Archive | July, 2008

The Dog

27 Jul

We’ve had two newspaper interviews now for Cosmic Dog Yoga: one with the Independent and another with the Contra Costa Times. Both reporters asked, “Why the name Cosmic Dog?” I can only laugh, which hopefully gets the point across. No offense to anyone who owns a “Yoga of – insert-city-here”, but I just couldn’t put heart and soul into a yoga studio that took itself too seriously. That’s just like missing the point to me. Hopefully, when the reporters came calling, I was able to give a more coherent answer! As most of you know though, I just really wanted to yell up the stairs at my husband “see ya later! I’m off to Cosmic Dog”. And it worked! It’s great fun and my kids beg to go play at Cosmic Dog.

As most beloved things in my house though, Cosmic Dog Yoga, shortened quickly to Cosmic Dog, is now affectionately nicknamed “The Dog”. And we must be on to something big, because Suzanna Spring, song-writer, lyrical-talker extraordinaire also refers to her favorite yoga studio as “The Dog”.

Well, the number one question I’m getting from students, friends, family and even internet friends is, “How’s Cosmic Dog doing?” That question is usually accompanied by a look of fear and concern and spoken in almost a whisper as if I’m going to start crying in a moment! I know that question and that look. I really dug deep through that when I considered opening a yoga studio. After Be Well closed, there was no way I wanted in on a yoga studio that might crash and burn. Starting a business in the current market was a scary thing – for about two minutes.

So, here’s the official update on The Dog. Financially, we’re looking just fine, and better than expected. We’ve even survived July, which I predict will be the slowest month of the year. Our article in the Independent really helped and we’ve had new students streaming in this week. I know – we’re in a recession – it’s not the best time to open a new business, but it is yoga after all. When do you need yoga the most?  Truth is, people are finally ready for yoga. They’re ready to open their minds, their bodies and their hearts. It’s a good combination.

Lisa and I did not go into this business to get rich. We are in the business of enriching other people’s lives – that’s where the pay-off is. Sitting on that green couch while students stream out of the big studio is an amazing experience. Everybody looks so blissed out, so zen, so smiley! We’ve had a lot of new students this week and I love watching them integrate into the studio. I’m thankful for my awesome partners, my team of volunteers and employees who take such good care of everyone.

All things considered, especially after watching those blissful faces drip out of class, I’d have to say that The Dog is a huge success. Thank you for your support and keep bringing your friends….



22 Jul

I got this cold bug last week and combined with coming off of vacation, it has knocked me totally off balance in my life! I’ve been a little more tired, a little more grumpy. I told Dan that I was preparing for my monthly yoga parenting class on the topic of patience,  and without skipping a beat he said, “You’re getting a sub, right?

I taught two yoga classes yesterday and taught a series of balancing sequences in both of them. It’s interesting to me that that is all I need, is a little standing balance practice to make me feel better. Figuring out how to root my feet into the earth and liberate my body through space, that’ll fix it all for me apparently. Hitting the mat after travelling, viruses, in-laws and needy children keeps me from teetering over the edge of insanity.

And by the way, I’m loving my new Manduka mat. How did I go so many years without one? Oh yea, too lazy to lug that heavy thing around!, So glad I have an office at the studio to keep it in now!

Surfer girl

18 Jul

….that’s me. Little gravity surfer.

I picked up a bug on the airplane and it kicked in last night. I only slept for a few hours, struggling to breath and rest. I was so wiped out by morning that I thought I was done for sure. I’d resigned myself to no yoga, sitting on the beach and seeing a movie. I was so bummed, because on my calendar for today was Jay Co’s class called “Arm Balances” and it sounded like my own personal heaven.

Well, I spent the whole morning in traffic – (go LA!) and was so rajasic by the afternoon that I decided, what the hell – I’m going to class. Once in class, I forgot all about my stuffy nose and lack of energy until savasana when I felt like I was underwater drowning!

First of all, in order to take this class I had to decide to give Bryan Kest’s studio a second – actually third chance today. I put on my best attitude and jumped in. Class was a Cosmic Dog sized class – about 15 people. The teacher Jay Co, is a beautiful guy, very strong, very calm, and very fluid in his movements. He had a very kind way of speaking and was very encouraging. 

I have to admit that I was wrong about the students at the studio. I rolled out my mat next to the friendliest people today, one of which explained that this location is where the “serious students” come. Got it now. Serious students can handle the grit and dirt a bit easier! We don’t care as much. I have to admit, class was so intense today, I didn’t even notice the fuzz on the ceiling fan!

Arm balances are such a good opportunity to practice imperfection perfectly. They’re a great way to just simply explore your body and learn where your form is in space. I love how once you learn the basic structure or physics of the pose, the rest is figuring out how your particular shape and strengths and weaknesses play out in the pose. I love that even though I’m not one of those skinny girls, I can gravity surf with the best of them just by owning my own body – knowing it well enough to know where that pose is. The beauty of a good arm balance – everybody has to approach it slightly differently or they won’t find it in their own shape.

Some of the technical things I learned? I learned a new pose called sparrow which I really liked, and I made a huge connection in my handstand today. Usually in handstand or shoulder stand, the teacher coaches” squeeze your thighs together”, but my thighs are so – um – voluptuous that as strong as I am, it just never seems to work for me. Today, Jay Co was teaching us to actually squeeze our knees together, and once I found the connection of the knee bones in on themselves, it made a huge, huge difference. I started to understand how lolasana works by watching Jay Co and trying to pull my knees to my chest instead of my toosh up high. I could feel it working it’s way into my body. I also was really feeling the transition of down dog to crow, because the teaching cues were so good!

I was like a surfer girl in a candy store today. So glad I just went to class today! it really blissed me out for the flight home.


18 Jul

Today I made a fabulous discovery – downtown Venice! I was off today to the Venice Yogaworks studio to take class with Shiva Rea today and was charmed by Main Street. As commercial as downtown Santa Monica is, this section of Venice (is that an actual city, or just a neighborhood?) was sporting a pretty hippie vibe. Not a Berkeley hippie vibe as in I don’t shave my armpits, but an “I eat organic food/drive a hybrid/buy expensive vintage clothing vibe. Anyway, I had lunch at the urthcafe, outside on the patio. It was gorgeous.

Off to Venice beach for me. I was going to read, being so vata-influenced, I don’t do well in cold water – but, I was seduced into the water and where I swam with the dolphins! Actually, I swam and watched the dolphins off in the distance. Pretty cool. The beaches were pristine, the sun was shining and I was in heaven. I watched the surf academy teach groups of kids how to swim, and missed my little buddies at home. They would SO enjoy surf academy.

In the afternoon, I was lucky enough to catch Shiva Rea in town. I’d taken her trance dance workshop in SF a year ago and loved it, but never an asana class with her. There were so many things that I loved about the class – Shiva is so unrehearsed, yet so smooth in her teaching. Class started with a little spontaneous tribal dance and then full prostration. We moved into a back-bending class and it wasn’t until after class that I realized that we did no typical vinyasa – ie: chaturanga, up-dog, down-dog. No chaturanga! Imagine.

Anyway, I learned new things, and it’s great to soak up Shiva’s vibe. She’s pretty steeped in her knowledge of yoga in the purest form and I somehow soaked up a ton from her. FUN!

Wednesday I was back in Venice for another class – and as lovely has the teacher was, it just didn’t click for me. It was all I could do to just make it to savasana. Let me sum up the class by saying – there was no flow, and the sweet, lovely teacher was a slooow taaalker. She reminded me of being a kid in church and being confused by how all of the adults put on brand new voices trying to sound spiritual or appropriate or something. Cue the slow new age music and imagine: “Raise your leeeg high in to doooownward-faaacing-daaawwwwg.”  Wednesday was the day for me to realize that my yoga was to simply stay put on my mat and embrace what was happening. For me, it became enjoyable as I started to laugh about it and plan how I could use that slow-talking technique in my own classes!

Cali girl

15 Jul

First off, they say the sun doesn’t shine anywhere like it does in California. I would have to agree. Unfortunately, the last few summers the sun is shining blood red through all of the pollution reminding us that the whole state is on fire.

Anyway, try as I might, I just can’t feel at home if the coast is not a few hours away. Forget the fact that I probably only make it to the Pacific 6-7 times a year, but I live for it. I’ve lived in Utah which was absolutely gorgeous (who knew), but I could never quite settle into that feeling of being land-locked. I need a little ocean air floating through my blood-stream, even if I only get it every other month! Last week I took the kids to Santa Cruz and I’m proud to report that I have infected them with the same “gotta get to the beach” bug that my mom gave to me. As soon as we get off highway 1, we roll down the windows and start asking “can you smell it yet?” and squeal like little girls when we get our first glimpse of the ocean. I love how the sand feels in my beloved bare feet and how the kids need almost nothing to be completely entertained for a whole day. Got a tennis ball? 8-year old is happy throwing it into the ocean and watching it come back after 5 minutes of worrying that it won’t. Gotta water bottle cap? 3-year old will bury it for hours. There’s something very Santosha – inducing about being at the beach. Just content to sit and breath in the natural world.

For those of you reading who are not Cali people, it’s important to note that there are two different Californias – Northern California and Southern California, and we might as well divide them on the map so we could be really clear as to whether we are a “northern Californian” or a “Southern Californian”. Yes, I do realize this is quite ego-inducing, I know! But it is fun, like teasing your little sister. There’s a bit of rivalry between the two areas having something to do with the fact that Southern Cali steals all of Northern Cali’s water and until more recently, Southern Cali has in-n-out burger and us folks up north were just jealous until the chain expanded into our neck of the woods. We feel a bit more whole now that we can get our own non-sattvic animal style burgers and have figured out the secret in-n-out burger menu. I’ve always been a Bay Area/northern Ca girl (we’re way smarter than, like, the valley girls down south – like, you know?), but after our stint in Utah, we had the distinct pleasure of moving to SAN DIEGO which is heaven on earth. So now my ego has been cured, and I fully embrace the So Cal experience.

Here I am, off with Dan to LA on a business trip. I should say – he’s on a business trip and I’m on a yoga/beach/shopping expedition of my own. (the hotel is soooo quiet, kids are home with grandma!) There’s yoga and beaches everywhere – the smell of the ocean seems to waft along with the pollution all of the way to Hollywood where we’re staying. I have to say, the beaches here are amazing – it’s actually warm and sunny, and there are huge stretches of sand to walk and walk. Plenty of parking. I’m even able to practice my stretching while I put on my sunscreen all by myself. Apparently my shoulders are pretty open, because there’s no burn on my back!

It’s a strange experience after being so busy and worrying about everybody else, to sit and decide “what do I want to do today?” Not what do I need to do today, but what do I want to do today? Today I’m off to take class with Shiva Rea, catch a few rays on the beach and see a chick flick w/out my obliging husband. I almost feel guilty that he’s at the conference center working so hard, but I’m having too good of a time ego-tripping and finding a bit of Santosha. I even found a class that’s called “arm balances”. Now I’m really blissed out – just thinking about it!

Los Angeles

15 Jul

The city of angels. Now I’ve never been a huge fan of LA – the smog, traffic and blatant materialism. That is, until Dan had a business trip here and I decided to tag along! What am I here for? The yoga, of course! I dropped Dan off at his conference yesterday and grabbed my many computer printouts of yoga studio schedules to see which class I could make it to. Let’s see, within a 10 mile radius of Santa Monica, there was a yoga class about every hour. I decided to pop by Bryan Kest’s power yoga class.

I took class with Bryan last year when I was here, just to see what all of the hype about him was. I have to say, I’m not a big fan. I respect what he does and love the style that he teaches, but his dialogue during class just doesn’t reach me. During class last year, he kept going on and on about how money and stuff won’t make you happy. I do realize that Santa Monica is one of the biggest places to shop – so maybe that group was eating up the message – but I never want to talk down to my yoga students. My mom gave me that same lecture in the second grade when I really wanted a new doll – stuff can’t make you happy! I got it, way back when I was seven and I felt a bit exasperated hearing through Bryan’s surprisingly thick New Jersey accent that day. (Bryan also swears a ton – which I kind of like… it’s a bit liberating) He also went on and on about how “who the hell cares what the poses are named, it’s just a movement – we’re just lifting the leg, we’re just lowering to the floor – it’s just very simple” which was a nice message, but he wouldn’t drop it – by the 20th time, I wanted to yell “GOT IT DUDE!” in my best New Jersey accent! I also got a horrible adjustment from him that day – he kicked my heels without warning and made me fall over! It was very strange. I did like the class though, very intense, and I also liked his blunt use of directional language such as “Lift your butt”. His word choices are very non-pretentious which I liked. OK… did I rant? I don’t mean to be hurtful, just honest.

So why go back? Well, I thought everyone deserves a second chance, and maybe Bryan was having a bad day, and his class was starting at the perfect time for me to get a great physical asana class before hitting the ocean. I also think that going to a class and having the teacher’s personality get on your nerves is sometimes a very good yoga practice in itself. So off I joyfully skipped down the Santa Monica Promenade to take class.

Much to my surprise, Bryan wasn’t there. He had a sub, which I figured must be a good thing for me – and it was! The sub’s name was Vytas and he was an exceptional teacher. It was a level 1-2 class so no crazy poses, but Vytas did some beautiful flow warm-up, followed by a delicious standing sequence that included long hold after long hold. It induced sweat to drip off of me in a continuous stream, soaking me through my clothes and towel. I’m not a big sweat-er, so that was a real treat for me. After class I walked out into the cool ocean air and noticed my fingers were wrinkly as if I’d taken a long bath. Ahhhhh… thanks Vytas! (by the way, click here and check out his bio…. fascinating)

Right off, I learned a few things about the cultural differences of practicing yoga in Santa Monica (Specifically Power Yoga East) versus Livermore. In case you ever want to do yoga here, let me enlighten you.

1. Do not speak to the other students before class! They will look at you like you’re hitting on them (yes, the girls too), in which case they will give you a look to say – “you’re way out of my league” and go about talking to their friends in little high school-like cliques. My advice is to find this humorous and take a long savasana before class.

2. You can however, speak to fellow students after class when everyone is blissed out. Once everyone looks like hell anyway and they’ve seen your amazing (and ever so humble) yoga practice, they won’t be thinking you’re so out-of-their-league anymore.

3. Driste is very important. If you let your mind wander, you will get an eyeful of – um – pubic hair and nipples which brings me to number 4.

4. Fashion is very important. And by fashion, I mean the less clothing, the better. The shorter the shorts, and the more absent the bra, the more you will fit in. Yep, no bra, wet shirt, lots of men in class.

5. Apparently if you practice with Bryan Kest long enough, you will start teaching with a New Jersey accent, even if you are a Santa Monica native. This is hilarious to listen to!

6. Time will tell, but after looking at a couple of studios in the neighborhood, it appears that this particular place and group of people are the more bohemian of the group. By Bohemian I mean the students without money who have nothing to do at 10:30am on a Monday morning but take a yoga class by the beach. (not to be confused with the students down the street who have money and nothing to do at 10:30 in the morning!) This studio is bare bones, dirty, half-painted and there is fuzz growing on the ceiling fans that are obviously never used. I just can’t imagine the guy in class with the dreadlocks taking class at the shi-shi-poo-poo Exhale studio down the street. By shi-shi-poo-poo I mean place where people with money who would never be caught dead looking up at that ceiling fan, or sans bra. The shi-shi-poo-poo yoga studio down the street actually sells bras and full coverage yoga pants – so I must say I’m curious. (this was Power Yoga east, Bryan also has a West location that looks rather fancy!)

7. Down the street from Bryan’s studio is a string of adorable restaurant and the best breakfast place ever. (or so they say – and it looks as such by pressing my nose against the glass as I walked by) I definitely plan to have a breakfast for dinner there.

8. Oh yea, his studio is by donation – have cash ready. Go figure!

9. Amidst all of the cultural differences, doing yoga cuts through it all. It centers you even in the middle of complete distraction. And – savasana is sweet wherever you go.

Inquiring minds want to know

9 Jul

Next week I’m heading to Hollywood, tagging along on one of Dan’s business trips. He’ll be busy with his conference, and I will have hours and hours of time to myself. I have two things on my brain: yoga and beach – in that order. I think I’ll wake up, take yoga, rest on the beach, take more yoga, etc, etc. Maybe I’ll even do yoga on the beach. It’s LA – I’m sure nobody would think twice.

Does anyone have suggestions? – good teachers, or good studios? We’ll be staying in Hollywood (much too swanky for me, I know) and I’ll be sure to catch class with crazy man Steve Ross if he’s in town. There are some obvious studios in Santa Monica, but I would love to have some personal recommendations for teachers.