Pop Up Yoga in Ventura California

I’m lying on my back in Savasana. The sun is making glowing orbs on the back of my eyelids and warming my face. I can feel the bumpy ground beneath my body and the wind is tickling my toes. A mole is popping his head out of the ground. I can hear him nibbling on grass nearby. I’m surrounded by 40 happy souls and I feel peaceful, relaxed and grateful for Ventura Pop Up Yoga.

I found out about Pop Up Yoga by looking online. They host classes all over town in parks, at the marina and even at a winery! Pop Up Yoga is not connected to any particular studio. Multiple teachers share the instructor role and they offer a practice every day of the week. The coolest thing is that you pay for the class by donation! They believe that yoga should be available and accessible for everyone. So they just ask you to pay what you can afford. Isn’t that great?

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(Getting our stretch on!)

We visited Ventura, California this past weekend to dog-sit for some friends. We spent the weekend wandering main street, tasting beer, walking the pier, watching kite boarders sail across the water and we even paddled in the Harbor. But by far, my favorite part of the weekend was yoga at The Cross in Grant Park overlooking the city!

 

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I arrived early and found my spot on the uneven ground. Someone mentioned that they were trying to find a flat spot. And I thought, “Good luck with that. It’s uneven and bumpy. There are small smooth patches, some rough, some dry, some moist. Kind of like life! Is it ever totally smooth? We try to find balance between work, home life, vacation time, spouses, kids, commitments. This ground is a perfect metaphor. You can try to find a flat spot but it’s not likely to happen!

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(The view from my spot! It was a little hazy in the morning.)

Our Instructor today is Margeaux who has just opened a new studio called Yoga Casita in Santa Paula. As she leads us through the practice I can’t help but notice how tall she is! (A model maybe?) I’m guessing she is about 5’11” and looks very athletic – I bet she surfs! I know, I’m supposed to be focusing inward but I can’t it. This is my monkey mind at work. I also notice she’s very good at holding space for quiet. That’s something that I struggle with when I teach. I always want to fill the quiet time with talk – but not Margeaux. As we hold poses for five breaths she is quiet – allowing us to focus on ourselves.

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(Can you say Trikonasana?)

Most of all, what I loved about today is this: There we were – about forty of us, all different sizes, shapes, skin colors, religions and backgrounds and yet for this short moment – one hour of our day –  we were One. We moved as one, breathed as one and radiated peace and harmony out into the world from our hill top aerie. I had at least five people say hello to me and smile and say welcome! Yoga does that. It brings people together. To breathe, stretch, love each other, look inside and BE.

So here I am….having the ultimate California yoga experience. I am on a hill, overlooking beautiful Pierpont Bay and the white sandy beaches of Ventura, California. I feel welcomed. I feel happy. I feel Yoga. Welcome to California Dawn!

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Reveille Yoga – Riverside CA

Reveille – The bugle call first thing in the morning to wake you. The “get up and get your day started right now” push that we all need each morning to energize, awaken and motivate us to get a move on! Reveille Yoga in downtown Riverside, California is where I found my wake up call last week.

As Jenny Montenegro walked into the room I wondered if she is from somewhere tropical – somewhere like Belize or Portugal. Her skin is golden brown, she has long dark hair and when she smiles the light reaches up into her brown eyes. Jenny is an artist. On the mat and off. She has an MFA in Studio Art & Design from UC/San Bernardino. And that flair, that artist’s style is evident in her yoga practice as well.

She started us off with a short, gentle meditation and then moved us smoothly into a challenging flow that incorporated Suria Namaskar B – or Sun Salutation B. As Jenny guided us in her soft, gentle voice I found myself challenged and sweating more than usual!

I tried to chalk it up to the California weather – It Is HOTTER there. And then I tried to tell myself that Jenny is much younger than I…..but the truth is probably closer to the fact that I don’t practice enough on my own. The ladies to either side of me seemed to be just fine! Sure I teach a full load of classes (9 per week right now) but practicing on my mat – on my own is not something I push myself to do enough. Is it ever enough?

As we came to the end of practice Jenny said it was time for inversions. I mentally kicked myself for requesting Sirsasana at the beginning of class when she asked if anyone had a pose they wanted to include. I was tired, but being the brave, badass, sometimes crazy yogi than I am, I pulled it off. Two Shaky, rocking, weak headstands – Hooray!

Reveille is a lovely studio located in the historic down town core of Riverside. It is just steps away from the historic and amazing Mission Inn.  It’s a great area to walk and check out the local shops. Wear shorts and flip flops because It’s warm and drop in to a class with Jenny! I promise you’ll get your wake up call!

TRX – Train with Kyle in Anacortes, WA!

“Come on! You got this! Keep going! You’re half way there! Be strong, finish strong! Good news is that you have only 2 sets left!” These words keep rolling through my head as I rolled my way out of bed this morning after trying a couple of TRX classes with Kyle Ciminski! One of the perks of working at Fidalgo Pool & Fitness Center in Anacortes, WA is that I can try out any of the classes and TRX was a revelation!

TRX stands for Total Resistance eXercise. A TRX is a black and yellow strap than hangs from an anchor point. It has hand and foot holds at the end of each strap and can be adjusted for length. The really cool thing about TRX is that it can be used anywhere! You can anchor it to the ceiling, a wall, hang it from a door or go outdoors and attach it to a tree branch or playground equipment – anything that will hold your weight!

28933_4916622505816_619852359_nMy friend, Vicki Otto from True to Form In Marysville, WA actually introduced me to TRX a few years ago. We put together a one year reunion of all the folks who had done Yoga Teacher Training together. Vicki graciously offered to host and gave us a great TRX demo class! Here she is showing us how to use the TRX to assist with handstand!

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Vicki and her partner Kyle also took their TRX equipment with them on a trip to Sleeping Lady Resort and got their exercise done in the snow!

 

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And just recently Vicki posted this photo showing how she uses her TRX to help find balance in Ardha Chandrasana – or Half Moon pose.

 

As a yoga and fitness instructor I love trying out new ways to work my body. I’m currently teaching 9 classes per week so I get a lot of exercise but TRX has worked me in a whole new way! I am feeling parts of my body tighten like never before and I’m feeling stronger and more buff! LOL!

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(A student doing bicep curls. This TRX is anchored to the wall and we are told to keep our eyes on the anchor point!)

The most intense exercises were for the core. We set the straps at their longest length and then laid down on our stomach on a mat with our feet at the wall. We then placed our feet in the foot loop and flexed back through our heels. When Kyle said GO – we lifted up to an elbow plank and began bending our knees in to our chest. It was really hard – even for only 30 seconds! The next exercise was the same except we lifted our hips toward the ceiling and kept our legs straight – this is called a pike! Holy ABS Batman!!!! The third exercise was to bring both knees over to the right elbow, back to straight and then over to the left elbow. I chose to modify this one by only doing one knee at a time and keeping the other leg straight.

While we work, Kyle roams around the room checking each person for good form, he encourages all of us and gives us little tips to make each movement more effective. As a personal trainer I really appreciate that because I am used to being in front and telling others what to do. It’s nice to have someone else kick my butt for a change! And when you know he’s watching it makes you want to work harder!!!!

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(A student doing a fly. This move works the arms, shoulders, back, chest and core!)

I’ve taken two classes so far and I can already feel my body reacting to TRX. My core is slimmer and feels stronger. I can feel my arms and shoulders in a whole new way and I want to go back for more! I might even have to get a TRX of my own! If you’d like to try out a TRX class with Kyle, you can reach him here: http://www.trainwithkyle.com/

Kyle also does individual personal training which can be adapted to any body type, age or physical limitation. The goal is to be healthy and fit for as long as possible so we can enjoy this wonderful life we’ve been given. Don’t be afraid to try new things! You just might like it! Now I just need to get him on a yoga mat – so I can kick his butt for a change! Not that it’s a competition or anything………

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Yoga with Dunja – LaConner, WA

When you take a class from a Master Yogi you know it. There is a divine peace that is palpable in the room. This calm combined with a wealth of knowledge permeates the senses as you move through the guided postures and sit in meditation. Dunja Lingwood is a Guru. I can still feel her presence in my head and my heart after attending practice this week at the Museum of Northwest Art in LaConner, WA.

Practicing in a museum is new for me. The setting is perfect though. The lighting is low, It’s quiet and you are surrounded by art that evokes emotion, memories and dreams. Much like our practice – we craft, refine, add a bit here, move away from tension there. We put a lot of love and effort into it. Our practice is a work of art!

As we refined our practice I was enchanted by Dunja. I felt as if I was in the presence of one of the Elven Royalty from The Lord of The Rings! I was slightly in awe yet intrigued and drawn in by her lovely smile and embrace. At the same time, I realized that this person holds great power and strength and maybe even a little magic! I tried to guess her heritage. She is tall and lithe with a pixie blonde haircut, sharp eyes that miss nothing, a generous mouth and a flowing accent that sounds Scandinavian(?) – definitely not American. Richer, fuller sounds came from her mouth as she invited us to, “find the circle of the palm” or “widen and freshen your toes.” That one made me giggle!

Her directions became deeper, sensing – no, KNOWING what we felt in our body and how to adjust a hip here or a foot there. THAT is what practicing with a master does for you! Years of practice has taught her how this pose feels, she knows how to let loose of that tense shoulder or how to deepen the stretch….because she’s done this before – many times and she knows how to lovingly guide you through.

As the asana portion came to end we moved into meditation. I’ve meditated before but nothing like this! As I settled in to Sukhasna, I found my mind at ease, my body ready to be still and my heart open. I let my mind drift – not attaching to any thought for long. I felt great! I felt light and relaxed. I felt present. And then after a while I began to feel something else…..I began to notice an irritating tingle in my right leg – dang it! My leg had fallen asleep and I needed to move it to increase the blood flow. Moving my leg brought me out of meditation just before our time ended and I spent a lovely few minutes feeling grateful for the experience.

As practice ended Dunja called out blessings on us as she waved goodbye. It was a great experience – and you will love her too!

If you are interested in taking your practice to another level may I humbly recommend you try a class with a Master Yogi, a Guru, someone who has developed their practice over years. Dunja Lingwood is a good choice and you can find her schedule on her blog: http://peaceishealthy.blogspot.com/

 

Vishuddha – Speak & Listen

I was that girl in school who was always getting in trouble for talking to her neighbor. My report card showed good grades but there was always that note, “Dawn would do better if she could visit less with her class mates.” I can laugh about it now but it was a big issue when I was a kid. I had something to say and I wanted people to listen!

So when my friend Julie Shepler invited me to attend one of her yoga classes on the chakras I wasn’t surprised when it happened to be the throat chakra – Vishuddha. In yogic teaching this chakra deals with our ability to communicate clearly, honestly and with mindfulness. We learn how to promote balance in this area so that we can speak and listen effectively. And I figured maybe she could teach me how to keep my mouth shut a little more often – LOL.

I love attending classes with other teachers. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But this class was different because Julie is one of my closest friends.  She is the kind of friend who listens when it’s needed and isn’t afraid to question you if she thinks you need help seeing things a bit more clearly. She will speak the truth when needed but I’ve also seen her hold her tongue at very frustrating times. She’s a good one to learn from!

The class was very good. I left feeling relaxed and refreshed. My favorite affirmation from class was “I speak with kindness.” It’s one of the things that I’m working on. I know it’s important to be truthful (Satya) but I want to speak with love. To choose love in all things: words, actions and deeds. It’s not easy but that’s why it’s called a practice.

Julie ended the class with a poem from Hafiz,

How

Do I

Listen to others?

As if everyone were my

Master

Speaking to me

His

Cherished

Last

Words.

…..If we listen like that then how can we fail to hear, understand and communicate with love? Until next time I’ll be working on listening more and talking less. 🙂

You can find more information on the chakras here: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-91/The-7-Chakras-for-Beginners.html

Hayloft Yoga – Bow, WA

As I lay in Savasana last night, cuddled up in my blanket, I could hear the sounds of horses munching their food, birds flying under the eaves and somewhere in the distance an owl hooting soft and slow. Hay Loft Yoga was a magical experience. I had never done yoga in a barn before but somehow the smells of hay, dirt and grass made me feel right at home. The location and smells helped me let go of everything that had happened in my day and allowed me to revel in the here and now.

I met Jessie Tierney several years ago when she was organizing Free Yoga Day at the Mount Vernon Co-op. Jessie is one of those people who just makes you smile when you see her. Her energy is calm, sweet and friendly. Not only is she a great yoga teacher, she also works as a Physical Therapy Aide and is on her way to school in Virginia soon to become a Physical Therapist herself.

Jessie’s love for alignment was evident in last night’s class. She came around and made sure our hips were level and that we were continually “elongating our tail bones.” She even showed us how to use our hands to feel the position of the pelvis in Virabadrasana I. Class was slow and thoughtful and thorough. I had to modify a bit because I had taught two classes earlier in the day and I was feeling pretty exhausted but by the time class was over, I was feeling better, looser and happier.

What I love the most about visiting other yoga teachers and other studios is that as a yoga teacher I need to be fed sometimes. My body gets tired, my energy gets low and I can begin to feel like I have nothing new to share. But last night Jessie’s love for yoga and horses and her students filled me back up again and helped me remember why I do what I do.

You’ve probably witnessed something like it before. When you are around someone and they just totally love what they are doing – it’s evident. It’s like they sparkle. There is a special energy shining out of them that you can’t help but notice. It’s a beautiful thing to see and to experience!

Jessie will be teaching every Tuesday night at 7 pm at Double S Quarter Horse Ranch in Bow Washington until the beginning of August. I’m planning to go as many times as I can before she heads off to Virginia. Please join her and see how the sounds of horses nickering in their stalls, the smell of peppermint oil and the view of the sunset through the barn doors brings you a whole new understanding of what a yoga practice can be.

P.S. Here is a link to a blog about their home in Sedro Woolley called The Woolley Green House.

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Maya Shakti – Anacortes, WA

When you walk through the door into Maya Shakti Yoga Studio in Anacortes the first thing you notice is the lovely fragrance in the room. Of course that’s because the owner Dawn Marie has been drying roses and lavender and rosemary to make her own signature Fidalgo Island Blend of potpourri and beautifully wrapped smudge sticks.

I recently visited Maya Shakti to attend a Restorative/Yoga Nidra class – and boy was I in need! I had just moved to the area the week before. I had trouble getting a spot to park my RV aka The Gypsy Love Bus, there was “no room at the inn” for our F27 Trimaran in any of the local marinas and I had been working really hard to find a job. I was feeling stressed and worried and extremely tired.

Every time I see Dawn it makes me smile. She has curly dark hair and a smile that reaches all the way to her eyes! I really like her and it’s not because we share the same name – although I think that’s really cool!

The first part of class was a very meditative yin/stretch. Dawn emphasized staying in tune with our breath – even through the transitions between poses which I had never really focussed on. I loved how slow it was. It felt thorough and deep and I kept my eyes closed almost the entire practice! Then we moved into a 20 minute Nidra which was heavenly! I was so relaxed and blissed out that when class was over I felt as though I had been sitting in a hot sauna, followed by a massage and a glass of wine! Totally at ease, zen and calm and it lasted most of the day!

It was really great. Just what I needed today. Dawn teaches all of the classes at Maya Shakti and she is also a Massage Therapist and Life Coach. Maya Shakti has has live music nights, a great shop up front to find Malas, T shirts, Cool patterned fabric and a free/share book bin! I love that! So if you’re ever in Anacortes come by Maya Shakti ad check it out – especially the Sunday morning Restorative/Nidra class – and tell Dawn that I sent ya! Namaste.