Archive for August, 2009

Day 38 Santa Cruz-One Yoga-Mark Stephens

Veterans Memorial Santa Cruz

Veterans Memorial Santa Cruz

Now, that’s what these power-cravin’, sweat lovin’, YoYo’s are talkin’ about!  Tonight, on our last HOO-RAH, in this wacky beach town of Santa Cruz, we followed the zillion yoga mats runnin’ to  One Yoga, vibrantly living in the 1932 Veterans Memorial Building smack in the middle of fun & funky downtown.  Beautiful, white and old… the YoYo’s ran up the antique steps to find a ginormous space with massive beamed ceiling, gorgeous antique casement windows and expansive fir floors.  The activity level was “off the charts” as yogis of every age, size, and level of ability gathered with pre-rock concert noise and enthusiasm.

Mark Stephens

Mark Stephens

The YoYo’s scrambled to find an elusive 6’X 2’ space in the midst of 60+ yogis who came to challenge every inch of their mind and body as master teacher, Mark Stephens, recipient of the 1st Karma Yoga Award from Yoga Journal and soon to be published author of “The Art and Science of Teaching Yoga”, opened the class with an earth shakin’ “OM”.  Failin’ to stay in the yogi moment, the YoYo’s couldn’t help but imagine every yogi in this high energy class wearing a super-cool “Om BIG” Tee,  from Seattle based company “Be Truly You.”

One Yoga Santa Cruz

One Yoga Santa Cruz

Sweatin’, and workin’ every inch of our cravin’ to be tested YoYo bodies, we got just what we came for … and more, in this nearly 2 hour vinyasa flow class.  The YoYo’s loved the skilled adjustments, helpful assistants, awesome music and the magical way this experienced teacher masterfully taught to every level in this joyus, high energy class.

San Gregorio Beach

San Gregorio Beach

Powered up and ready to rumble, the yoyoy-in’, YoYo’s knew their next stop was 3 hours UP the coast to Marin County.   Jumpin’ in the YoYo mobile,  we oooohhhh’d and ahhhhhh’d all the way up to San Francisco wonderin’ why these jaw-droppin’ beaches on the Central California Coast were completely void of humanity.  Quiet, serene and beautiful…if we hadn’t just had our YoYo butts kicked, we would have thrown down the Manduka and had one heck of a… practice in paradise!


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Day 39 SF-Spirit Rock-Janice Gates

Fairfax California

Fairfax California

Driving north from San Francisco, the YoYo’s headed west at Marin County, uncovering a super-surprising rural area laced with a string of miniature, but totally hip, hidden towns. Here, the peeps on the small streets were alive… eatin’, drinkin,’ shoppin’ and just hangin’ at the plethora of organic clothing stores, organic ice cream shops, organic coffee houses, organic and some not so organic, filled to capacity restaurants.  It was here, in this quintessential California hilled area of Woodacre, ½ way between the hectic 101 Freeway and the calm shores of the Pacific Ocean that the renown Spirit Rock Meditation Center makes it home.

The chirpin’ birds singin’, big ol’ California oaks swayin’, and rollin’ hills topped with amber were wavin,’ as we headed to our 2+ hour class at this spiritual space.  Walkin’ around the serene grounds, the YoYo’s felt peace just permeating from this well-known center that attracts people from near and far to workshops and retreats given by some of the most sought after teachers and authors in the country.

Janice Gates

Janice Gates

Donald Rothberg

Donald Rothberg

Today, we were in the presence of two of those recognized guides as Janice Gates; yoga instructor, studio owner and author began the day by leading a total mind and body yoga practice followed by Donald Rothberg, program teacher and recognized authority on socially engaged spirituality, guided a soothing meditation and dharma talk on compassion, wisdom and courage. In YoYo speak, this chat was about takin’ your yoga off the mat and into the world!

Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Walkin’ the grounds after our peace-providin’ practices we came across a gate with a sign that read…Retreat Entrants Only… Always curious, we just had to know what lie ahead…

The permission askin’ YoYo’s were granted our request to go in…but only if we didn’t speak, or make eye contact with the week-long silent retreat participants.  Here, we took “one for the team” as we promised not to make a sound or look up as now, all we wanted to do was shoot the breeze and look straight into the eyes of any passerbyer.   While the idea of a silent retreat seemed bizarre to these always on the go-go YoYo’s, after a visit to this amazing place, surrounded by these remarkable people…the YoYo’s will one day soon, find their way back up this coast to dive deeper into the heart of Spirit Rock.

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Day 40 SF-Power of Yoga-Sherri Baptiste

Walt & Magana Baptiste

Walt & Magana Baptiste

When the YoYos got the invite from Sherri Baptiste to visit her class in the Bay Area, we were ecstatic at the improbable thought of being up close and personal with Sherri, daughter of the late Walt and still teaching, Magana, the legendary pioneers of Yoga in America. The YoYo’s can only imagine the changes that have taken place since this ground breakin’ couple opened their first yoga studio in San Francisco in the 1950’s.  We wonder what it must be like for the next generation of these trailblazers who masterfully carry on the family legacy, as they see a ba-zillion yogis walkin’ down city streets with mat on back; knowin’ it was their family who was momentous to the explosion of yoga in the U.S.!

Sherri Baptiste

Sherri Baptiste

We entered the state-of-the art, Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, one of the many Bay Area spaces where Sherri teaches over 300 students each week when not leading her international retreats.   Welcomed by “full of life”, “ball of energy” Sherri, the YoYo’s were immediately made to feel as if we were a vital part of this committed group of yogis who meet regularly to inhale the distinctive Baptiste style.

The YoYo’s valued today’s precise lesson in pranayama as Sherri continually used counted breath as a way to bring awareness to focused breathing, the fundamental premise of this energizing, one hour vinyasa flow. Persisting, we observed deep rhythmic, flowing oxygen as we practiced effortless transitions; learning that smoothly shifting from one pose to the next was vital to this signature practice.   And, there was more… as this “wealth of information” teacher guided this class through postures using blocks in unfamiliar ways, creating subtle shifts of alignment generating strong energy paths that opened the body while her graceful use of impactful words brought clarity to the heart.

Three Year-old Sherri

Three Year-old Sherri

Sayulito Retreat

Sayulito Retreat

There was so much to learn from Sherri who was introduced to yoga in the womb.  Don’t be surprised if you happen to see a YoYo or two hangin’ at some of her international retreats – after… this most excellent adventure!


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Day 41 SF-Turtle Island Yoga-Tony Briggs

Zen Yo Yo

Zen Yo Yo

When the over-zealous YoYo’s were sent an article from the Wall Street Journal, with a headline reading… “The YoYo Has Had Ups and Downs, But It’s Far From End of Its String”… we shouted “SCORE!

Bummed were we, when we actually read the article to discover it was about the other YoYo, not the kind that goes on “most excellent” yoga adventures.  Jealous of a plastic toy, we reluctantly scrutinized every word about the latest-greatest, “better than ever” plaything equipped with high-tech ball bearings that makes these puppies move at the speed of sound.

Our sour way of thinkin’ disappeared as we suddenly understood-we were one with our namesake- YoYo!  Ups-Downs… Far From End of String… New, Improved Version.  Cool!  Looks like some things that have been around a while are…. better than ever!

Tony Briggs

Tony Briggs

And so it was today as the YoYo’s really did SCORE with yoga legend Tony Briggs at his studio, Turtle Island Yoga in San Anselmo.  Renown throughout the San Francisco Bay, Tony studied in both India and the United States with B.K.S. Iyengar and his daughter, Geeta…the YoYo’s were pretty sure they were about to have a “real deal” practice from this respected leader that was busy teaching before yoga had mats.

Turtle Island Yoga

Turtle Island Yoga

Packed with habitual students that traveled from near and far to attend this Hatha 3-5 class, the experienced yogis grabbed their props of every shape and size as the “what do we do now?,” YoYo’s, took instruction from this “down to earth”, easy to understand, super cool guide.  Startin’ in Supta Virasana supported with bolsters by Tony, professor of perfectly placed props, we felt our bodies start to release-big time!  And so it was… as Tony guided us through prolonged postures using blocks, straps, blankets and bolsters in ways the YoYo’s never imagined.  All those prankster, comfy lookin’ supports did an about face as we realized they weren’t there for sleepin,’ but rather as support to allow us to go deeper and deeper into the sequenced body openin’, mind-expandin’ asana that Dr. Tony prescribed. Good thing this guy was about as funny as they get, otherwise we may have, at- times wept, during this 2 hour class that we only wish would have lasted longer…and so did all the other yogis.  After class, students hung around, chattin’, askin’ questions, and just wantin’ a little more “Tony” time so they could continue to be around this “big hug” of a yoga teacher that’s far from the end of his string.


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Day 42 SF-Red Dragon-Tim Floreen

Tim Floreen

Tim Floreen

When in Portland, that crazy, wild ride of yoga bliss, there was a strong undercurrent of love for some “Tim guy” that taught in the “Bay”.  Seems this famous “Tim” has devoted fans scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest that branded him an absolute “not to miss” teacher when the YoYo’s headed south.  The “always listenin’ to yogis in the know”, YoYo’s,  were pretty excited when they discovered Tim Floreen gave some of his illustrious Power Yoga classes at Red Dragon, a HOT… Mill Valley studio already on the YoYo’s hit list.

Red Dragon Yoga - Mill Valley

Red Dragon Yoga - Mill Valley

Formerly, all Bikram all the time, Red Dragon, led by the can’t miss team of owners Stephaine Schreiber, revered Bikram Yoga teacher, and Craig Fruchter, yogi and transplanted NY clothes designer, made a decision to bring in a little hot power yoga and mix things up.  What started as a idea from the community suggestion box grew into adding back to back power classes to their already full Bikram schedule, grabbing this popular studio recognition for Best Yoga  and  Editors Choice for Tim Floreen as Best Power Instructor by Marin Magazine.

Heart Openin' Tim

Heart Openin' Tim

The sweat lovin’ YoYo’s loved every minute of affectionately known, “YogaTim’s”,  steamy, powerful, mat- touchin,’ one hour,  lunch- time workout and the super sizzlin’, listed on his website soundtrack that pounded through this energetic space. The YoYo’s were pretty sure they understood why this power hour had to  duplicate itself to accommodate the community that didn’t require a trip to the Northwest, to hear about the energy explosion happenin’ at this yoga hot spot.

Wound up from our power yoga adventure, the YoYo’s bounced into the famous Red Dragon retail haven to check out the coolest of cool yoga wear; lunch, dinner, hangin’ out or whatever wear put together by the keen eye of fashion guru, Craig. So jealous were we of all the Marin-ites happily buying away while the YoYo’s still committed to being walkin’ billboards, were logo’d from our head to our yogi toes.

Talented teachers, killer boutique, Hot -Hot-Hot Yoga… RED Dragon is a truly a “breath of fire” in Marin County!


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Day 43 SF-Yoga Toes-Amanda Giacomini

Toby's Barn

Toby's Barn

Once upon a time….there were two roadtrippin’ YoYo’s on a “most excellent” adventure in the City of Seattle.  Approached by beautiful bohemians who spoke in hush-hush tones, they were told about a magical … barn, in Northern California, Toby’s Barn.  The confused YoYos thought these colorful hippies must have mistakenly taken them for farmers… so; the YoYo’s simply put that secret barn story deep in their memory bank and traveled to their next “not to miss” studio.

Toby's Feed Barn / Yoga Studio

Toby's Feed Barn / Yoga Studio

43 days later in Marin County, the YoYo’s head toward the Pacific to take class in Point Reyes Station- a tiny community with a reputation for some surprisingly peace-producin’ yoga.  Through field and farm, eventually we arrived at the super-cool, organic western town as we searched the only main street for the celebrated yoga studio, Yoga Toes.  Stunned were we, when we realized the unique logo was attached to a ginormous… barn…Toby’s Barn!  Inside was a real workin’ feed barn… filled with lotsa hay, flowers, and mulch; a hip store with all things feed barn-ish, a “most excellent” espresso shop , a zillion foot wooden roof equipped with theatre lighting for the killer shows and cerebral speakers this unique venue attracts, and the illustrious, Yoga Toes.

Amanda Giacomini

Amanda Giacomini

Entering this matchless space, the inquisitive YoYo’s couldn’t wait to take class in this unique setting that vibrated with the eclectic energy of owners Nicholas Giacomini aka MC Yogi: rapper, singer, yoga party waitin’ to happen, and beautiful yogini wife, Amanda.  And so it was as the flood gate opened with Amanda warmly welcoming this yoga addicted community inside the sanctuary to get their daily dose of her super-popular morning class in this “too cool” studio.

Nick, aka MC Yogi

Nicholas Giacomini - MC Yogi

Energized after Amanda’s gently challenging, “from the heart” class, the faithful followers at Yoga Toes, couldn’t wait to tell the YoYo’s the fascinating “behind the barn” story.  Seems Toby’s Feed Barn, has been in the family for generations…every generation adding a beautiful legacy. MC Yogi (Nicholas) and Amanda have taken “barn raisin” to even higher heights adding lights, action and a whole lotta yoga to this hidden paradise which is the treasure of this community.

The YoYo’s absolutely love this place…love sweet Amanda and her amazing gift of yoga… and love, love, love all the colorful happenins at Toby’s Feed Barn!

 


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Day 44 SF-Yogaworks-James Higgins

The YoYo’s are pretty sure that the people who say “Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth”, haven’t spent a single minute at the Yoga Works in Mill Valley, the super-popular Marin County studio that lives as a testament to the joy of yoga.

The exuberance and charm of manager, Cia Bernardi; comical front desk engineer, Charlene, who was sure the clairvoyant YoYo’s must have gotten her name off the bathroom wall, and the beautiful sculptured creatures of Marin County cheerfully greeted the YoYo’s into their world of electric energy.

James Higgins

James Higgins

Finding our corner in this mat touchin,’ unpretentious, vitality -filled space “rock star” yoga instructor, James Higgins, began his Vinyasa 2-3 class with a powerful pranayama series that opened us from front to back, side to side, upwards and downwards and everywhere in between to ensure that this willing class was ready to give a, “hear it on the Golden Gate” OM.

One Amazing Yogi

One Amazing Yogi

From there, this master teacher lead the yogis into a cookin’ from the inside out, “microwave” of a flow and continued a unique series of body-heatin’, sinew expandin’, peace providin’ postures throughout the unique 1 ½ hours of intense challenge interspersed with complete relaxation.  The YoYo’s loved the way this gifted guide, a student of Vipassana meditation, masterfully wove teachings of yoga as a catalyst of compassion for others and yourself into this spiritually rich, physically powerful practice.

Sailboats on SF Bay

Sailboats on SF Bay

Leavin’ this “family feelin’” studio with the strength of a lion and the warm fuzzies, we decided to stop at a quintessential Marin, “take out 2nd mortgage on the house”, organic food store to buy a picnic and scoot over to the quaint tourist town of Sausalito to watch the zillion sailboats puff up as they floated on the blissful bay.  Here, on a grassy stretch, we threw around our cool new Yoga Works Frisbees,  took cover from the cracker stealin’, stars of the Hitchcock film, “The Birds”, listened to the languages of the world, and counted our blessings to meet yogis like those who call, Yoga Works- Mill Valley… h “OM”e.

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Day 45 SF-Yoga Kula-Katchie Ananda

Yo Yo Yogiman at Yoga Kula

Yogiman enters Yoga Kula

A simple banner reading “Yoga Kula” hangs over an iron gate on the jam packed streets vibrating with its diverse community in the colorful neighborhood known in San Francisco as “The Mission”.  Climbing steep stairs, we were elevated to the stunning studio that overlooked the non-stop energy of the city streets below.

Katchie Ananda

Katchie Ananda

Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll was the opening theme of today’s Anusara, all levels class.  The confused YoYo’s thought we were here to do a little stretchin’ & flowin’ with Katchie Ananda, the Anusara teacher that was named one of the Five Top Yoga Teachers Making Change in the World by Yoga Journal Magazine and the East Bay Express pick as Best Yoga Teacher in ’08, but, it appeared this spirited leader prefers to take willing yogis on a mind expandin’ ride.  Katchie seemed convinced that most of us had likely worked our way through all the usual hedonistic pursuits, and  through it all, found ourselves here, in this dazzlin’ space, all geared up and ready for a “most excellent” yogi adventure.

Yoga Kula

Yoga Kula

Takin’ out all judgment, comical Katchie laid out an invitation to mentally “come clean” about why we came to our mat as she explained that a yogi’s intent is either driven from their “Little Sva” (small self, ego-teensy things that run us ragged- like a slightly saggin’ tush) or “Big Sva” (big self, somewhat larger in nature- like changin’ the world) . Tonight, the YoYos felt themselves hoverin’ at about a medium size Sva, as the thought of lettin’ unknowing yogis know about this remarkable,  spiritual  teacher that could possibly change their life was kinda, Big Sva-ish…but, the thought of lookin’ cool in our yoga pants knocked us down a notch….or two.

Openin' the little Sva

Openin' the Heart

Katchie’s  continual reminder to tune into what Sva  was runnin’ our yogi show,  was at the forefront of every  beautifully sequenced asana as she gently reminded these yogis to quiet the mind and listen intently to the Big Sva, because… that Little Sva was standin’ by, ready to keep on doin’ the same ol’ same ol’.

Tonight and every night from this day forward, familiar postures take on a whole new meaning.   Bringing Big Sva into our practice – brings endless possibilities to the world and to this wonderful gift we call- yoga!


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Day 46 SF-Yoga Tree-Janet Stone

Castro Theatre

Castro Theatre

Castro 2 large

The Castro

In the midst of this pulsating city, San Francisco, lives an area known as, “The Castro”; an avant-garde neighborhood that invites even unadventurous Bank of America to welcome emerging rock bands to crank up the volume on its lively steps.  Crowded with non-stop, attention-grabbin’ energy, the street flags wave with rainbows as the electricity seems to jump off the sidewalks.  Here, in this community lives one of this city’s most vibrant studios, Yoga Tree – Castro.

Janet Stone

Janet Stone

Excited YoYo’s are we, as we finally are to uncover the long awaited “Mellow Flow” of celebrated teacher, Janet Stone.  Walkin’ up a flight of stairs in an unassuming building, we gathered in the jam-packed lobby, shoulder to shoulder with other wound- up yogis as the prior class exited lookin’ like they had just taken a group shower.  Glad we had just enough coverin’ our YoYo bodies to be considered legal, we entered the massive room with sweat streaked floors and awaited this most celebrated teacher.

Openin' the Heart

Openin' the Heart

Janet began by encouraging the gigantic group of devotees to spiral mats in a unique contiguous circle around dozens of candles that were centered in the dimly lit room.  Creating this distinctive Yoga Tree, “Burning Man” we set our intention to leave “extra baggage” in this flashin’ ring of fire.  The sphere of yogi energy was both transporting and inspiring as Janet worked her legendary magic through a powerfully soothing sequence set to a rockin’ backdrop of outrageous world music, compliments of DJ Urn.   Openin’ our hearts and hips…up, down and every which way, Janet’s beautifully guided instructions gave way to some creative free- stylin’ movement ensuring this wild crowd was tappin’ into their internal power.  Janet encouraged the room to move like no one was watchin’…and they weren’t…as everyone contributed freely to the mass of energy that was created in this exuberant space.

Hanumanasana

Hanumanasana

Closing with a most wonderful thunderous chant, the YoYo’s wondered if “Janet Stone and Friends- Unplugged” might be available to download anytime soon.  Leavin’ our drippin’ sweat where others had gone before, we were joyfully stopped by a fellow yogi with a smile that went from SF to NY… as he exuberantly roared….  “That was so much fun!”

Well Said!


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Day 47 SF-Yoga Sausalito-Laura Christensen

Yoga of Sausalito

Yoga of Sausalito

The YoYos felt some embracin’ vibes radiating from the Bay side haven of Yoga of Sausalito– sweetly livin’ on a charming street filled with shiny happy locals lookin’ like they were gettin’ ready to set sail.  With open arms and open heart, this “off the charts”  love-fest  of a yogi community led by owner Stephan Buehl and studio angel Alisa  greeted the “YoYo’s” , foreshadowing the jubilant practice they were about to share with the swarming room of yogis who are lucky enough to call this dynamic neighborhood and stunning studio, home.

Laura Christensen

Laura Christensen

Laura Christensen, the celebrated Anusara teacher, devoted student of John Friend and member of the Anusara Certification Committee, opened her “group hug” of a class on this beautiful morning, by askin’ this regular crowd what song their heart would sing… if it had a song. The YoYo’s, lucky enough to own the “record”, immediately identified… The Beatles classic, “All you need is Love”. These spiritual words, say it simply…and so did this deeply caring teacher as she unfolded a class that brought passion to every breath and every asana.

Heart Openin' Dance

Heart Openin' Dance

Laura, continually reminding this happy bunch to look for “enthusiasm” in their practice,  steadily lead with a beautiful smile and unwavering encouragement proving that patience, love and flawless instruction can do wonders, as every “givin’ it their all” yogi,  found themselves willingly tested in demanding asanas.   Brilliantly, this gifted guide initiated poses in their simplest form and persistently added baby steps that brought mental and physical breakthroughs to students who mistakenly thought, “I can’t do that”.  But when, as a team, they “pushed the preverbal envelope” and went a little deeper  than ever before, this supportive teacher and room full of spirited yogis, celebrated… on and off the mat.

Buddha in the Yoga of Sausalito Garden

Yoga of Sausalito's Buddha


The love fest in this community doesn’t end when class is over.  The owner, teachers and students that make up this tight knit bunch like to take the “feel good” out the door and down the street  to the local Indian café they commonly frequent…while they chat, laugh and build on the “feel it in your bones” joy, that binds them together.


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