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?

Sunday, March 24

Yoga on High | Columbus, OH

On our drive back from North Carolina we stopped about halfway in Columbus, OH to visit with a high school buddy of Jafe's. The next morning I decided to check out one more class before I accept that our vacation is over.

LOCATION: Waze navigated me to an adorable part of downtown Columbus, OH. Yoga on High is located in a decent size brick building on a corner with free parking.     
STUDIO: When you get to the front door, the person at check-in buzzes you in. The entry is huge with lots of merchandise, cubbies, and places to hang your coat. Most yoga props are in the practice space, but the mats are actually at the front desk where you check-in ($15, I paid cash, but they do accept credit cards). I was one of first to enter the space where I discovered it was a heated room. There is at least two practice spaces down the hallway, and beyond that is large bathrooms like you'd find in a public building. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Mysore Yoga | Mixed Level 1 + 2 | Ashtanga Drop-in: This class is open to all levels of ashtangis. Brand new beginners through experience students practice side by side at their own pace, each receiving individual instruction and hands-on adjustments. Use this class to memroize the sequence of poses in your series and to move toward an independent practice supported by the energy of the class. This class format is the traditional method of learning Ashtanga yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India.
INSTRUCTOR: Taylor Hunt has been a devoted student of Ashtanga yoga since 2006. He was first introduced to yoga by a persistent friend who encouraged him to attend a class. Although his first experience was met with resistance, he was inspired to come back again. While lying in savasana after his second class, he felt a sense of comfort and ease unlike anything he had experienced before. Since that day, Taylor has maintained a daily Ashtanga practice and committed himself to the study of classical yogic texts including the Sutras, Vedic chanting, Indian philosophy, and Sanskrit. In 2009, Taylor felt the calling to share his love of yoga with others and completed the 200 hour teacher training program through Yoga on High.
CONTACT: Yoga on High

I had no idea what I was getting into, but the class was scheduled for three hours and that alone intrigued me. When I walked into the practice space to discover a heated room, I wasn't too happy. I don't like hot yoga or Bikram yoga—it scares me a bit. Not because it's challenging, but more so because it warms up the body so much I'm worried I'll injure myself not realizing I've gone past my edge. But I was here and I was going to do my best to stay open to the experience.

Taylor introduced himself immediately and was very patient with me explaining the process. Basically it was an open class for yogis to practice the Mysore sequence without instruction to create a meditative state. But Taylor would give me a couple instructions, practice it with me once, and then walk off to let me do a set. The first two were Surya Namaskar A + Surya Namaskar B—five to eight times each with some serious Ujjayi breathers reminding me to activate my own. At some point all of us came together to chant, which I didn't know, so I om'd and listened. It was beautiful.

Once I was warmed up (aka sweating my ass off) Taylor and another instructor in the room taught me the first six standing poses. At this point the room is now packed, and the yoga that is happening is truly breathtaking. The woman next to be floated into her positions—and when I say floated, I don't mean she was graceful. If you're not familiar with this reference, take a moment to watch this:

OK, I did not do that, and that's alright—I did however enjoyed peaking over at my neighbor to watch her do some of this.

After I practiced my first six steps maybe three times my instructors had me go into savasana, both of them congratulating me on my first class and comforting me in saying they didn't want to overwork me so I'd be excited to come back next week. I wasn't really discouraged with my level of yoga—I was easily the "worst" practitioner in the room, but I know where I am in my practice and quite comfortable with it. But that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate the kindness given to encourage me to return.

I would definitely not recommend this to a newcomer. It says all levels welcome—but no way. I almost wondered if it was appropriate if I was there after a few years of practicing. In the end, I'm glad I did go, because you have to start somewhere and this was a lovely space to do just that. 

Thank you Yoga on High and Taylor! Namaste.

Quick snapshot inside the studio


I liked the painting behind the check-in desk

Lovely pictures in the hallway

Discovered these two adorable elephants on my drive home :)

Wednesday, March 20

West Asheville Yoga | Asheville NC

We managed to make it back early enough from the Smoky Mountains for me to catch a much needed gentle yoga class.

LOCATION: Used Waze for my trusty GPS system to navigate me to West Asheville which was only a 15-20 minute drive from our rental. West Asheville was described as the art district in my bazillion handouts, but at night I didn't feel completely safe walking around on my own. Luckily there was free parking right in front of the studio.    
STUDIO: Upon arrival I went to open the door to find it locked and then saw the sign that said the door is locked during classes and will open 10-15 minutes before the next class. On one hand, I liked that the door was locked through class, so no one interrupted and all ours stuff was safe at the front—on the other hand, it was chilly and waiting outside in a less than comfortable area of town wasn't my favorite thing to do. But the studio front is adorable and comforting (including a poster for our instructor from yesterday). Once inside I fell in love with the simplicity and frugality of the space. The front area was curtained off with cubbies for you belongings and a little check-in area. Class was on a sliding scale which I paid the full $12 in cash. Once in the practice area it was open, wood floors, free props in the back to the right, and a curtained off space with a sink and a bathroom to the left. One of the side walls, which I wish I took a picture of was a large white om on a white wall. It was such a subtle and beautiful addition to the room. The regulars were super friendly and we all chatted a bit before class started.
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Gentle Yoga is a very basic yoga class which focuses on the relaxation aspect of your practices. This class is great for someone wanting to de-stress, who is recovering from an injury or trauma, or who is very new to yoga.
INSTRUCTOR: Jacci Lea began yoga in New Orleans as a way to help with some back pain. Nearly 15 years later she still practices yoga. After many years of studying Iyengar yoga she now combines the techniques and alignment of that style with flow yoga. She taught classes for several years at Wild Lotus Yoga in New Oreleans before moving to Asheville—just a week before Katrina. Jacci received her yoga teaching training at Living Yoga in Austin, TX. Outside of the yoga studio Jacci has worked as a medical technologist for 25 years.
CONTACT: West Asheville Yoga

Jacci started off the class burning quite a bit of incense—mentioning that if it was too much to let us know. It took a little getting use to, but after awhile I completely forgot about it. The space was a bit warmer than usual, I assume because we were doing a gentle class. I found it all very cozy. Jacci spent a lot of time having us wake up the joints—shaking everything out even. We did a lot of nice core work from our backs (variations of drawing circles with your feet in the air). We took our time doing twists (a wonderful theme to my series of classes this week, which was much needed for this stressed out yogi). Jacci walked around doing adjustments, giving personal encouragement to each person, and as I've learned comes hand-in-hand with Iyengar, lots of detailed verbal queues (which I really enjoy).

We did a lot of openers that led us to ananda balasana (aka happy baby, wind releasing pose, and dead bug). I'm pausing here for my own tracking, because it was the first time—with some assistance from Jacci—I was able to reach my knee back to the ground. This gave me even more appreciation for having the opportunity to hike all day and end with a gentle class. My hips were very happy. Jacci was great with offering numerous options for each pose depending on your level. I haven't seen that in a while, so it also was appreciated.

We ended in a glorious savasana that was a beautiful finale to my yoga classes in Western North Carolina. Thank you so much West Asheville Yoga and Jacci! Namaste.

More from the front of the studio

Check in area

Practice space

Free props

Had to get a pic of the periodic table of yoga poses :)

Tuesday, March 19

Lighten Up Yoga | Asheville, NC

This afternoon was about exploring Asheville a little more—starting with yoga, grabbing something to eat at Chai Pani, and catching a show at The Grey Eagle. I was pretty excited for our first evening out as we've been doing a lot of daytime stuff and getting back to our rental pretty early. And, as I had missed the morning class I planned, I decided to take the opportunity to check out the studio our hosts had recommended (ps we highly recommend renting their apartment, if you're ever in the Asheville area—for more info see the link above).

LOCATION: We were on foot today, and as our first stop in Asheville was at the French Broad Food Coop which is two doors down from this yoga studio, we were already familiar with where we were going. But, next week they're moving to a new location so I guess this review will be more about instruction than space today. They did say they're working on getting some free parking at the new space, which seemed to be a big deal to the regulars, understandably.   
STUDIO: The inside is another one of those buildings that make you question if you're in the right place, because it's all offices and official looking hallways. Once we went upstairs the door was locked, but a key was hanging off the door. I didn't feel comfortable using it, but I guess I should have because it actually got us into the bathrooms down the hall that we needed to change. Once you enter there is a check-in area and some merch. Then you do a 180 and walk down a small hallway towards the free props. At this point it opens up to a small, carpeted studio with a wall of windows letting in gorgeous light and a yoga wall (every once in a while I see these walls (in Iyengar-based studios), but have yet had the chance to use them—some day, I hope!). $15 drop-in. Credit cards accepted.
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Yoga Secrets for Back Pain (I believe this was another series class, but there's no indication of it on the website this time—I double-checked. I'm done feeling bad for crashing series classes, now that I'm sure to check class descriptions and the calendar). Learn how to promote a balance of strength and flexibility for most types of join aches; back pain, hip pain, and shoulder, knee or neck pain. Simple time-tested yoga postures will be offered along with a therapeutic understanding of how to apply your yoga poses to create the greatest freedom and ease. Please no baggy pants (oops, just reading that one).
INSTRUCTOR: Meghan Ganser has been practicing yoga since 2000, and entered her first teacher training at Dhyana Yoga in Philadelphia, PA with Marni Sclaroff (Jivamukti) and Dhyana D'Amato (Kundalini) in 2005. She began teaching immediately at DY, feeling the "rightness" of studying yoga. She has studied Iyengar with Joan White, and began her studies in Anusara in 2007, when she moved to Asheville. Meghan admires the teaching of Anusara, and is thankful for Joe and Dierdre, her teachers, and the community of practitioners. This gratitude continues to open her to the recognition of just how special yoga really is, and how sweet it is to be able to practice together. Meghan marries specific alignment instruction with uplifting themes, and a vinyasa style of teaching. She intends to support, challenge, and educate you to stay safe, so you can practice for a long time!
CONTACT: Lighten Up Yoga 

OK, I'm going to put my ridiculousness out there from the get go—this was my first class with Jafe where I was completely insecure because our yoga instructor was hot. There, I said it. It's silly, it's embarrassing, and it's human. I had to laugh it off (which I did, of course) and focus a little harder. Ahhhh the distractions life tests you with.

So apparently this was the 6th class out of 8 in the series, with today's focus being on more of the gentle restoration poses you can do with back issues (score!). Jafe and I both have back issues, Jafe's are much more serious than mine—so I was excited to pick up some instruction we could do at home. We used the eggs today, instead of blocks, which I'm not sure why but was happy to play with them. (Totally played with my eggs, lol.) We did some twists and core strengthening work, and Meghan had us using the wall for support in our standing poses. Regularly she would have us stop and poke at our muscles to see if they were activated. Sounds funny, but this was the first time I realized that I regularly activated a different muscle than intended... or I have no quads. Maybe they're just well padded quads. Maybe I don't have quads at all!? No, that can't be it. Anyway, I digress. It was a great eye-opener for me, so thank you Meghan. She also walked around constantly adjusting us—which I loved and her verbal queues were so precise. Jafe actually pointed this out mentioning how much she talked us through the details. I don't think he was a fan of it, but I love it. Verbal queues seem to be even more detailed in Iyengar-style classes that speak well to my body type. I imagine this can't work for everyone because there are so many different shapes of people—and they really are specific in foot placement or angles. We didn't end with savasana on our backs, in face we did a supported twist over a bolster on both sides, and that was pretty much our cool down, if I remember correctly.

Overall, I really enjoyed the class, but if you're looking for more laid back type of class Iyengar may not be for you. I will always recommend checking out a style for yourself at least once or twice, but it helps to know what you're walking into a little too.

Thank you Lighten Up Yoga  + Meghan—really enjoyed your class before walking all over downtown! Namaste.

Business like hallway softens with pictures of yoga

The yoga wall I mentioned

The menu board at Chai Pani :)

Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside + Thao and the Get Down Stay Downs birthday show!

Monday, March 18

Brightwater Yoga | Hendersonville, NC

It was a rough day, friends. First off, I got us going the wrong direction for our hike to Looking Glass Rock—a really wrong direction where I discovered my full-on-panic-attack fear of heights in a car. Jafe was a saint as he navigated some gravel road on the edge of a mountain while his passenger had a complete meltdown. And then to discover we went the complete opposite direction we were suppose to... Sigh. We were finally rewarded by a beautiful, foggy hike in Pisgah National Forest to Looking Glass Rock... but yoga was the only thing that would bring me back to some sort of rational thinking. It's hard to discover new weaknesses in yourself.

LOCATION: Waze is my go to for GPS. They were doing construction in charming downtown Hendersonville which also involved some one-way streets. I just trusted Waze and somehow managed to see the sign on the side of the wall saying "yoga." Parking on the street was free.   
STUDIO: This upstairs studio was warm and cozy, like home. The entry way at the top of the old wooden stairs was even decorated like a little parlor. The whole place smelled like the bakery downstairs, which I believe had just started a batch of cookies. Yum! In a through hallway was the check-in desk and some cubbies for your stuff. Your first class is free, but from what I could gather drop-in was cash only and $15. OK, just checked the site—you can pay online before class or pay by cash or check in the studio. When I was paying did I then realize that this was a series class. I would feel bad, but advice to yoga studios... If you don't place dates next to your class, no one will know it's a series class. Even though I feel you welcome me and others openly, it would make things less awkward for the student to have this information before walking in. Once inside the practice space I was greeted by super friendly yogis. This space was big—beautiful wood floors, huge windows, ceiling fans to move that cookie dough scent around—this was good. Inside the practice space was a closet of free props.
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Yoga Basics: This is an 8-week series (oy... class description defines the series, my bad... I only looked at the calendar. Sheepish apologies.) that will introduce students to all Level One asanas (postures) including: standing and seated poses, simple backbends, arm balances, and preps for inversions. This class is designed especially for beginners in relatively good physical condition. Each week will build upon the previous week's lesson.
INSTRUCTOR: Vicki Beilharz (E-RYT500 - RYT500) has been practicing and teaching yoga since 1992. Vicki took her first yoga class one month after undergoing double knee surgery and quickly became an enthusiastic student after experiencing positive results. She continued practicing and teach the Iyengar Method for the next six years and near the end of that time she met John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga. Vicki was intrigued with this style of hatha yoga because of its uplifting philosophy. She became a dedicated student and, in 2003, a certified Anusara Yoga teacher. 
CONTACT: Brightwater Yoga

I regret not taking a basic yoga series class. I'm still considering doing so, to be honest, because to take the time to really discuss how the body should float into these poses is so rewarding. Every time I crash someone's series class I walk away so much more in touch with my yoga. I highly recommend finding a beginner's series in your area.

Vicki started the class talking about a show she had watched about the Amish. One man was interviewed and said something along the lines of not knowing why they did what they did. It was just tradition and you followed it. So much so that their original book they could reference was in German, and none of them knew German. You can see the connection forming to Americans in yoga, right? Vicki wanted us to know to take the time to not only get into the pose, but explain why we do. I knew I was in for a treat.

As we went into our seated position Vicki guided us with a beautiful visual—like Mother Earth we must grow our roots first. I've always thought of it as opposite directions stretching out the spine—which is true, but I like starting out with thinking only of my foundation. We did our three oms and started focusing on breathing. At this point Vicki talked about the male and female side of the brain—which we all have. And how if you breathe out strongly in one nostril that means one half is the acting way of thought. If out the left nostril, your female tendencies are strong—nurturing, rest, repair (the moon). If out the right, your male tendencies are strong—tap into a more energetic part of the brain (the sun). She said this actually alternates ever 1.5-2 hours.

We then went into today's focus, twists! Hallelujah! Before this vacation I had been working a minimum of 12 hours, 6 days a week, for over a month. I was sitting in front of computer a lot, I was stressed out, I wasn't going to yoga, and I was eating like crap. As a result, I'm now with stress baby. Every winter I put on probably 10-15 lbs, evenly throughout my body. I've come to finally recognize it as a seasonal thing and to not get worked up over it. But this winter, thanks to the stress, I gained it all in my belly. My stress baby... feel free to suggest names. :) So I knew twists would be a beautiful solution (and actually was a focus in all our classes, so the world knew I needed to twist myself out). We did seated twists, table top twists, lunge twists, standing twists, standing with a chair twist, back to seated twists, and ending with twists while on our backs. Glorious!

More wisdom from Vicki as we paused before the chair twists: You can get the same result different ways. Like with training a horse—you can dangle a carrot in from of her or you can whip her. Either way it will be hard work and eventually they'll move, but the repercussions of one method builds fear, pain, and injury of some sort. Vicki was in favor of dangling some carrots in front of us (thank you!). She walked around giving adjustments to everyone—at least twice, if not more. Lots of verbal queues and personal encouragement to students who adjusted correctly on their own. Vicki called out poses in sanskrit (which I love—to learn and to be humbled that I don't know a lot after three years). Vicki was an amazing teacher for me, so much so that if I moved to Western NC I'm pretty sure this would be my "home" studio. A gorgeous class, with out a doubt. Thank you Brightwater Yoga + Vicki.


Stairway to Cozy Entrance

Big Beautiful Practice Space

Sunday, March 17

Black Mountain Yoga | Black Mountain, NC

Finally! Finally am I reviewing a new studio again (or actually reviewing myself in a new studio)! Finally am I back on the mat! Finally am I on vacation! Finally!

LOCATION: Waze is my go to for GPS, and it worked like a charm even in the mountains. This location is in the super cute downtown area of Black Mountain, NC. Easy to find—especially with a group of people doing taiji in the front lawn on this beautiful day. Free parking.  
STUDIO: Small, clean, and organized. The studio entry has a front desk for check-in, some cubbies to leave your stuff, and a little wall of merch with nice yoga apparel on sale. Once you check in you can walk through the studio to change in the dressing room on the other side or use the bathroom on the opposite side also. Free props are provided on that same wall across the room. The practice space itself had nice natural lights from windows higher up (this is nice for those of us who are easily distracted by things happening outside). $12 drop-in, credit cards accepted.
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Yoga for Everyone | All Levels | 60 min: Yoga for Everyone is a class tailored to the students in the class with fun, challenging and non-harmful edges by offering personalized modifications. Each class opens with breath work and a flow practice followed by a series of consistently flowing poses designed to support the pinnacle pose of the day ending with a floor poses and a deep savasana. This class is open to ALL levels and beginners are welcome.
INSTRUCTOR: Heather Wallace received her 200-hr yoga training in Subtle Yoga®, which emphasizes breath and body. Heather, RYT, is a certified yoga teacher and Let Your Yoga Dance® instructor. Heather is committed to helping people fall in love—with their selves! Her driving goal in all endeavors is to help people realize how amazing and beautiful they are. Heather recognizes that movement is a powerful healing tool for the body, mind, and spirit—and therefore receives great pleasure in sharing her love of movement, through yoga and dance, with others. 
CONTACT: Black Mountain Yoga

I chose a lot of gentle classes this vacation for a couple of reasons. One, I would have my partner with me, so I was opting for beginner classes and also looking for ways for us to relax after a very stressful couple of months for us in our careers. Two, because I knew we'd be hiking a lot, and I wanted to balance that out with some calming poses for our bodies. But this morning we went ziplining at Wildwater—so some calming of the nerves was definitely needed for this girl!

We started on our backs with twists. Here we would actually start in the twist and roll out of it dynamically to open up the joints and then twist on the other side. This was a beautiful way to warm up the body. We moved into table top position where we did some balancing poses that worked the core, and then a few standing poses before getting back to seated and ending with savasana. Oh savasana—my partner has a tendency to fall asleep the second the eye pillow is placed. This class was no exception. As I relaxed into savasana I heard someone doing what I thought was cleansing breaths... until I realized it was Jafe. Uh oh. Normally I would take this as a challenge to focus beyond outside noises, and honestly, I tried that, but when he worked up into a full on snore that was so loud he woke himself up it took all my focus to not giggle. Once we were instructed to roll to our sides, Jafe and I happened to be facing one another. He looked at me and mouthed "was I snoring?" Oh how I wanted to giggle even more. No baby, I'm quite sure you were inhaling the entire building. We joked about it after class, but what was a great lesson here was watching him gracefully let it go. He felt bad for a second, but we were on vacation and there were other things to explore... fully rested.

There were no adjustments from Heather, only basic verbal queues. This class was pretty straight forward, so it didn't seem like adjustments were necessary. I'd highly recommend it for first timers of any age. Thank you Black Mountain Yoga and Heather, for a lovely introduction to the area's yoga!


Check-in and Merch

Inside Studio Looking towards Check-in

Cubbies for Schtuff

Dressing Area in the Back

Studio Looking towards Instructor

Bathroom/Dressing Room through Curtains + Props