. This was the first time "yoga voice" sorta bothered me. Have you ever had a friend who is a radio DJ and has his/her radio voice and then their regular voice? Yoga instructors do it too, but it's much more soothing, and less artificial... for the most part. Today, the voice was a bit too motivational speaker for me. It took some getting use to. See, judgmental smurf in attendance today, sorry.

James walked us through a really nice practice—it looks like he only teaches hot yoga at CityYoga, which I'm not a fan of, so that could be the third off-putting part of my morning (wait, what was the first? oh yeah, running all over a mall to find the store). It was a really great reminder of just staying open to the process of going to a new space with a new instructor. Also, a lesson on respecting your body's wishes. Half-assed at least gets me an hour of good breathing and focus on myself, so it's never wasted. But maybe I should have sought out a more meditative class.

He did encourage us to attempt a series of poses I couldn't (wouldn't?) do—but wanted to share as a wonderful goal for future practices. Marichyasana (there's great sequence photos here, starting with this photo—which is where we started):

But then we were encouraged to take it from sitting to balancing:

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It was beautiful to see James execute it, but I was not up for the challenge today (oh really? who would have guessed that?!). So I observed, in awe of those trying.

James did do a great job of walking around the room adjusting all of us. Though there was rarely alternate poses for those at different levels, but his verbal instructions were articulate. I always appreciate new ways to hear instructions.

At the end of the day, the fact that Lululemon offers up free yoga classes in their communities is pretty great (even if it is a bit of a marketing ploy). And the opportunity to try new instructors in a neutral location for free is pretty appealing too. So, despite my Eyore attitude (ohhhhh dear), I would recommend trying these classes to learn more about your yoga community!

The entrance you want!

Monday, April 22

Sanctuary | Nashville, TN

We're spending our weekend in Nashville, TN with some rugby friends—rented a gorgeous house that we highly recommend. Last night was a night down on the strip hopping from music venue to music venue, always coming back to Legends Corner (definitely the best music of the night). Needless to say, I needed to balance that out a bit today and am opting for a something to sweat out the evening before. Something to fire me up and wake up the senses. Vinyasa Flow!

LOCATION: The drive from our rental was gorgeous, just around the edges of Nashville through beautiful rolling countryside homes. I'm really starting to love Tennessee and can see myself making this drive as a daily to do, for sure. Waze did it's normal job of greatness, but I do have to say, the ginormous Sanctuary Yoga sign did the trick when I came into a business-ish district and wasn't sure what would come. Free + plentiful parking.  
STUDIO: The inside was clean and modern with what I believe was an overall tone of pale purple on the walls—soothing like lavender. The front desk and merch area greeted you at the entrance. Once you walk through the hallway there are lovely changing rooms to the left and two studio spaces to the right, further back were standard public bathrooms updated with beautiful fixtures. Overall pleasing to the senses while still staying professional. $15 drop-in, credit cards accepted.
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Vinyasa Flow is Sanctuary's offering of a flowing style of yoga that seamlessly moves through the poses one breath at a time. Classes incorporate an intentional and creative blend of sun salutations and other namaskars with a full range of poses sequenced in a way that provides the foundation to cultivate inner and outer alignment, strength and flexibility, stamina and grace. Music is selected for each class that perfectly complements the flow. Join us to grow stronger, connect with your breath, and open your body, mind and heart. 
INSTRUCTOR: Laurel Walsh first discovered yoga after looking for an alternative way to manage back pain. Subsequently yoga became her physical therapy after undergoing lower back surgery. She soon realized that her practice had become a significant part of her daily life. Yoga provided Laurel with a sense of freedom not only physically but also a freedom in her mind and spirit.
CONTACT: Sanctuary

I knew I was signing myself up to sweat, but apparently (as the instructor informed me later) I chose the "sauna" section of the room. Bring. It. On. I haven't challenged myself in yoga for a really long time, and the pent up negative energy from all of life really caving in on me needed to come out... in tears, sweat, and breath. I was ready.

The flow class wasn't as vigorous as  other flow classes I've been to, possibly because it was level 1. I say this in a wonderful way, because I'm not normally attracted to flow classes, this one landed between my regular choices and a flow—just enough to kick up the heat, but not scare me off after being away from mat for so long. It was perfect.

I appreciated Laurel's direction in class from reading her bio, I felt she was protecting our backs at every step through verbal cues. There was little, if any, adjustments—but the sequence was very familiar and possibly didn't need as many adjustments in her class. Always hard for me to tell when I'm visiting new classes.

I was really excited because I did a new pose today—nothing difficult, but I was surprised I had never come across rabbit pose (sasangasana) before. Worthy of a picture of someone else so we can all share in the rabbit experience. This is what we were instructed into...

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This is what it eventually looks like, I believe (please feel free to correct me, if you know more about this): 

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She warmed us up with dolphin pose to prep for head stand. If we felt like we could try to go into headstand we could move to the wall, but no one needed to do it. Two of us went to the wall on the first try... a couple more on the second try. On the first round I went into the nicest headstand I've ever done. I should clarify, this isn't me bragging about how awesome I am. This was a much needed moment for my body + mind to remind me, "You're strong, you're balanced, you're focused... and you can handle this." Yoga has a beautiful way of humbling you when your ego is way too big and encouraging you when you feel oh so small. I needed the reminder today, and was incredibly grateful for it.

Before the second round of headstand Laurel did a quick demo of where the strength comes from—she floated only halfway up and just held it there. Explaining that before you go up into the headstand you inch your feet towards your face and at some point the weight shifts and your legs just want to go up. It's true! Or at least it was a great verbal cue for me to use for activating the right muscles.

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After a couple headstands it was time to cool down—where did the time go? Laurel walked around placing eye pillows on those who wanted one (sign me up!) and quietly my body thanked me for a much needed weekend—of not only flow yoga but quality time with friends in a beautiful part of Nashville, TN.