ENTRUSTED: Instructor Kofi Busia, who learned the practice of Iyengar from the guru who gave the form its name, teaches at the Yoga Center Santa Cruz.
Strike the Pose
Could your downward-facing dog use some obedience training? Get the two of you to one of the many studios in the Santa Cruz area and reap the rewards.
By Curtis Cartier, Catherine Gildea, Traci Hukill and Jessica Lussenhop
Balance Studio Spa
912 Lakeside Drive, Felton
Drop-in class $12; partner class $25 couple
For six years this full-service holistic and wellness center in the San Lorenzo Valley has been offering yoga classes along with a host of other services, including acupuncture, massage therapy and counseling for grief and addiction. The hatha-style yoga classes focus on calmness and good breathing techniques while incorporating elements of Pilates for strength. And an innovative partner yoga class, new in the winter of 2010, explores ways in which two people can combine their bodies into poses to get maximum benefit for both.
The Center for Healing
6144 Highway 9, Felton
Drop-in classes $12–$14 ($7 students, $9 seniors or low-income); 16 classes $160
Founded by a chiropractor and staffed by licensed professionals (including a physical therapist and a massage practitioner), the Center for Healing caters to individuals with injuries or special needs as well as advanced yoga practitioners and those simply seeking optimal health. A special therapeutic class for beginners emphasizes modified poses; a more advanced "Shadow Yoga" class works "to free the body of physical and energetic obstructions."
Body & Soul
738 Chestnut St., Santa Cruz
Drop-in class $14; 10 classes $95.
This quaint, sunlit studio on Squid Row has small class sizes of between eight and 15 students and instructors who specialize in Vinyasa, Quiet Flow and Iyengar yoga. Studio owner Susan Merritt also teaches an adaptive yoga course for people afflicted with Parkinson's disease, and Bob Sheehan leads a group practicing the Indonesian martial art of White Crane Silat. Personalized regimens are available and multiple classes are held each day.
The Center for Yoga and Personal Growth
716 Capitola Ave., Suite 1, Capitola
Drop–in class $15
This studio is celebrating 12 years in Capitola, where the simple, second-story space is home to several different styles of classes. In addition to the slower Iyengar-influenced classes, the Center's owner offers a fun and challenging class in Anusara, which is described as a "more heart-opening, less brain-centered" practice with plenty of hand-stands. The center also features Vinyasa flow, a "Yoga 101" beginner's workshop and a back care class, ideal for scoliosis and lumbar issues.
Kali Ray Tri Yoga
708 Washington St., Santa Cruz
Drop-in class $12
In a peaceful old church three blocks from downtown Santa Cruz, devotees of Kali Ray's innovative 30-year-old hatha yoga system incorporate posture, breath and meditation into a distinctive flowing practice. A generous schedule of classes allows beginners plenty of opportunities to get familiar with Tri Yoga, which has practitioners all over the world.
Nourish/The Om Room
130 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz
Drop-in class $20; unlimited
monthly pass $50
During a recent lunchtime class in Nourish's small but aesthetically appealing upstairs studio, it became clear why teacher Victor Dubin has won a devoted Santa Cruz following. As hypnotic music played quietly, Dubin talked the class through poses, reminding us to make honest assessments of our limitations and occasionally pausing to gently correct technique. At Nourish, the former proprietor of the Westside's Om Room is joined by four other accomplished yoga teachers specializing variously in hatha, Iyengar and other disciplines. A highly regarded nutritional counseling program and the availability of massage make Nourish a truly full-service center for health, while the convenient location and thoughtfully constructed class schedule (lunch classes last just 45 minutes) make it one you'll actually use.
One Yoga Center
The loss of the Vets Hall on Jan. 21 as One Yoga Center's studio was a blow to scores of yogis and yoginis who've come to rely on the Vets Hall for a wide range of low-cost but intensive yoga classes. Check the website in coming weeks to learn where favorite classes, like Jayla Klein's intermediate Anusara course, will pop up next.
Pacific Cultural Center
1307 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz
Drop-in class $12; five classes $55; unlimited monthlong pass $80
The Pacific Cultural Center offers a very unique yoga experience. This facility caters to individuals of all skill levels and allows students to really set their own pace. The instructors are well trained and classes are offered at all times of day. The class places a great emphasis on the coming together of breath, mind and body, which highlight the underlying principles of the Ashtanga yoga tradition. The mixed-level classes bring both inspiration and peace of mind to everyone while creating a very low-pressure space of relaxation and healing. All the classes are offered on a drop-in basis, so this is perfect for the beginner, the every-so-often and the hard-core yogi!
Pacific Edge Climbing Gym
104 Bronson St., Suite 12, Santa Cruz
Drop-in class $12; 10 classes $105
The walls aren't only meant for scaling at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym. The Eastside club also has specialized "yoga walls" that students of the prop-based Iyengar method can strap themselves to for poses that are both more challenging and more supportive. Paying a drop-in fee for a yoga class at PECG also grants access to the gym's climbing wall, weight room, aerobics machines and saunas and showers. So if you're looking for a full fitness experience for the price of a single class, you can't go wrong with Pacific Edge.
Santa Cruz Yoga
402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz
Drop-in class $12
With 11 instructors, Santa Cruz Yoga will have 45 classes per week, including Vinyasa Flow, post-natal and prenatal yoga, Iyengar and a Sunday morning meditation, among others. The studio, which just opened on Monday, Jan. 25, will also feature ongoing teaching and apprenticing. Bonus: the brand-spanking-new space was designed by green architect Peter Spellman and features bamboo floors, low-toxicity paint and low-voltage lighting. And the close proximity to Kelly's French Bakery makes post-yoga muffins an unofficial part of the deal.
Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram
2900 N. Rodeo Gulch Road, Soquel
Class fee by donation
Since 1993 the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram has been a center for Bhakti yoga, which does incorporate asanas (poses) but goes beyond physical practice to include chanting, prayer, the reading of ancient texts and the practice of "prasadam," or mercy (food, in this case; anyone can come and eat for free, and the ashram distributes food to the homeless). Situated on 26 acres in the rolling Aptos hills, the ashram offers two classes a day, both free, though donations are welcome.
Village Yoga (Bikram)
1106 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
Drop-in class $15
Village Yoga specializes in Bikram, which takes place in a heated room and adds the element of toxin release through sweat. Students focus on 26 poses and two breathing exercises in the humid studio space in downtown Santa Cruz. "It's not a harsh heat, you feel like you've got these big arms coming around you—it's a nice, warm hug," says co-owner Sally Adams. Beginners are welcome in all classes and with 15 certified Bikram instructors, classes run from three to seven times a day, allowing those with busy or strange schedules ample opportunity to get in their daily dose of om. New students should be sure to pack a great big towel—sweating is mandatory.
Yoga Center Santa Cruz
428C Front St., Santa Cruz
Drop-in class $13
This downtown studio specializes in Iyengar, a school of yoga named after the living Indian yoga master, and boasts a senior instructor, Kofi Busia, who was taught and certified by the guru himself. Yoga Center owner and director Maya Lev describes the discipline as concentrating on proper alignment, with an equal emphasis on strength and flexibility. "We hold poses longer," she says. "When you sit in a pose or stand in a pose and you focus your mind intensely on doing this, you're training your mind how to meditate. That's a really valuable skill." This high-ceilinged and light-filled studio hosts beginning to advanced classes, as well as prenatal and restorative yoga.
8035 Soquel Drive, Suite 27, Aptos
Drop-in class $12
This intimate and elegant studio is a peaceful retreat in Aptos, especially in instructor Amey Mathews' Iyengar-inspired class, which is part exercise, part therapy. "The idea is that our physical practice we're doing on the mat is helping us to refine our interpersonal relationships with ourselves and other people," she says in her exceptionally soothing voice. "There's no music, there's not as much quick movement." Though the pace is a little more slow and methodical than other styles ("quieter," Mathews likes to say), the emphasis on strength and holding poses means students are sure to feel it the following day. The studio offers several other styles of yoga besides Iyengar, including yoga for meditation, Viniyoga and even a candlelit class, among others. They provide the own eco-friendly mats, blocks and blankets.
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