Palo Alto & South Bay Area Yoga Studios Reviews

Below, you’ll find a series of yoga studio ratings and teachers I have practiced with. If you are an advanced yogi and want to learn the most creative and challenging poses and transitions, I recommend practicing with Nathalie Bakker. Right now, her only drop-in, public classes are at YogaWorks in Palo Alto and it’s the only class that I regularly pay for (otherwise, I practice on my own.) I will caveat that this is a physically and mentally challenging class, but this is not a spiritual class. Nathalie will push you to try new poses, and she’ll always ask for more from you, but this is not a class you go to in order to relax and meditate. And if you are a beginner, don’t go to Nathalie’s classes because it will be a waste of both of your time. For more yoga studio and teacher reviews across the Bay Area, read on!

Samyama Yoga Center
2995 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94306

The studio benefits from the spaciousness of the suburbs–this standalone building with its name emblazoned on it in¬†5000 point font is impossible to miss. It even boasts its own parking lot. The 2-story studio is gorgeous, comfortable, and high-tech; the yoga room is highly insulated to outside sound so you won’t hear cars and can focus intently on your practice. There are massage and healing rooms and the hallways are roomy and airy. Room temperature¬†is effortlessly¬†regulated through modern heating and cooling. There is a large locker room changing area and showers. It’s the kind of place I could spend a whole day lounging in. For some yogis, my sense is that they may find this studio a bit too perfect and manicured; if you prefer the studios with “character” like the yoga studios converted from old houses in San Francisco with their “old wooden house”¬†smell, unique floor layout, and sometimes uneven or creaking¬†wooden floor panels, this studio is the opposite.

I found the vinyasa practices¬†here to be peaceful, uncrowded, and moderate in difficulty level. The power yoga and vinyasa classes are accessible to a wide range of skill levels and the teachers offer a lot of modifications. I have practiced with Joanie, Hana, Louis, Cheryl, and John at the studio. Joanie and Hana practiced along and demonstrated almost all of the poses. John Berg (he is also the studio’s owner,) welcomes everyone as family. He is very enthusiastic about every single pose and his style is to demonstrate some sequences and move around the room but he says in his own words that “it’s not my style to tug and pull you into shape” so he isn’t the type to offer hands on adjustments. Cheryl is the opposite and is very hands on with adjustments (I always hope that when she walks by, she is going to give me an assist!)¬†Louis Jackson offers the most advanced physical practice here and his class is the one that I feel I can grow physical practice with. My observation was that the yogis who practice here are less experienced than those in the city studios I have visited or at Vibe Yoga in Redwood City and perhaps that is why the teachers felt that they needed to demonstrate more¬†poses. In almost all of my level 2+ yoga classes in San Francisco, the instructors expected you to have a general idea of¬†all of the basic and intermediate-level yoga poses or they would verbally cue you and they would spend all of their time walking around and making adjustments. Many yoga teachers didn’t even have a mat towards the front of the room and they would only stop to demonstrate some more advanced poses.

Pros

1.) Spotless studio space and changing room

2.) Spacious amount of practice space so you don’t bump into anyone; lots of high quality props

3.) Studio room is highly insulated to sound so you can really focus on your breathing; om’s sound¬†beautiful in this yoga studio, even when there are only a few yogis because of how the walls are designed to vibrate

4.) Offers a 30% “Good Neighbor” discount to those who live within 3 miles and a 50% off “Bay Area¬†Bhakti” discount to those who commute¬†more than 15 miles–they changed management sometime in 2017 so these discounts may no longer be valid

5.) Advanced water filtration system (FloWater) is available and free Pellegrino for practitioners

Cons

1.) Vinyasa classes are basic and don’t push¬†your heart rate and challenge you with advanced poses (although the¬†Tivra 2 Vinyasa class is an exception–the instructor,¬†Louis,¬†challenges you in every way–long holds, challenging transitions)

2.) The location is far away from everything (shops, restaurants, public transportation) so you have to drive there

SamyamaYoga
The spotless and modern practice space at Samyama Yoga Center
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The lights are spectacular and the studio space is a beautiful place to practice in
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Hallway of Samyama Yoga Center with the blue of the FloWater machine reflecting onto the wall
Samyama Yoga Center
The thoughtful and carefully crafted ceilings of Samyama’s wellness room round out the details

Avalon Yoga International
370 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306

I have taken class here with Irene Au, Helen Christine,¬†Elena Milyukova, Toni Cupal, Tyler Hoffman, Evangeline Ventura, Janya Wongsopa, Thoa van Seventer, and Jafar Alkenany. While Irene’s class was a beginners level class, she offered creative ways to do common flows and I was inspired after her class to buy a 5-pack; plus, they have a new student special where you get 50% off any class package (up to 50 classes) which helped me make the decision to give them a try. I felt that Elena’s 8am on Sunday class and Helen’s Sunday Stretch class was still quite basic and accessible to newer yogis but Elena does offer some inversions and hands on adjustments. Toni teaches on Mondays and Thursdays at Avalon and she is one of the more advanced teachers. For those who aren’t familiar, Jivamukti classes involve some singing. I really enjoyed how she gave everyone hands on adjustments and the warmth she brings to classes. She also started a Jivamukti yoga studio in London. After taking Toni’s class, I decided to sign up for another 10 class package. I also visited Tyler Hoffman’s Monday evening class, and he is another teacher who offers hands on adjustments. The distinctive part of Tyler’s class is that he instructs where your drishti, or your eyes should focus on and he has a calming baritone voice, the kind that you would want reading you an audiobook or instructing you on meditation before you fall asleep. Evangeline Ventura teaches a more hatha class, offering hands on adjustments and natural oils; her class is accessible for beginners. Thoa van Seventer said her classes vary from intense to relaxed and the class I went to with her was more on the relaxed / easy side. Janya Wongsopa’s Yin/Yang class is 95% Yin, so it’s great if you want to get a good stretch in but you won’t be moving strongly. Jafar Alkenany is a regular substitute at Avalon and he leads his class like how a personal trainer would instruct you, as opposed to a yoga teacher, so it’s very different than a traditional flow. In general, I would say that Avalon is a good yoga studio for those who are newer to yoga or yogis who want to focus more on alignment and the mental benefits of yoga. It is not a “workout” studio. My 2 favorite teachers, Toni and Tyler, don’t teach on weekends so I’m not sure I will continue going to this studio after I use this set of passes and I can’t wake up early enough to go to Josie Zhou’s class (I have heard amazing things about her.)

Pros

1.) Wide range of teaching styles and high quality teachers, albeit more focused towards the mental instead of the physical aspects of the practice. At least one of the teachers is Thai and she offers a retreat to her hometown.

2.) Conveniently located on California Ave near a bunch of other retail shops (and a farmer’s market on Sundays)

Cons

1.) Studio space seems older (not much ventilation–I suggest you practice near the front doors on the left of the studio if you want more of a breeze, especially in the summer)

2.) No showers or changing rooms (just bathrooms in the back)

Avalon Yoga Studio
Avalon Yoga Studio Practice Space
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Calming atmosphere at Avalon Yoga; students practice facing the center of the room

YogaSource Palo Alto
158 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

There are two YogaSource locations in the bay area and they are run by different management. I have only tried the YogaSource location in Palo Alto but I have heard that the facilities for the Yoga Source in Los Gatos are phenomenal.

The teachers here are advanced–many of them used to teach at Vibe Yoga in Redwood City before that studio closed. They break down poses and offer advanced options. The classes here are big though so you may not get much personal attention.

Reviews of vinyasa teachers at YogaSource:

  • Johnny Gonsoulin has been teaching since the 90’s and he offers hands on adjustments to almost everyone in child’s pose
  • Mara Reinin offers very dance-like, big vinyasa movements and interesting transitions. She gives some hands on adjustments but her class is very full so she can’t get to everyone. Her class is right after a couple heated classes on Sunday and the studio doesn’t have great ventilation; that, plus the yoga mats that aren’t closed-cell (or aren’t cleaned that well) means it smells¬†a bit like souring rice vinegar because of everyone’s dirty mats.
  • Ngugi Kihara’s vinyasa class requires a lot of strength. He breaks down poses and has you work on the fundamentals. For example, he had our practice crow pose with a block behind our heels, while we were lying on our backs, so we would know how far up our heels had to be. The entire class was themed around that moment of crow and you could tell all the core work leading up to it was to fine tune your crow pose.
  • Kristine Tom’s vinyasa class is very technical–she did some interesting work with a block between your pinky-side of your fingers for alignment, which I thought was great in that it challenged me to have discipline and much more focus on using other muscles in my arms.
  • Kiersten Jakobsen typically teaches heated classes so when she subbed for a vinyasa class, it was toasty. Kirsten is very technical and she is the body alignment guru, teaching the exact right way to do a Chaturanga Dandasana with your thumbs pointing up at 12 o’clock. I have been in class with her (at Vibe Yoga when that studio was still open) and she is one of the few yogini’s who can do a fluid handstand to splits transition. She and Josie Zhuo from Avalon are the only two yogini’s who I have seen do that transition in the Bay Area and I hope to learn that transition myself by practicing with them.

Pros

1.) One of the best selection of teachers in the bay area who are both good at teaching and have been practicing yoga for many years themselves

2.) It feels like there really is a community here–people are chit-chatting and hugging after class. It’s $49 for one month of unlimited yoga for new students so that’s a great value and it allows you to really check out the studio and take classes with all different types of teachers to see if the studio is a good fit for you

Cons

1.) Physical space isn’t that nice–two individual bathrooms are located in the back behind the yoga studio. There are no showers and the ventilation isn’t that great (the no showers part is particularly difficult if you go to a very sweaty heated class because you have to go home to shower or else you are gross.) I enjoy heated yoga classes but I think I would stick with the vinyasa classes here since their heating system isn’t very advanced and the air would get stinky and stuffy

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The back wall of the YogaSource studio is modest and simple

Yoga is Youthfulness
590 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041 (old location)
1954 Old Middlefield Way, Ste K, Mountain View (new location as of May 2019)

Yoga is Youthfulness specializes in Ashtanga and Mysore. My favorite class here is the handstand clinic on Thursday nights with¬†Julianne Rice (as of May 2019, I’m not sure this is offered anymore). Julianne gets to the point and you focus on technique. Just when you start to master one technique, she pushes you to advance to the next one, so you are constantly being challenged. All the teachers, including Julianne, have been practicing yoga for decades and I appreciate that this studio is not a yoga teacher “starter” studio because it generally doesn’t hire yoga teachers who are just dabbling in the practice or only recently started teaching.

Pros

1.) Advanced teachers guide you through practice so yogis of all levels can get something out of attending class

2.) The studio provides free sweat towels for you to use during class

Cons

1.) If you don’t like Ashtanga or Mysore, this studio doesn’t offer many other types of classes (the schedule is limited, even on weekends)

2.) The new facility is very bright since it has several skylights (the space was previously used as a kitchen appliances showroom). However, I was there the opening weekend so I suspect they may end up putting drapes over the skylights (I didn’t mind it that much since sunlight naturally gives me more energy, but it’s just a bit bright when you are laying down in Shavasana.)

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The new Yoga is Youthfulness practice space on Old Middlefield
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The other view of the main practice studio at Yoga is Youthfulness on Old Middlefield

Turbo 26 Studio
240 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304

The best part of this studio is its heated yoga room. On a cold or rainy winter day in the Bay Area, practice at this yoga studio leaves you feeling like you are on a warm “high”. Your limbs feel stretched out and toned and you feel very calm. I haven’t felt this way after hot yoga practice in most yoga studios in the Bay Area. Turbo 26 Studio does tout its proprietary “healthy heat” heating system that is described in detail here. Having been to many heated yoga studios, I will say that the heat in this yoga room was just perfect. It was heated to 98 degrees with 38% humidity in the room. The room was on the smaller side and there were 15 people in the room but it wasn’t smelly at all. The style of exercise leans towards “fitness”–the room has a great sound system so the instructor blasted the music and it was a “get down to business” type of attitude on the mat. Jake also counted: “Meet in downward down in 3, 2, 1, and… ” I have never had a teacher who counted down the seconds to meet in a specific yoga pose. In Barre class, you do move to the beat and that was the closest thing I could compare it to. I also took a class with Kelsey who taught with the music on, but not pounding, and who had more of a flow-like feel (with no counting down.) The majority of the teachers here trained at the “cookie-cutter” CorePower chain.

Turbo 26 Studio also boasts 26 minute classes that are “stackable” so you can take two to make it a longer class or if you only have 26 minutes, you can get in and out of there. It’s an interesting model but it definitely felt like it catered towards busy professionals who wanted a “fitness” routine and cared less about the spiritual aspects of yoga. I stopped by the 1-hour advanced flow class with Jake and I thought it felt pretty introductory in terms of flow but I still enjoyed the class and left feeling refreshed. Because the style is “stackable” blocks of classes, the classes feel very fast and you don’t stretch that much because it has to accommodate people coming in and out every 26 minutes. Therefore, there isn’t a warm up or cool down Savasana section of the class.

Pros

1.) Heated yoga facility is one of the best I have ever practiced in (I have been to over 100 yoga studios, for baseline context); the temperature, air quality, and cleanliness of the floor is top notch

2.) It is conveniently located in Stanford Shopping Center (therefore parking is easy and there is food nearby,) although I also felt that being located in Stanford Shopping Center made it feel more commercial and tempted me to shop for luxury goods that I didn’t need (out of sight, out of mind, right?)

Cons

1.) I didn’t get a sense that the teachers there were yoga gurus. They seemed to have been teaching for a couple years (I overheard one person say most were trained at CorePower) and they aren’t the type have a local or national following. All 3 instructors I visited didn’t give any hands on adjustments (I tend to mark teachers higher when they do give hands on adjustments)

2.) Their “Advanced” class didn’t feel very advanced to me; the most advanced pose suggested was¬†eka pada utkatasana, (flying figure four pose). As an “Advanced” class, I would have wanted to be more challenged further.

YogaWorks
440 Kipling Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

YogaWorks is a chain and they have many locations across the United States. I visit the Back Bay location whenever I am in Boston and thought I would give the Palo Alto location a try. Although YogaWorks is a chain, each location seems to be very different in terms of amenities, types of classes, and the instructors’ level of training. The Palo Alto location is a more “bare bones” location. They¬†do not have showers or changing rooms. There are a couple single-occupancy bathrooms.¬†I went to a level 2 class with Eden Mendel. The sequence of flow and music was great but Eden likes to tell stories about her week¬†during the practice so she would forget which side she was on which I found to be a little bit annoying. For a level 2 class, the majority of guests were “beginner” level yogis and¬†Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand) was the most advanced pose we practiced. I’ve also taken classes there with John Rettger (he is a popular teacher) and Keith Erickson, who is still teaching as of April 2019, but unfortunately, has Parkinson’s, making it difficult for him to move the way he used to. I tried out Nathalie Bakker’s Vinyasa Flow 3 class and that was challenging and rewarding–I would not recommend that you take this class though unless you have a strong yoga practice (headstands and handstands, and ability to practice sequences on your own.) However, if you are looking for a challenging class, Nathalie teaches one of the most physically challenging and interesting yoga practices in the Bay Area–no two classes are the same and every class, I walk away with a new pose or transition that I had never tried before. Nathalie is now my go-to teacher to take classes with in the Bay Area. Vinyasa Flow 2-3 with Bre & Flo Niedhammer is an unheated flow class taught by a couple who alternate teaching different parts of the sequence, but it wasn’t nearly as advanced as Nathalie’s class. Having two different voices throughout the practice was a unique experience and because there is one person teaching while the other is watching and walking around the room, there are more opportunities for hands on adjustments, although I think they refrain from giving brand new students they don’t recognize hands on adjustments.

Pros

1.) Eden gave a shoulder massage and neck alignment during Savasana; Nathalie teaches more advanced poses and transitions and parts of the class feel more like a workshop (where she helps you get into some of the more difficult poses)
2.) Fun music (some of it is pop music), depending on the teacher’s preferences; relaxing atmosphere
3.) Good amount of heating (feels perfect in the winter, a bit on the hot side in the summer); it is heated enough for you to really push your flexibility, but not so hot that you can’t breathe

Cons

1.) There are no showers; the facilities are more antiquated and there are only 2 small bathrooms

Yoga of Los Altos
377 1st St Los Altos, CA 94022

This studio is close to downtown Los Altos which makes it “convenient” for a suburban yoga studio. You can run some errands / go to the grocery stores nearby and parking is plentiful. Google Maps directions take you to the back of the studio which is a bit confusing because the building is sandwiched between other buildings so it looks “closed” from the back. If¬†find yourself in the back of the building, locked out, there is a little alleyway to the right of the building if you are facing the back which you can walk through. The front of the building is much more welcoming.

I took a class with¬†Nicole Reynolds (who was substituting for¬†Aislinn Coleman.) I wasn’t blown away by the class because the flows weren’t incredibly innovative and the Vinyasa Strong Flow Level 1-2 class I went to felt more like a Level 1 class to me. However, there was one challenging moment when she taught grasshopper pose¬†and that inspired me to practice more arm balances. I love hands on adjustments but unfortunately she didn’t provide many throughout the class. During savasana, she did¬†give us all a short leg massage which was really great.

The studio space itself has a bit of an awkward set-up. There is a front desk with some seating along the windows and a cubby shelf to store things. The bathrooms are behind the yoga studio though so you can’t go before class if there is already a class in the studio.

Pros

1.) “Get down to business” attitude from the moment you step onto your mat

2.) Good selection of props (yoga blocks, mats, straps)

Cons

1.) Not much lounging space in the studio

2.) Bathrooms are awkwardly placed behind the studio so you can’t go if you are waiting for a class to begin; no showers available

Vibe Yoga [Now closed; relocated to a new location]
Old Location: 3750 Florence Street, Redwood City, California 94063

Rebranded as Baptiste Power Yoga Silicon Valley and re-opened in Palo Alto in January 2019 (see review below)
New Location: 2190 W. Bayshore Road (Suite 170) Palo Alto, CA 94303
New website: Baptiste Power Yoga of Silicon Valley (all class passes from Vibe Yoga will be honored at Baptiste Yoga of Silicon Valley in Palo Alto)

[The review below is for Vibe Yoga in Redwood City, which closed as of October 2018]

I first visited Vibe Yoga to attend a¬†Shoulders and Heart Openers workshop with Carmen Aguilar. It’s not fair to compare a $70 workshop with a yoga evangelist like Carmen to a “regular” yoga class but I will say that Carmen’s class was one of the most challenging and rewarding yoga classes I have been to in a while and I highly encourage everyone to attend workshops with her if she travels to your city (she is based in Chicago but comes to the Bay Area at least twice a year.) Carmen beautifully links poses and leads her classes with the expertise that can only be developed from at least a couple decades of practice and teaching. Her style is “get down to business” and focused on proper alignment and technique. She helps your body move in ways you never thought possible.

I returned to Vibe Yoga a few times after the workshop with Carmen and my impression was that many of the students there were quite advanced, especially those that practiced in the level 2/3 classes. I went to Jonathan Rickert’s class and was pleasantly surprised at the advanced transitions and difficult variations he taught. The one thing I would improve would be the verbal instructions and hands on adjustments–there were times that he spoke too fast and it was difficult to follow where the poses were going and he didn’t offer any hands on adjustments. Jonathan is definitely a teacher I would follow from studio to studio. I also enjoyed¬†Rebecca Bara’s class–she gets down to business and focuses on alignment and the flow (according to LinkedIn, she is the owner of Vibe Yoga.)

The space is located in a convenient area of Redwood City within a small shopping plaza. There is a Starbucks, a deli, several food establishments, and free parking. The structure of Vibe Yoga’s interior looks like it was built for working out–it isn’t an old refurbished establishment. That means the space is beautiful, clean, smells nice, and is much more conducive and pleasant for heated yoga practice compared to many of the older practice spaces in San Francisco (those older studios have their own charm too and I have reviewed many of them.)

Pros

1.) Many amenities including showers (bring your own towels,) bathrooms, water filter, and lockers

2.) Large practice space, designed specifically for yoga (skylights for calming natural light and heated room is relaxing, clean and smells good; there are no open metal grates so¬†it doesn’t feel¬†like you are in an oven)

3.) Felt like there was community (people were taking group pictures and wearing matching Vibe Yoga tank tops); the receptionist was also a yoga teacher (I think) and took the yoga class with us

Cons

1.) Far away from major metropolitan areas (although I hear Redwood City is an up and coming neighborhood if you do end up living nearby)

Baptiste Power Yoga of Silicon Valley
2190 W. Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303

Memberships at Vibe were transferred over to this new yoga studio when the owner, Rebecca, closed down Vibe and relocated to this new location. For some students, the MindBody membership transition didn’t happen so just let them know when you are there in person and they can manually transfer your remaining classes over. The teachers are almost entirely different than those at Vibe Yoga and the experience is very different than that of Vibe Yoga. First of all, Vibe Yoga was a gorgeous space with high ceilings, 2 yoga studios, a spacious retail / waiting area, and showers. Because I was thinking of this new studio as a “Vibe replacement,” the physical space is definitely disappointing in comparison: It is just a room and has no waiting area so you have to wait outside the yoga studio if there is a class going on. There is one bathroom in the back and one small corner with a curtain where you can change. There are fewer props than at Vibe as well. While the floor is cushiony, helping your joints in Frog Pose, for example, it makes standing poses harder (which I suppose is fine because it’s also a good challenge.) The most interesting thing about this studio is that they do not list their teachers on the website. I practiced next to one of the teachers there and she said the goal was to make it less political because some teachers at Vibe would be paid more because more students showed up to their classes. While I admire the desire to make compensation more fair for all teachers, there is a reason that teachers like Jonathan Rickert had a following–you could learn a lot from practicing with him and he taught very challenging transitions and asanas.

Pros

1.) Had a community feel (the studio space itself isn’t huge so it forces people to mingle)

2.) The location is right off of 101 in a shopping plaza with plenty of free parking so you don’t feel like you are rushed trying to find a parking spot

Cons

1.) I didn’t get a sense that the teachers (except for perhaps the studio owner) were very advanced at their own practice, which I would expect given that they don’t list the names of teachers on their website, which helps newer teachers but doesn’t help more advanced teachers. My yoga teacher gave me a lot of hands on adjustments which I really appreciate because not only does it feel great, it helps push me into deeper poses though.

2.) The studio space really is a bit too small. I was confused when I first showed up, thinking there was another entrance I should go through in the back to check-in. I even walked all the way around the building to check before I went back to the front and realized I just needed to wait until the previous class completed.

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The entire studio at Baptiste Power Yoga of Silicon Valley

Yoga Belly
455 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

This studio isn’t on the main Castro Street–it’s in a parking lot next to Castro Street. Google Maps takes you to the right place but Waze takes you to the main street where you cannot see the studio (this may change in the future now that Google Maps owns Waze.) The space is an unassuming room with a small check-in &¬†waiting area and a few changing stalls built into the side of the wall. The bathrooms are part of the whole retail complex and you have to exit the studio with a key to use the bathroom. I’m used to nice yoga bathrooms with organic hand soaps that this was a little off putting. I did like that the studio is heated (some people love this, some people hate it,) but in the middle ¬†of winter, I love hot yoga. The instructor, Andrew¬†Goldberg, said to try out a few teachers before making up your mind about the studio since everyone is a bit unique and I will take this advice to heart. I’ll return and try out a different class with a different instructor since I didn’t like how easy the “Yoga Belly” class was and didn’t like the “inspirational” stories that the instructor tried to weave in–that combined with his occasional swear words made it so I didn’t feel very¬†relaxed after I left the studio. But I do want to return to try out either the¬†“YBX” or¬†“YB Ballerz” classes.

Pros

1.) Good location near retail establishments and restaurants on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View

2.) Heating was nice–not too hot, not too cold and no exposed metal grates that turn red when heated

Cons

1.) Restrooms are not a part of the studio; you have to use the common restrooms that all the businesses in the area share

2.) Hit or miss teachers; eclectic bunch of instructors

CorePower Yoga – Santa Clara
712 Augustine Dr Suite #210, Santa Clara, CA 95054

This CorePower has 3 practice rooms so it can offer numerous classes each day. I had attended a Made To Fly workshop with a friend who was a member there. The 90-minute workshop was taught by Brit, the studio manager. Brit explained the alignment of each posture well and she had someone else helping out with hands on assists, so even though there were lots of folks at the workshop, you still got some attention. When you look up at the ceiling, the heating grates are covered and the sound system is quite good (I think it’s a relatively newer building) so in terms of facilities, it reminded me of a Barry’s Bootcamp or SoulCycle in terms of facilities (showers, shampoo, etc.) although I do think you have to bring your own towel or rent one for $3.

Pros

1.) Ample parking, great location next to a giant Whole Foods (I’m always hungry after working out,) and the studio space itself plus the amenities are quite nice.

2.) Lots of classes and your first week is free–the CorePower membership also gets you into other CorePower studios around the country

Cons

1.) Most CorePower instructors are pretty junior in their yoga practice. While Brit was a great teacher, I could also see that she was still relatively new at practicing yoga too. It was an inversion class so Brit showed some fun inverted transitions and poses, but other workshops I have been to featured instructors who were much more grounded in their practice (e.g. 20+ years of practice).

CorePower Yoga – Palo Alto
855 El Camino Real Suite 105, Palo Alto, CA 94301

Compared to its sister CorePower studios further South, the Palo Alto studio is a smaller CorePower Yoga location. There is one single stall male changing room, one single stall female changing room, and one restroom. There are locker cubbies with little keys that you can borrow (no need to bring your own lock but you can bring a small suitcase lock if you would like.) There is free parking at Town and Country but it can get very packed on weekends so I would show up early if you don’t want to feel frazzled and rushed.

I went to a yoga sculpt class here and it is much more similar to a barre class than it is to a yoga class (except that it is heated.) You do some warrior II’s and some Chaturanga Dandasanas¬†but most of the workout is repeated small movements with 3 to 5 pound weights in your hands. It reminds me of heated pilates or something similar. My instructor, Martin, played pop songs and put lasers on the ceiling when we did our core work on the mat. It is a fun class and you definitely sweat and get a good workout, but you won’t work on yoga skills (like how to link and transition poses.) Therefore, it’s a good class if you are strong (can deal with the heat) and are a beginner yogi.

One thing I did notice about the studio’s heating: If you like heated yoga, Turbo 26 in the Stanford Shopping Center seems to have “fresher” air and a better heating system. The air in this studio felt a bit more stuffy and it was a relief when the instructor opened the doors to let in fresh air.

California Yoga Center
1776 Miramonte Ave, Mountain View, CA 94040

This yoga center is very technique focused. Its clientele is older and I was the youngest yogini by about 20 years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I have seen some very high performing yogis who are 60+ years old! But I just call that out because the style of teaching is modified to accommodate an older group of practitioners. For example, the practitioners who attended the level 2 & 3 class would be classified as a level 1 practitioner at some of the other studios I have been to, like Yotopia in London. They follow a strict Iyengar practice, complete with chanting and strict rules (like no drinking water during the practice because it is believed that drinking water during practice diminishes the heat you have built.)

Pros

1.) Strict Iyengar practice, strong focus on alignment (the strictness can also be a con depending on what you are seeking)

2.) Yoga teachers seem to all have several years of experience; I went to¬†Miri Aloni Rivlin’s class and she was subbing for another teacher. It was clear that she had been practicing and/or teaching for several years herself

3.) If you don’t have your own mat, they do have thin mats you can borrow for free (they are like travel mats) and they are stacked with the props

Cons

1.) I love the dance-like, sweaty, vinyasa flow classes that leave your heart pumping and your body sinking into the ground during savasana; Iyengar practice is not like that–there is no music and you won’t feel like you’re dancing. You move from pose to pose without transitions. Depending on what you want from your practice on a particular day, Iyengar may not be the right style for you

2.) The bathroom is behind the yoga studio; the yoga studio itself is plain and the check-in area is very small

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Practice space at California Yoga Center

Orlando, FL Yoga Studio Review

Inspirit Yoga Studio
7575 Kingspointe Pkwy #21, Orlando, FL 32819

Inspirit Yoga is a spacious and modern yoga studio located near the Universal theme parks in Orlando, FL. I only went to one class with Wendy Bernard and it was a very basic sequence. She also didn’t offer any hands on adjustments and I was a bit surprised at how she was demonstrating pigeon pose (she had her heel tucked under her leg, as opposed to trying to make her shin parallel to the front of the mat.) She also didn’t give much guidance on proper alignment. The studio is good value for the money because a drop-in class is only $5 (cash only) and they let you use their Manduka Pro mats for free (this is a big deal because Manduka Pro mats don’t absorb sweat and therefore, it’s much more hygienic to share yoga mats if it’s a Manduka Pro mat, as opposed to one that does absorb sweat and bacteria.)

Pros
1.) Great value at only $5 / drop-in class if you pay with cash, $7 if you pay with credit card (and you get a free, high-quality mat rental)
2.) Studio space is cute–they have organized the cubbies in a pretty flower shape

Cons
1.) This is a beginners studio so come with that in mind
2.) No showers (although you don’t get very sweaty here anyways since it’s not heated and the sequence isn’t that physically demanding)

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Inspirit Yoga Practice Studio

Seattle Yoga Studios Reviews

For readers in Seattle, I have visited several yoga studios during my 3 years of living there. I have reviewed some of my favorite studios below. If you are looking for one single recommendation and you are an advanced yogi, looking to push your practice to the next level physically, I recommend Troy Lucero’s Acme Yoga Project (Facebook page).

  • MIND.BODY.HUM – Scott Francis started this yoga studio after he left Be Luminous yoga. It’s a beautiful yoga studio, clean, and has individual showers. It has 2 studio practice rooms and the air flow of it is much better than that of most heated studios. I went during partial covid lockdowns (when masks were still required in the studio during practice) so I am not sure if it was because masks were required that the temperature felt warm but not hot. Scott’s classes are the most full and my favorite to go to: A good balance of strength and mental practice and he liberally uses the props and musical instruments in the room.
  • Be Luminous Yoga – This studio benefits those who have practiced at least 10 times before the most. It is very popular and conveniently located on the plaza above Whole Foods in South Lake Union so it is the one of the more crowded of all the yoga studios listed here. However, it has the best community and my favorite teachers; it does have an intro to yoga series that beginners should take instead of the other classes. The studio is owned by small business owners and the 900 Lenora Street location is the only studio. This studio is heated to 90 degrees F for each class (except for the beginner’s and slow flow classes.)
  • Sanctuary Studios – You go to this studio for experiencing the physical space, not for growing your yoga practice. This is a startup that pre-records yoga videos and plays them in a giant screen inside a beautiful yoga room. You can choose individual meditation rooms or group yoga studio rooms, and you get your own bathroom filled with high-quality soaps and lotions, towels, and everything you could possibly need. You can customize the temperature of the room, the sound, and whether you want aromatherapy. They serve loose leaf teas and the feeling of the studio is very “zen”, as if you are in a spa.
  • CorePower Yoga – This studio is the best for beginners since they offer a 7-day free unlimited pass for new members. It is also super clean, has the nicest facilities of any yoga studio I have been to in Seattle, and has sticky floors, making your mat less likely to slip. The Queen Anne studio doesn’t get too packed and there are mirrors in the studio to help you figure out your alignment during the earlier stages of your practice. It’s also a chain so class packages and passes you purchase work in all 3 locations around Seattle and nation-wide in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. These studios are heated except for the 1C classes which are good¬†beginner classes. The one downside is that the CorePower instructors are newer to teaching than those at other studios so I don’t grow as much physically or spiritually when I go to their classes.
  • 8 Limbs Yoga¬†(Capitol Hill) – This studio benefits those who have practiced yoga for at least 3¬†months the most. It has some of the¬†more advanced yoga classes (although its level 1 and 2 classes are pretty accessible to most.) Their level 3 classes are quite challenging and involve fun inversions. I practiced at this studio during the 3 months I wasn’t able to do hot yoga (see my “Naked” Face post.) The studio doesn’t have¬†the newest¬†facilities but their live music classes and¬†brick¬†walls¬†have¬†personality and charm. This was also one of the few studios I have ever practiced at where there were more men than women (split was about 60% male, 40% female.)
  • 8 Limbs Yoga (Wedgwood) – I went to¬†Maritza Vargas Reyes’s flow/vinyasa class in 2018, at least 3 years after I visited the Capitol Hill location. This location caters to an older audience (they have a yoga for 50+ class) and the flow was a lot more basic and easy. I barely broke a sweat but the stretch and sequence was good. Maritza demonstrated several poses and it was clear she is an advanced teacher but the class was taught at a basic level. Similar to the Capitol Hill location, the studio space was cute and because of the few students in this class, we practiced with our mats in a circle, which had a nice community feeling. One of my favorite parts about this location is that their rental mats are Manduka PROlite mats. Their first class + mat rental is only $10.
  • Troy Lucero’s yoga class – Troy’s class benefits those who have practiced yoga consistently for at least 1 year. My friends and I who frequent Be Luminous are rarely ever sore after yoga practice or any form of exercise, but we were all surprised at the new muscles Troy’s class had woken up for us. One of my teachers, Vanessa, introduced me to Troy’s class. His classes are the most bare bones in terms of facilities (it is the speakeasy of yoga,) but they are the most mentally and technically challenging classes I have ever taken in Seattle.
  • Urban Yoga Spa – This is one of the most conveniently located yoga studios (centrally located right in Downtown Seattle on 4th Avenue.) It isn’t as great of a beginner studio as CorePower Yoga is but it offers basic classes with mirrors and modest facilities. The teachers don’t teach at as advanced a level as they do at 8 Limbs, so this studio is recommended for beginners too. They often do community classes which you can drop in on for free.
  • Olympic Sculpture Park outdoor yoga –¬†On sunny July and August Saturday mornings in Seattle, practicing yoga at the Olympic Sculpture Park is the best yoga period. Nothing beats outdoors yoga when the temperature is moderate and the sun is shining, in my opinion (especially free outdoor yoga on the lush grass of the Sculpture Park’s steps.) 8 Limbs Yoga has partnered with the Seattle Art Museum in the “Summer at SAM” public events. These yoga classes are free and run for about 10 weeks during the summer and they are back in 2015. Check out their Facebook event.
  • hauteyoga¬†Queen Anne – The instructors at this studio are experienced (the same people who enjoy practicing at Be Luminous Yoga would also enjoy flowing with the teachers at hauteyoga in Queen Anne.) The one major drawback of this studio is the lack of amenities. There is no changing stalls¬†and no¬†water fountain. There is a water bubbler but costs $1/refill. Granted, the Safeway is right across the street but it seems odd to me that there isn’t even a non-filtered water fountain. Additionally, there is only one bathroom. The lack of changing stations¬†would be okay if the studio wasn’t heated to 95 degrees. I find that I always have to change after because my clothes are soaked with sweat. In my opinion, the studio is too hot for power flow and I always have to be right next to the door in the front of the classroom to catch the breeze when the teacher opens it to let in air. However, the studio does have a wonderful view of their garden and I like their floors the most. Their floors are ever so slightly¬†“squishy” making practicing yoga more comfortable.
  • Grinning Yogi (Greenwood) – I went to Annie Marks’s class when I was visiting Seattle and liked her interesting and difficult transitions. The studio provides high-quality Manduka studio mats which is great if you are traveling (and they even have free loaner yoga towels to put over the mat, which can be helpful if you sweat a lot in their heated classes!) I wish Annie gave more hands on adjustments but the studio otherwise was fun, clean, and convenient.

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    The mural at The Grinning Yogi in Greenwood

Lloyd, the Google Bus Driver

Original Post: June 2016

Lloyd, the 8:35pm Civic/Haight/Stanyan Google bus¬†driver was one of the first bus drivers¬†to shuttle me home from Mountain View. He greets every single passenger with a “Hello my man!” or “How’s it going?!” and answers with “Welcome aboard!” or “Alright, alright!” He¬†fist bumps every single passenger with a big toothy smile on his face and¬†exudes the most authentic¬†happiness I have ever seen from any human, let alone any bus driver. He is a legend amongst Googlers and we all look forward to taking his bus.

I left on a¬†5:34pm shuttle last Friday. I had not taken this shuttle before yet. To my wonderful surprise, Lloyd was my bus driver. He had driven me home the night before as well. As we pulled away from the curb, Lloyd waves¬†to the bus station attendee: “See you in a few¬†hours!”¬†I suddenly realized¬†that Lloyd sits through 5+ hours of traffic every single evening, and possibly additional¬†hours in the morning if he also has a morning route. As soon as he drops the 5:34pm group off in San Francisco, he turns right back around and battles the bottleneck traffic that clogs up 101 to scoop up the next batch of Googlers.

“According to my Google¬†Maps, it’s going to be 39¬†minutes until we touch down at our first stop.¬†So in the meantime and in between time, kick back, relax, it’s going to be a nice time. I’ll talk to you folks in a minute. Peace out,” Lloyd cheerfully announces over the bus’s PA system.

Lloyd’s smiling face, delightful¬†bus announcements, and fist bumps put a spring in my steps. This extra spritz of friendliness inspires me to be a kinder person. When he drops us off, he announces over the intercom, “We are now approaching our first stop at Market Street. If you are getting off, don’t forget to¬†gather your belongings. And remember, this bus ride was brought to you by the wonderful people at Google, saving the world one bus ride¬†at a time. Stay cool, like the other side of the pillow, and see you next time.” And with another fist bump, I depart into the night, glad that there are still humble and good people in this world.

May 2019 Update

3 years later, I no longer take Lloyd’s shuttle to get home. But I walked by his Gbus boarding passengers at the Googleplex on Friday afternoon and sure enough, he was still fist bumping every single person who stepped onto his bus. Just think if everyone brought 120% of themselves out of bed every day like Lloyd. I would feel so inspired to be my best self, regardless of where I am and what I’m doing. Of all of my interactions in my 7+ years of working at tech companies, I most vividly remember how great Lloyd made me feel every time I was boarding his bus to go home.

Shanghai Yoga Studio Review

Y+ Yoga
Several locations in Shanghai‚ÄĒsearch for the nearest location to you using Baidu Maps if you are in China; you can use Google Maps if you are outside China.

I visited the Y+ Yoga located at 308 Anfu Rd, Xuhui Xu, Shanghai Shi, China 200000 (Google Maps address) but there are a total of 4 locations in Shanghai. Note that the location I went to is not well marked and it‚Äôs on the third floor of a building. You have to trust the Baidu Maps GPS and just turn into the building when your dot says you have arrived and go up the stairs (or take the elevator to the third floor.) There isn‚Äôt a sign on the outside marking the yoga studio (although it looked like that building was being remodeled the time I went so it may have a sign by now.) Y+ Yoga has many classes each day and seems to be membership prices driven; their drop-in class prices can be steep (300 RMB for a drop-in class, equivalent to about USD$46) but they do have a new student special that is 399 RMB for 5 classes. I attended Sergeii‚Äôs Flow Level 2 class and it was very interesting to hear Mandarin Chinese around me from the yoginis but to do a yoga practice led by an English-speaking teacher who had a Russian accent. When he said the word ‚Äúwarrior,‚ÄĚ it sounded like ‚Äúwater‚ÄĚ to me. Sergeii was a ‚Äúget down to business‚ÄĚ yoga teacher and he made sure everyone got to practice handstands and forearm stand with him spotting them and he offered hands on adjustments which I appreciated.

Pros
1.) Studio offers a wide variety of classes from beginner classes to more advanced classes; from the one class I was in, the teachers seemed to have been teaching and practicing for several years themselves
2.) In terms of studio amenities, this studio has some of the best (compared to the close to 100 studios I have been to around the world.) It has some 150 lockers so your belongings stay safe (you trade in a small item to get the key to unlock the locker and then you trade that key back to get your small item back after class.) I think there are so many lockers because they have a couple yoga rooms and they have concurrent classes that they just stagger the start and end times for. There are 6+ ladies showers so there isn’t a wait to use the showers and they provide you with all the towels and shampoo. In addition, this studio allows free usage of Manduka Black Mat Pro mats (I have only been to a small handful of studios that have Manduka Pro mats on hand and do not charge extra for borrowing them); you can bring your own mat to each class or just use their Manduka Pro mats, which were in great shape and didn’t have an odor
3.) The staff is very helpful and goes out of their way to make sure you have what you need. The majority of the front desk staff speaks Mandarin only but at the location I went to, Nina spoke English and was very helpful

Cons
1.) Difficult to locate the studio because of lack of signage and markings outside
2.) Cannot find the yoga class schedule on their website (or it’s very difficult to find and I never discovered it); I later WeChat Nina and she sent me the PDFs which I have posted below.
3.) American prices (e.g. a bottle of water was 30 RMB, equivalent to about USD $4.62) and it‚Äôs definitely ‚ÄúWesternized‚ÄĚ in that it looks just like an American yoga studio with Manduka and Lululemon apparel for sale at the front. However, this can also be considered a pro because it may be more comfortable and closer to what you‚Äôre used to if you are American; but for those who are seeking something very different from what their practice may be like at home in the United States, this yoga practice and experience will be quite similar

In the schedules below, the stars next to the classes below denote the difficulty. A class with 4 stars is more difficult than a class with 3 stars.

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Class Schedule for the Y+ Yoga located at 308 Anfu Rd, Xuhui Xu, Shanghai Shi, China 200000

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This is one of the class schedules; unfortunately, I cannot tell which location it is for but the “FXL” could be an abbreviation of the street that it is on

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This is one of the class schedules; unfortunately, I cannot tell which location it is for but the “JSL” could be an abbreviation of the street that it is on

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This is one of the class schedules; unfortunately, I cannot tell which location it is for but the “XTD” could be an abbreviation of the street that it is on

Houston Yoga Studio Review

YogaWorks Uptown
5750 Woodway Dr Houston, TX 77057

I was traveling for work and had one day to try a yoga studio in Houston, TX. Although YogaWorks is a chain (and possibly a franchise,) it does have its distinct flavor in each city and I’ve enjoyed their classes in Boston and Palo Alto so I stopped by YogaWorks Uptown Houston. I chatted with the teachers and studio workers and they mentioned that it was odd that California did not have many heated yoga studios (I guess the weather is so nice year round or it just never caught on.) Many yoga studios in Houston are heated and YogaWorks had 2 rooms, one that was heated and one that was not. I ended up taking Caron Lamay’s Hot 60 class.

Pros
1.) Fantastic use of props for free–excellent for travelers. I bought a drop-in class and they let me use a Manduka Pro Mat, gave me a hand towel and a full length yoga mat towel to practice on for free. Usually, you have to rent each of these items for $2-3 each
2.) They have showers and ample cubby area for shoes and lounging on the side of the studio

Cons
1.) Hot 60 class felt very static and it was the same set of poses each class; I think I would easily get bored of such a repetitive type of class (I don’t know what their flow classes are like though)
2.) Hot 60 is heated to 104 degrees F (while I enjoyed hot yoga at Be Luminous in Seattle, anything higher than 85 degrees F makes it too difficult to practice advanced yoga poses because you are too wet and slippery at that point and it’s just too hot)

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Unheated yoga studio space at YogaWorks Uptown Houston

Ingredient Toxicity in Bliss Body Butter

Ingredient Toxicity in Bliss Body Butter

Update August 2018: Since this posting was written in September 2017, Bliss has updated their body butter formula to contain less toxic chemicals. I haven’t gone back to Bliss body butter yet (I’m still loving L’Occitane’s Organic Shea Butter) but I wanted to acknowledge this change.

I love Bliss Body Butter–especially the lemon + sage maximum moisture cream. I purchase it in the super-sized 14 fl oz bottles and grab as many samples as I can from the W. Unlike the other household products I use though, Bliss had ingredients I could not pronounce. Recently, I decided to look up every ingredient. My findings:

  1. Bliss uses different ingredients for the lemon + sage body butter they supply at W Hotels than they do for the bottles you can purchase
  2. The lemon + sag body butter that they supply at W Hotels is more toxic than the bottles you can purchase, although both contain allergens and trace carcinogens

I used the Environmental Working Group’s¬†Skin Deep Cosmetic Database toxicity classifications (1 = least toxic and 10 = most toxic) to standardize these classifications.

Bliss lemon + sage body butter (W Hotel version) ingredients rundown:
There are actually two formulas for W Hotel’s lemon + sage body butter; I have noted when the ingredients vary.

  • water
  • cocos nucifera (coconut) oil: 1
  • ethylhexyl palmitate: 1
  • vegetable oil: 1
  • cyclopentasiloxane: 3
  • cetearyl alcohol: 1
  • dimethicone: 3
  • polysorbate 60: 3
  • steareth-2: 3
  • phenoxyethanol¬†(missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • dimethiconol: 1
  • propylene glycol: 3
  • hydroxyethylcellulose: 1
  • carbomer: 1
  • diazolidinyl urea (missing in one of the formulas): 6 (moderate hazard)
  • butylene glycol: 1
  • tocopherol: 1
  • limonene: 6 (moderate hazard)
  • sodium hydroxide: 3
  • methylparaben (missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • disodium EDTA: 1
  • sodium hyaluronate: 1
  • BHT (missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • citral: 7 (known allergen)
  • parfum: 8 (“parfum” can contain anything but it is likely to cause irritation)
  • propylparaben (missing in one of the formulas): 7 (developmental and reproductive toxicity)
  • chondrus crispus carrageenan extract: 1
  • retinyl palmitate: 9 (developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer)
  • linalool: 5 (moderate allergen)
  • citric acid: 2
  • geraniol: 7 (known allergen)
  • calluna vulgaris extract: 1

Bliss lemon + sage body butter (retail version) ingredients rundown:

  • water
  • cocos nucifera (coconut) oil: 1
  • ethylhexyl palmitate: 1
  • glycine soja (soybean) oil: 1
  • butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter: 1
  • glyceryl stearate: 1
  • dimethicone: 3
  • stearic acid: 1
  • isopropyl myristate: 1
  • cetyl alcohol: 1
  • PEG-40 stearate: 3
  • trimethylolpropane triisostearate: 1
  • sorbitan tristearate: 1
  • phenoxyethanol: 4
  • retinyl palmitate: 9 (developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer)
  • tocopherol: 1
  • butylene glycol: 1
  • triethanolamine: 5 (moderate allergen)
  • caprylyl glycol: 1
  • algae extract: 1
  • tetrasodium EDTA: 2
  • carbomer: 1
  • ethyl acetate: 1
  • cyclohexane: 2
  • arnica montana flower extract: 2
  • calluna vulgaris extract: 1
  • propylene glycol: 3
  • sodium hyaluronate: 1
  • citral: 7 (high allergen)
  • limonene: 6 (moderate hazard)

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Bliss lemon + sage body butter (W Hotels)

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Bliss lemon + sage body butter (retail)

As much as I love the smell and texture of Bliss, the toxic ingredients had to go. My go-to moisturizer is now organic shea butter.¬†I use L’occitane’s organic shea butter enriched with vitamin E oil because there is zero fragrance and the texture is the most creamy of any shea butter I have ever used before–but the major con is that it’s really pricey at $39 for 5.2 oz).

Boston Yoga Studio Reviews

When it’s cold in Boston, warming up with yoga is the perfect way to beat the winter blues!

Exhale
8 Arlington St, Boston, MA 02116
Back Bay (Public Gardens)

This is hands down the nicest yoga studio in Boston. When you enter, you are greeted by a relaxing and well-kept retail store, selling everything from candles to yoga mats. Because the studio also serves as a spa, it smells wonderful and there is free tea and fantastic amenities. The amenities remind me of those at SoulCycle or Barry’s Bootcamp–showers, shampoo and soaps, towels, bathrobes, shower sandals, hair dryers, all in a very spacious locker room which is shared by the spa’s clients.

Pros
1.) Cleanest, nicest yoga studio in Boston when it comes to amenities and facilities
2.) Free yoga mats (you don’t need to pay $3 to rent one) and they clean the yoga mats after (you don’t just put them back in the stack of yoga mats–there is a dirty mats bin and they take care of it so it’s clean for the next person and not stinky)
3.) The yoga room is beautiful. It faces a gold buddha at the front of the room and the room is downstairs which means you don’t care anything during practice–no sounds of cars or of the Barre class happening upstairs.

Cons
1.) I went to¬†Scott Troppy’s Exhale Flow yoga class and David Magone’s PranaVayu flow class. In both classes, the flow sequence was very basic: A series of sun salutations, a few twists, tree, then followed by some stretching. If you are new to yoga, it is great for understanding and learning the alignment of certain poses but if you are more advanced, you will probably be bored. Since the class was so small, I also wish Scott and David offered more hands on adjustments.

YogaWorks
364 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116
Back Bay (Public Gardens)

This studio is a bit hard to find so leave yourself a few extra minutes to figure this out for your first visit: The studio is hidden on the second floor of a long building¬†and¬†there isn’t a big sign on Boylston Street that points to the door you need to go into. If you put the address into Google Maps, it leads you to the right area on the block and from there, you’ll have to look carefully into each of the doors to find a standing black easel sign that says YogaWorks (I think this sign sits outside in the summer but they take it in during the winter months.) There are actually two doors marked as¬†364 Boylston Street and only one leads to YogaWorks so look for this YogaWorks sign.

Once inside, you have to check in for every class with the receptionist. I find this to be a slightly unnecessary bottleneck since many people sign up online but¬†they don’t have a self-service check in for those who pre-paid. The space has two yoga studios, called Moon and Sun, so make sure you confirm the room¬†with the receptionist.

The quality of the classes are fantastic–I have visited 5 different teachers and they all have a “get down to business” style of yoga. These are some of the most creative flow classes I have taken; teachers¬†string together sequences that you wouldn’t normally think to put together so it feels like a dance on your yoga mat. Contrary to Ashtanga¬†or Bikram yoga practices, the practice at YogaWorks rarely follows a pre-defined sequence of poses and you are sure to encounter new sequences and new variations on poses during each class.

In particular, I thought¬†the Hip Hop Yoga was a fun usage of widely accessible music. Each instructor has his or her own playlist and you flow through a vinyasa practice to Jay Z, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, etc. I have always liked music in class and was happy¬†when teachers also played music during the the¬†Vinyasa Flow classes. The Hip Hop Yoga classes are held in a slightly warmer room (the room called the Sun,) but none of the¬†classes fall under “heated yoga” or baptiste yoga since the heat is turned on only ever so slightly–it’s more to¬†make the room feel comfortable because¬†it’s often raining ice pellets outside. You will break out in a slight sweat in the Hip Hop Yoga classes since it is a faster paced class in a warmer room but I don’t think¬†a hot yoga towel is required. A hot yoga towel isn’t going to be helpful¬†for the Vinyasa classes since those classes are usually held in the room called the Moon, and it’s not heated higher than room temperature. You will get a workout but you won’t sweat much.

About a year later, I returned to YogaWorks in Back Bay and took a Vinyasa flow¬†class with¬†Renee LeBlanc. She has so much control of her body–it was beautiful to watch her demo. Even though this wasn’t her advanced class, she was teaching straddle handstands and one legged crow. I can’t wait to return and practice in her¬†advanced class the next time I am in Boston.

I think my favorite part about the classes at YogaWorks is their¬†varying styles. Each teacher feels at liberty to teach his or her own class and throw in fun and novel twists to challenge and humor you. At each class, I have felt challenged in some way. My favorite new pose thus far has been a tricep workout: Lay down on your belly, put a yoga block on your butt and lift your chest and your legs. Then squeeze¬†the yoga block with just your palms (no fingers) and lift, lift, lift. Repeat. This aligns your spine and works out your arms. If your triceps don’t hurt tomorrow, it’s because you are squeezing or lifting the yoga block with your fingers–don’t use your fingers; palms only.

I would recommend YogaWorks to yogis who have gone to a few yoga classes before. The practice is within reach for all skill levels but sometimes, the yoga teacher will ask you to complete sun salutations on your own or queue slightly more complicated sequences that require a basic foundation of yoga first.

Pros
1.) Clean facilities and great location right by Arlington green line train station; showers available (lockers that require your own combination lock used to be available but have since been removed as of 12/26/16–you can bring your valuables¬†into the practice room and store them in the cubbies.)
2.) Wide selection of classes to attend each day.
3.) Hip Hop yoga classes offer creative transitions, tuned to songs you want to sing along to.

Cons
1.) Changing area is outdated; not much bench space.
2.) Classes can be quite large even during the December holidays; I thought the rooms were full but¬†the teachers kept saying, “spread out now that you have space” which makes me think that non-holiday classes are extremely packed, mat to mat.

Barre & Soul
36 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Harvard Square

This is the perfect studio for those who are new to yoga and those who are traveling. For one, it is conveniently located in the The¬†Garage “mall” at 36 JFK Street, right off the Harvard Square red line MBTA stop. I also love that the¬†studio offers everything you need for your practice: The studio has¬†high quality and new Manduka yoga mats (no charge!) which is amazing–studios always charge at least a few dollars for a yoga mat rental and it’s usually not as nice as a Manduka mat. Their mat cleaner smells amazing so you don’t have to worry about a stinky mat that might be covered in someone else’s germs and sweat. Their classes are pretty fundamental and easily accessible by people of all backgrounds; actually, most of the students in the three classes I stopped by were current Harvard Undergraduates and¬†college students generally are beginners because very few people practice yoga in high school (they usually discover it in college and grow their practice post-graduation when they have more money to spend on expensive yoga classes.) Barre & Soul has two rooms: One is a yoga room and the other is a Barre studio. As with most other Barre studios, they offer everything you need for Barre class (weights, mats, props, etc.) They offer quite a few yoga and Barre classes each day so you can schedule around your busy schedule. The yoga studio space is also one of the prettiest spaces I have practiced in with a chic turquoise piano at the front of the room (that they don’t generally use for class.) Even though the classes are pretty basic, I plan to return here in the future.

Pros
1.) Convenient, clean, and well-lit (with natural sunlight) practice space with all the props you need (don’t underestimate how important this is if you are coming to and from work; you¬†might not want to lug around a heavy yoga mat with you all day.)
2.) Efficient check-in processes and spacious studio hallway space allows you to feel calm from the moment you step into the space to the moment you step back out on the streets.
3.) Two types of classes in one studio allows you to have variety in your workout routine¬†and the numerous daily classes fit in with most people’s schedules.

Cons
1.) Instructors don’t seem to have practiced for very long (e.g. 10+ years); the yoga sequences don’t¬†vary very much (basic vinyasa poses) and teachers don’t switch up the flow amongst their classes (so if you go to the same teacher multiple times, you’ll wind up doing the same practice as I did.)
2.) The floor is tilted; most buildings in Cambridge are old and this one is no exception. The floors are oddly tilted in random spots, making some of the one-legged balance poses harder because you aren’t used to the floor being crooked. It is good practice for balancing though (because it makes it harder to balance.)
3.) No showers or changing rooms–just two bathrooms. I didn’t sweat that much in either the yoga or Barre classes here but it would be nice to be able to shower or change here. You can change but you have to wait for one of the two bathrooms.

IMG_20160206_084137-2Yoga studio room at Barre & Soul

Karma Yoga Studio
1120 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138
Harvard Square

I didn’t use the Karma gym or get tea here but it seems like a great spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square. I only attended a¬†vinyasa flow class here over Memorial Day Weekend. The class wasn’t full (there were about 7 yogis.) The class wasn’t technically challenging and the teacher offered minimal adjustments so it was a great location to do a drop in class if you are in the neighborhood but probably wouldn’t become my go-to yoga studio if you wanted to grow and challenge yourself. This class seemed better suited for beginners since the instructor focused more on alignment, especially towards the beginning when she was teaching proper chaturanga alignment.

Pros
1.) Very convenient location, close to many shops and eateries in Harvard Square
2.) Yoga studio is a part of a gym and you can get a yoga + gym package, which can save you a lot of money

Cons
1.) Low-tech studio (you cannot sign up online and their credit card machine was down the day I went to the studio)
2.) The studio doesn’t offer advanced¬†classes for more seasoned yogis

Karma Yoga Studio
(Third Floor) 338 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02115
Back Bay

It was the Tuesday after Christmas and I was the only person who showed up to¬†Cara Harley’s 12:15pm class. And it was wonderful–I got a private yoga class for $10! Cara asked me what I wanted to practice and I said handstands so she taught a Vinyasa class with some special handstand practice tricks to get me more used to putting weight into my hands & wrists and more aligned / less like a banana (yogis know what I mean by banana back.) Cara isn’t the most advanced yoga teacher I have practiced with (in terms of being able to do advanced yoga poses) but I did love that I got so much attention. She watched every¬†single transition and adjusted my alignment, even if I was just a hair off–I really appreciated this. When you are a more advanced yogi or you are in a big class, you can feel a bit neglected because the teachers are focused on those who are confused about the next pose or they don’t have time to fix everyone’s alignment. Because I haven’t been to a full class here, I can’t comment on what a “normal” class with 10+ students feels like so I’ll stick to the facilities in my pros / cons report.

Pros
1.) Enormous facility (see huge practice room below); clean and airy feeling; individual changing stalls are available.
2.) Great value: $10 for a 1-hour long class and $15 for any class greater than 1-hour is a good price; at other nice yoga studios, 1-hour classes usually start at $18+.

Cons
1.) Small waiting area so if you show up early, there isn’t much room for you to hang out (there is a bench inside the sign-in area but there is also a sign in the stairwell before the sign-in area that tells you not to enter between classes.)
2.) There aren’t any¬†showers (so if you get sweaty, you can’t fully clean up before heading to brunch or dinner on Newbury Street.)

Los Angeles Yoga Studios Reviews

I have been to several yoga studios in LA but only recently decided to include them in my blog posts.¬†There are so many fitness options¬†in Los Angeles so if you are in the area, it’s very easy to keep up your workout routine or to try something new. Celebrities are also interested in¬†these public studios so while I don’t review non-yoga studios, I will say that I had a very fun SoulCycle Survivor class in Hollywood where Vanessa Hudgens¬†biked¬†on the bike the instructor usually occupies and¬†the teacher walked around the class instead.

The Yoga Collective
512 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291

I took a class with¬†Danielle Zuccarelli (who was substituting for¬†Travis Elliot.) The class wasn’t too packed (although it was the Thursday before Labor Day weekend,) and the practice offered a good mix of inspiration and¬†“working out.” I found the class to be more basic. We also spent 10 minutes or so repeating¬†Warrior I and the teacher did the “go ahead and repeat this sequence of¬†poses for several minutes” thing, which some people don’t like.

Pros
1.) The teachers interweave in spiritual aspects of the practice
2.) They provide free mats
3.) Studio is next to lots of restaurants / centrally located in Venice Beach

Cons
1.) No showers; only one bathroom so can be annoying if you have to wait in line but you have a class that is about to start
2.) Studio space itself is old so the ventilation isn’t good; it gets warm in there but the air¬†system isn’t as sophisticated as some newer hot yoga studios are so it can feel “stifling”
3.)¬†The practice didn’t¬†feel challenging enough for seasoned practitioners

yogacollectivesvenice
The Yoga Collective in Venice Beach, LA

Yoga Asanas & their Sanskrit Names

Yoga asanas with their English and Sanskrit names ordered by when they would (loosely) appear in a yoga class.

Grasshopper pose
  • Mountain PoseTadasana (tada = mountain)
  • Prayer Pose –¬†Samasthiti (sama = same, equal; sthiti = to establish, to stand)
  • Hero’s PostureVirasana¬†(vir = man, hero, chief)
  • Breath of Fire –¬†Kapalabhati (kapal = skull;¬†bhati = shining)
  • Four-Limbed Stick Pose –¬†Chaturanga Dandasana¬†(chatur = four;¬†anga = limb;¬†danda = staff, stick)
  • Downward-facing Dog Pose –¬†Adho Mukha Svanasana (adho = downward;¬†mukha = face;¬†shvana = dog)
  • Upward-facing Dog Pose –¬†Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (urdhva = rising or tending upward)
  • Cobra Pose –¬†Bhujangasana (bhujanga = serpent)
  • Warrior I/II/IIIVirabhadrasana I/II/III (virabhadra = the name of a fierce mythical warrior)
  • Chair PoseUtkatasana (utkata = awkward)
  • Extended Side Angle Pose –¬†Utthita Parsvakonasana (utthita¬†= extended;¬†parsva = side;¬†kona¬†= angle)
  • Child’s Pose –¬†Balasana (bala = young, childish)
  • Revolved Side Angle Pose –¬†Parivrtta Baddha Parsvakonasana (parivrtta = twist, revolve;¬†baddha = bound;¬†parsva = side;¬†kona = angle)
  • Extended Triangle Pose¬†Utthita Trikonasana (utthita = extended;¬†tri¬†= three;¬†kona = angle)
  • Revolved Triangle Pose¬†– Parivrtta Trikonasana (parivrtta¬†= to turn around;¬†tri = three;¬†kona = angle)
  • Intense Side Stretch –¬†Parsvottanasana (parsva¬†= side;¬†ut¬†= intense;¬†tan = stretch)
  • Standing Forward BendUttanasana (ut = intense; tan = stretch)
  • Extended Hand-toe¬†PoseUtthita Hasta Padangusthasana (utthita¬†= extended;¬†hasta¬†= hand;¬†pada¬†= foot;¬†angusta¬† = big toe)
  • Eagle PoseGarudasana (garuda¬†= a fierce bird of prey)
  • King of the Dancers Pose¬†– Natarajasana (nata = dancer;¬†raja = king)
  • Tree Pose –¬†Vrksasana (vrksa = tree)
  • Downward-facing Tree Pose¬†(a.k.a. hand stand) –¬†Adho Mukha Vrksasana (adho = downward;¬†mukha = face)
  • Half Moon PoseArdha Chandrasana
  • Wide-Stance Forward Bend –¬†Prasarita Padottanasana (prasarita = spread;¬†pada = foot;¬†ut = intense;¬†tan = to stretch out)
  • Camel Pose –¬†Ustrasana (ustra = camel)
  • Squat –¬†Upavesasana (upavesa = sitting down, seat)
  • Crow Pose –¬†Bakasana (baka = crow, crane)
  • Side Crow Pose –¬†Parsva Bakasana (parsva = side)
  • Eight-angel Pose¬†–¬†Astavakrasana (ashta = eight;¬†vakra¬†= crooked)
  • Figure Four Pose – eka pada utkatasana
  • Peacock Pose –¬†Mayurasana (mayura = peacock)
  • Feathered Peacock Pose¬†(a.k.a. forearm balance) –¬†Pincha Mayurasana (pincha = a feather of a tail;¬†mayura = peacock)
  • Scorpion Pose –¬†Vrschikasana (vrschana = scorpion)
  • Supported Headstand –¬†Salamba Sirsasana (sa = with;¬†alamba = the on which one rests or leans;¬†sirsa = head)
  • Posture of the Root Lock –¬†Mulabandhasana (mula = root, foot;¬†bandha = binding)
  • Staff Pose¬†– Dandasana¬†(danda = stick, staff)
  • West Back Stretching¬†–¬†Paschimottanasana¬†(pascha = behind, after, westward;¬†uttana = intense stretch)
  • The Great Seal –¬†Mahamudra¬†(maha = great, mighty, strong;¬†mudra = sealing, shutting, closing)
  • Head-to-Knee Pose –¬†Janu Sirsasana (janu¬†= knee;¬†shiras¬†= to touch with the head)
  • Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose –¬†Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (parivrtta¬†= turning, rolling;¬†janu = knee;¬†shiras = to touch with the head)
  • Half Lord of the Fishes Pose –¬†Ardha Matsyendrasana (ardha = half;¬†matsya¬†= fish;¬†indra¬†= ruler, lord)
  • One-Legged Royal Pigeon Pose –¬†Eka Pada Rajakapotasana¬†(eka = one;¬†pada¬† = foot;¬†raja = king, royal;¬†kapota = dove, pigeon)
Eka Pada RajakapotasanaOne-Legged Royal Pigeon Pose
  • Bow Pose –¬†Dhanurasana (dhanu = bow)
  • Upward Bow Pose (a.k.a. wheel) –¬†Urdhva Dhanurasana (urdhva = upward;¬†dhanu = bow)
  • Sage Vasistha’s Pose (a.k.a side plank pose)¬†–¬†Vasisthasana (vasistha = a sage)
  • Locust Pose –¬†Salabhasana (salabha = grasshopper, locust)
  • Boat Pose¬†– Navasana¬†(nava = boat)
  • Four-footed Tabletop Pose –¬†Chatus Pada Pitham (chatur = four;¬†pada = foot;¬†pitham = stool, seat)
  • Upward Plank Pose –¬†Purvottanasana (purva = front;¬†ut = intense;¬†tan = extend, stretch)
  • Seated Wide-Angle Pose¬†–¬†Upavistha Konasana (upavistha = seated; kona = angle)
  • Turtle Pose –¬†Kurmasana (kurma = turtle)
  • Reclining Turtle Pose¬†–¬†Supta Kurmasana¬† (supta¬† = reclining)
  • Cow-Faced Pose –¬†Gomukhasana (go = cow;¬†mukha = face)
  • Monkey Pose (a.k.a. splits) –¬†Hanumanasana (Hanuman¬†was the semidivine chief of an army of monkeys who served the¬†god Rama. Hanuman once jumped in a single stride the distance between Southern India and Sri Lanka and this split-leg pose mimics that famous leap)
  • Bridge Pose –¬†Setu Bandhasana (setu = dam, dike, bridge;¬†bandha = lock;¬†setubandha = the forming of a bridge, dam)
  • Belly Twist –¬†Jathara Parivrtti (jathara = stomach, bellow;¬†parivrtti = turning, rolling)
  • Fish Pose –¬†Matsyasana (matsya = fish)
  • Supported Shoulder Stand –¬†Salamba Sarvangasana (salamba = with support;¬†sarva = all;¬†anga = limb)
  • Plow Pose –¬†Halasana (hala = plow)
  • Ear-to-Knee Pose –¬†Karnapidasana (karna = ear;¬†pidana = squeeze, pressure)
  • Bound Angle Pose –¬†Baddha Konasana (baddha = bound;¬†kona = angle)
  • Reclining Bound Angle Pose –¬†Supta Baddha Konasana (supta¬†= resting)
  • Lotus Posture –¬†Padmasana (padma = lotus)
  • Easy Posture¬†Sukhasana (sukha = comfortable, gentle)
  • Adept’s Posture¬†–¬†Siddhasana (siddha = accomplished, fulfilled, a sage)
  • Auspicious Posture –¬†Svastikasana¬†(svastik = lucky, auspicious)
  • Corpse Pose¬†–¬†Savasana (sava = corpse)

Have fun at your next yoga class!

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana - Forearm Wheel
Dwi Pada Viparita DandasanaForearm Wheel
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One Legged Wheel – Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana