Follow my yoga quest at home and on the road…

San Francisco – San Fran-tastic!


Prior to arriving in San Francisco I wrote a list of what I hoped to do whilst there. It is good to have a plan, as then you have something to amend…

Bay Bridge, San Francisco

Bay Bridge, San Francisco

San Francisco was my final destination in the United States, at the end of a six week trip. I loved the “feel” of San Francisco. I spent five chillaxed nights (12-17 May 2013) in San Francisco (SF). Chillaxed… partly because it is chilly (LOL) and mostly because it was relaxing.

I had lovely accommodation at a yoga friendly Kimpton Hotel – The Hotel Argonaut. As promised, there was a yoga mat in the wardrobe, and a TV channel dedicated to yoga, etc. The hotel location – on Jefferson – was convenient to many of the tourist highlights, and it was also a short taxi ride/cable car trip, or a manageable walk to move away from the crowds.

I first visited SF around 25 years ago – I remember not being able to see much of the harbour due to mist/fog. Ditto on this occasion .

Prior to arriving in SF I wrote a list of what I hoped to do whilst there. It is good to have a plan, as then you have something to amend. Anyway, this is what I did, and didn’t do…Visited the Musee Mecanique – an entertainment blast from the past… from my own, my parents, and my grandparents. It was a great place for young and old alike. 017 - musee mecanique entrance sign

I went on a lovely long walk that took me to, and up, the Coit Tower. The view from the top was great (albeit a hazy day) eg Bay Bridge, G2B, Fisherman’s Wharf, etc. Interesting murals on the internal walls of the tower reminded me of murals and other artworks viewed in New York (five weeks ago), ie in and around the Rockerfeller Centre. I walked down the 400 steps from the Coit Tower to the waterfront. These steps lead me past lovely, lush, private gardens. I then visited the Ferry Building, and caught the tail end of the farmers market which is held there several times per week.

Mural at Coit Tower

Mural at Coit Tower

I caught a street car from downtown, along the length of Market St to Castro. I had intended walking from Castro to Golden Gate Park, BUT found that the map I was using was not to scale, and was not topographical, ie the intended walk was much further, and much hillier than I had realised. As it was approaching late afternoon, I abandoned that adventure and caught a street car back to downtown, then joined a long line to catch a cable car to my hotel, at around 5pm. The cable cars are a popular tourist attraction – hence the line. NB catching cable cars at 6.30am to yoga is a breeze… more about yoga later.

Basking sea lions at Pier 39

Basking sea lions at Pier 39

On two occasions, I went to see the sea lions that gather on pontoons at Pier 39. They are an adorable, yet smelly, noisy bunch. They snuffle, snort and grunt as they jostle until they find a comfortable spot in amongst the pile of sea lions, that is, until someone decides to move…

I visited Union Square, and chanced upon a free blues concert. As I was en route to Biscuits and Blues to see Kevin Russell perform, I could not stop for long, however I enjoyed the music and atmosphere whilst I could. On to Biscuits and Blues… Kevin Russell sang the blues accompanied by a bass guitarist and a drummer. The club was underground, and intimate – the musicians were within arm’s reach. It was a great night out.

Kevin Russell played at Biscuits & Blues, San Francisco

Kevin Russell played at Biscuits & Blues, San Francisco

I attempted to catch the ferry to Saulsalito as I had heard this was a scenic trip, ie taking in views of the G2B, and the cafes were good The hotel advised me the time to catch the ferry, BUT their timetable was out of date and I missed the ferry…

I caught a ferry to Alcatraz – an interesting place to visit. The introductory video provided a good summary, and the audio tour for the cell house was very well done, the sound effects were graphic!

The weather ranged from cool to really cold, ie scarf, gloves, two jackets type of cold. I had thought I would be wearing shorts everyday by this stage of the trip. This was not to be

I noticed many interesting buildings in SF, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau trims and facades – ornate and amazing I, particularly likes the variety and styles of entrances to homes, eg welcoming vestibules with arches, multiple identical doors leading left, right and up to the respective dwellings, ornate steel gates, and decorative lights…

20130619-084528.jpgSan Francisco has many yoga studios that offer a variety of yoga styles. Following a search on the internet I chose to book three Vinyasa classes at Union Yoga. Union Yoga is located on the corner of Union St and Hyde St on Russian Hill, and was a short distance from my hotel. Initially, I had intended walking from the hotel to the studio… that was until I saw the gradient of that part of Russian Hill (!) Fortunately, a cable car stop was a stone’s throw from the hotel and the cable car passed right by the yoga studio – yeahh 🙂 I rode the cable car (CC) up Russian Hill to the yoga studio and walked back down to the Hotel.

Union Yoga studio is a bright, light space. The classes I attended were lead by Justin Montigne who is a very friendly, and welcoming teacher. It was easy to book and pay for classes on line. Classes were very reasonably priced at US$15 for a 1.5 hour session. Use of mats and props was included. There were changing rooms, and a space to store bags, shoes, etc in the reception area.

The day I left SF I was up early, and on to the cable car at 0630 – to attend the 0700 yoga class. As had occurred on my other early morning trips, I was the only passenger – which I quite liked.
The CC conductor remembered me from my initial early morning trip when I had asked for his advice of where to get off the CC for Union Yoga. As we got close to the yoga studio, he shyly asked me “What do you do in there? stretching?”.

The morning had brought beautiful, clear views of Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. I took my camera with me to yoga, and took a few pics of the aforementioned as I walked back to the hotel for the last time. I also walked down the crookedest street, ie Lombard St, and took photos of some of the nearby porches and vestibules.

The Rock - Alcatraz

The Rock – Alcatraz

I left San Francisco wanting more and hoping to return again some day…

Thanks for a great stay San Francisco, and thanks to Justin and Union Yoga for a lovely yoga experience


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A short stay in Monterey…

Om Studios, Monterey, Ca

Om Studios, Monterey, Ca

11th May 2013 – Whilst on an over nighter in Monterey, Ca, I attended 2.5 hour workshop with Austin Efurd, hosted by Om Studios.

Austin was visiting Monterey from San Francisco where he teaches at Urban Flow Yoga.

The workshop began with a lead meditation – which was fabulous. We began the meditation deep inside the body, then went on a journey that took us on a round trip to outer space 🙂 Meditation was followed by lead chanting – workshop participants echoed Austin with great enthusiasm.

The asana was flowing and energetic – I soon began to glow. I felt the vinyasa helped me release some of the toxins that had been building up in the body on this vacation – yeahh!

I found the workshop to be both challenging and rewarding. And, after a fairly low key approach to practice for the last month or so, a 2+ hour asana stint was invigorating.

The workshop was very reasonably priced at only US$25, and the studio kindly lent me a yoga mat.



Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

I chose to devote the remainder of my time in Monterey to visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium – I am really glad I did – OMG – it was fabulous The tanks are vast, and the sea life is beautiful, varied, and prolific. I watched several feeding sessions, ie in the “open sea” and “kelp forest” tanks, saw beautiful jelly fish, touched a star fish in the touch pool!, watched penguins walking about – did Charlie Chaplin copy them, or vice versa?

AND, my all time favourite… The sea otters – they are gorgeous… playful, energetic, captivating, endearing. Do you want to see these beautiful creatures too? Check them out at the Monterey Bay Aquarium via web cam.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Thanks to Om Studios, Austin Efurd, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium


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Yo! Yosemite!

399I was – again- most fortunate to spend time in one of the USA’s fabulous National Parks – on this occasion I spent three nights (7-8-9 May 2013) in beautiful Yosemite.

I stayed at the historic Wawona Hotel, in the Washburn Cottage. The hotel, comprised of 6 buildings, was built in various stages during the late 1800s to early 1900s.

During my time in Yosemite, I made my early morning asana practice on the floor on the Washburn Cottage, following sequences from my i-book, Essential Yoga, by Judy Smith.

Of course, “everyday life”, provides opportunity to practise yoga – and being in amongst nature, in a beautiful spot such as Yosemite provided another dimension in which to enjoy, and practise. Hiking to the Chilnualna Falls, and along the Wawona Meadow Loop, wandering along sun dappled trails, surrounded by majestic trees and ancient rocks, passing by sun drenched meadows, and hearing the sounds of bubbling streams or rushing rivers, was meditative. I was very grateful to be able to visit this wonderful part of the US.

I made the one hour drive from Wawona Hotel to reach the Yosemite Valley where I went on a Valley Floor tour. The Valley is fantastic – wonderful granite rockfaces and cliffs, huge boulders scattered here and there, that had been moved to their resting place by a glacier, that was no longer to be seen. Cascading waterfalls, beautiful meadows, and groves of trees, eg Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pines, Cinnamon Cedars and Dogwood…

The guide/bus driver was full of information about the Valley, and rock climbing – which was his hobby. He drew passenger’s attention to five specks in the distance – fortunately I had binoculars with me, and I could clearly see that the specks were climbers suspended by ropes, making their way up the rock face.

I had intended taking a hike to one of the Valley waterfalls, but the weather had other ideas, ie large rain drops began to fall, followed by hail, and heavy rain, thunder and lightning. The climbers I had seen earlier would have been riding out the storm in the open.

The day I left Yosemite, I visited the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. As sequoias have a shallow root system, visitors are requested to maintain a respectful distance from the trees – and many of the trees are fenced off accordingly. I undertook a short hike to see The Grizzly and The Tunnel Tree. These majestic ancient giants are AWESOME! … Wide, tall, tessellated – if I could have, I would have given those loveable giants a big ole giant hug 🙂

I noticed cute little Chickorees – they are like miniature squirrels – darting hither and tither, and I also saw several groups of Mule Deer in amongst the shadows of the trees, nibbling on tufts of grass that had managed to push their way through the leaf litter.

During my time in Yosemite, I had hoped to see other wildlife, such as bears, or maybe a big cat. But, this was not to be. Maybe next time…


Wawona Hotel, Washburn  Cottage

Wawona Hotel, Washburn Cottage

Can you spot the climbers on the rock face?, and the hikers in the meadow?

Can you spot the climbers on the rock face?, and the hikers in the meadow?

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

... as close as I got to a Mountain Lion

… as close as I got to a Mountain Lion

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Yoga Center of Carmel, California – asana class with Marvin Goldstein


A Google search found that there were several yoga studios in Carmel-by-the-Sea…


7th May – I stayed last night in Carmel-by-the-Sea (Carmel), ie en route to Yosemite.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is lovely. It is a picturesque village – area around one square mile – it has oak, pine, and cyprus tree lined streets, and a gorgeous beach with white sand. Some of the houses and other buildings are reminiscent of English/European villages (some with thatched roofs) and others have a Californian look/feel to them. It is charming 🙂

imageA Google search found several yoga studios in Carmel. After checking their class schedules I found that the 7.45 a.m. Level 2 class at the Yoga Center of Carmel worked best for me on this occasion.

The studio is located in the Sunset Cultural Center, Cottage #18, 10th Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea. The practice space is spacious, and light, and there are several lovely asana themed stained glass windows.

The casual class fee was $15, and yoga mat use was included 🙂

Yoga Center of Carmel

Yoga Center of Carmel

The instructor was Marvin Goldstein. Marvin provided detailed verbal instruction throughout the class – which I liked very much, as I feel this assists me in making subtle adjustments.

Thanks to Marvin, and the Yoga Center of Carmel.


Yoga Center of Carmel

Yoga Center of Carmel

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The Hotel Wilshire – an asana friendly place to stay in LA

I stayed two nights – from 2nd May – at The Hotel Wilshire, at 6317 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. The Wilshire Hotel is one of the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants which are currently located in 23 cities across the United States.

Kimpton Hotels supply a yoga mat for guests to use during their stay

Kimpton Hotels supply a yoga mat for guests to use during their stay

One of the many positives about staying at a Kimpton Hotel is that every room has a yoga mat in the wardrobe 🙂 Also, guests may request the loan of complimentary props, eg straps and blocks. And, there is a TV channel for those wishing to follow a guided practice for Pilates, yoga, meditation or core strengthening.

For joggers/runners, a map is provided with suggested jogging/walking routes (3, 5 and 7 mile routes). For those interested in cycling, the Hotel has bicycles that guests may borrow.

The Hotel is within an easy walk from: LACMA – LA County Museum of Art; and the Petersen Automotive Museum. A bus route into the Chinese Theatre/Walk of Fame area is nearby to the Hotel, or a taxi to the same area costs US$17-20.

A Green Dog smoothie at The Roof restaurant

A Green Dog smoothie at The Roof restaurant

The Hotel Wilshire also has a fantastic roof top restaurant, with a lovely pool, views toward the HOLLYWOOD sign, and across the city. They serve a delicious Green Dog (kale based) smoothie 🙂

Many thanks to Hotel Wilshire for their fabulous services, and friendly, helpful staff, and for lending me a yoga mat 🙂


PS I am looking forward to shortly spending a five night stay at The Argonaut, San Francisco, which is another Kimpton Hotel.

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Yoga classes in Springdale, nr Zion National Park, Utah :)

124-001 zion

Zion National Park

I visited Zion National Park, in Utah, earlier this week.291

Zion is beautiful… Lots of lovely trees, incredible sheer rock faces rising hundreds of feet above you, or below you :), great hiking opportunities – for all fitness levels, the Virgin River flows rapidly through the canyon, I caught a glimpse of a bighorn sheep, and saw half a dozen beautiful mule deer, lots of lizards darting here and there, pretty wild flowers were in bloom, often clinging to rock faces, I heard a canyon wren’s song – but did not see the singer… I would like to have spent a longer period of time in Zion, however my schedule did not allow for a longer stay.

When I checked into my accommodation at the Desert Pearl Inn, located in nearby Springdale, I was excited to see the Zion Canyon Yoga Schedule – April 2013, on the reception notice board. Unfortunately, my time in the area did not align with class days, ie there are no classes on Monday and Wednesday, and I had arrived too late on the Sunday and left too early on the Tuesday to be able to attend a class. However, it was lovely to see that asana classes were available in this off the beaten track location 🙂

Yoga schedule for classes in Springdale - nr Zion - Utah

Yoga schedule for classes in Springdale – nr Zion – Utah

The instructors name is Ann Rutz, telephone (435) 772 0419.



Canyons, cats, and new friends…


Communing with nature in Red Canyon, nr Bryce Canyon, Utah

America is blessed with many amazing natural wonders. Bearing in mind the number and spread of these wonders, whilst planning my current visit to the US, it was a challenge to decide exactly where to visit. After some research I decided to spend 10 out of 41 days in the USA, visiting the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, and Zion.

I have been very interested to note how pet friendly the US is, eg the ability to take pets on board domestic flights – whilst complying with well defined guidelines, many places I have stayed have been pet friendly, pets on leads (usually dogs) are allowed in certain areas of some of the National Parks.

Leo - the cat who came to see the Grand Canyon

Leo – the cat who went to see the Grand Canyon

In an earlier post, I mentioned my two much loved feline friends. Whilst travelling I miss these little guys, however I know they are in safe hands at home, and I always carry them in my heart. When I am on the road I welcome the opportunity to interact with animals (providing it is appropriate) and I must admit I have a bias toward cats…

I had a happy surprise whilst walking along the south rim of the Grand Canyon when I noticed ahead of me a girl sitting on a wall, with a cat sitting on her lap. The pusses name was Leo. He was stressed from the attention he was receiving. Not wanting to increase Leo’s anxiety level, I asked permission to take a photo – which was generously granted, and I quickly carried on my way.

Awesome to meet Leo in the amazing Grand Canyon 🙂

One of the many things I enjoy about travelling is the great people I meet along the way… Whilst in Bryce Canyon I met a lovely lady – Linda Stevenson – who was from Ohio. As we chatted, we discovered that we were both yoga practitioners, and that Linda was also a yoga teacher.

Meeting someone new is special, meeting someone new in an awesome place like Bryce is very special – meeting someone new who also shares the love of yoga is extra special 🙂 Please go to Linda’s website to find out about Exhale Yoga.

Wishing Linda safe and happy travels. Hope to take asana practice with you one day.


Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Monument Valley

Monument Valley


Yoga Las Vegas! Yoga paws and marshmallow mats

I have heard it said that the hardest part of asana practise is getting on to the mat – my biggest challenge today was getting the mat to stay still 🙂

20 April 2013 – today I chose to make my asana practice in the gym of my accommodation in Las Vegas.

imageOn this trip I am not travelling with my own yoga mat. The gym has exercise mats, however they are of the thick and spongy variety, as opposed to being thin and sticky. The gym floor is inflexible with a lightly textured, non slip finish.

I brought a set of Yoga Paws (YP) with me – I purchased the YP a few months ago with the idea of using them in lieu of a mat when travelling. I decided to use the YP for the first time today.

Working with the items available to me, I proceeded with the Ashtanga Primary series sequence.

Oh – also, I have woken up with a head cold – or maybe it is an allergic reaction. Whatever it is, I find it difficult to breathe through my nose, so I continue, mouth breathing. And, by the end of Surya Namaskar B, I was able to breathe fully through my nose – yippee 🙂

I started my practice using only the Yoga Paws (YP). As this was first time I had tried them, of course, there were some blatant differences between “naked” hands and feet to partially covered hands and feet. I am going to use them on several more occasions before I give my verdict.

In the interim, a couple of points regarding today’s use of the YP:
– when rolling over toes from Chaturanga to Upward Dog the tops of the feet could not gain purchase – as they would on a mat – and because the fabric tops of YP slipped on the floor. I modified, ie stayed on my toes rather than rolling over to the tops of my feet
– palms and fingers could not make “usual” contact with floor due to bound edge of YP. Of course, hands will not make usual contact because of the cut off glove design of the YP, however the bound edge of the garment takes this to another level

imageI worked through to the end of Surya Namaskar B using the YP. For standing/balancing asana I did use not YP or mat. At Paschimattanasana I moved on to the gym mat. Because of the spongy/elastic properties of the mat, during the first vinyasa, on jumping back into chaturanga then attempting to push through to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana my hands and feet moved in opposing directions. It was like practising on a sheet of marshmallow – LOL 🙂

At that stage I decided to abandon the vinyasa for this practice, and to make a break between each side, and each posture, by making easy cross legs and pushing up off the mat.

It was an interesting and rewarding practice, interlaced with a little humour.

I have heard it said that the hardest part of asana practise is getting on to the mat – my biggest challenge today was getting the mat to stay still 🙂



Tranquil Space – Washington DC

imageI found Tranquil Space via a Google search. I really liked their website layout, and content. They have two venues in Washington DC.

I registered online, and booked and paid for a place in the Open Flow class with Kelly Tobin at Tranquil Space, Dupont Circle, on Wednesday 17 April, 8-9.15pm.

The online booking system is user friendly for bookings, and cancellations.

I arrived at Tranquil Space half an hour before class start time, and entered the premises through their retail area, where they sell a range of clothing, yoga mats, jewellery, etc. I introduced myself to the receptionist, who asked me to complete a form/waiver, then gave me a tour of the multi level facilities. I was also given a Tranquil Space welcome pack.

They have a variety of practice spaces with names such as earth, and sky. Behind the retail area, there are seats where you may rest, and enjoy tea and cookies. There are Yogi and Yogini change areas.

The room where my class was being given was located on the top floor of the building. There was space for around 15 mats – the floor was marked with silver stars as a guide for mat placement. Bolsters, rugs, blocks and straps were available to borrow. I hired a mat for US$2. Casual class cost was US$19.

Tranquil Space mantra

Tranquil Space mantra

The space was warm – I guess around 27 deg C. The class was a series of asana flowing one to another, often using vinyasa to transition. Kelly moved through the room giving adjustments as she went. Music played throughout the lesson. I was saturated with sweat by the end of the class – I was glad to have bought along the recommended towel.

My energy levels are a little low ATM as I have had a “bug” for over a week. This class was a wonderful opportunity to practice with Santosha, and use my energy wisely.

Thanks to Kelly, and Tranquil Space. I hope to visit you again some time 🙂


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Ishta Yoga – Upper East Side, New York

I discovered Ishta Yoga online. I also read a review on Yelp and decided it sounded like a yoga space that I would like to visit whilst vacationing in New York.

I registered with Ishta Yoga through their website, and also booked a place, and paid for two classes in advance, ie Wednesday and Thursday, 10 and 11 April, at 7.15am. Ishta has two yoga spaces in New York, ie one in Upper East Side and the other in Downtown. I chose to attend the Upper East Side venue, which was a 20 minute walk from my hotel.

The Upper East Side venue is located above a shop, and is accessed by pressing a buzzer, and the receptionist or teacher opens the door for students. They have a changing area, and space for personal belongings.

imageAs I was attending class on a casual basis I hired a mat for $2, and the fee was US$22 for a one hour class. Bolsters, blankets, blocks and straps were available.

The Wednesday class was lead by Cindy. There were three students (including me) taking the class. The Thursday class was lead by Lindsey, and there were 5 students in total. The space can hold up to 20 students – the floor is marked accordingly for placement of mats when space is at a premium.

Both classes were open vinyasa, and students were encouraged to work to their own level of the asana practice.

I enjoyed the instruction of both teachers. They both provided gentle adjustments. I found the enironment and instruction were conducive to achieving a sense of calmness. I felt tired from travelling and jet lag, and felt I practiced with contentment.

I noted two interesting events during my practice – one, whilst lying down on my back, and moving the arms in an arc from beside the body to above the head, as if for the first time I noticed how much the body stretched and elongated. I have undertaken this movement on many occasions before but had not previously realised how much the torso stretches. Perhaps I was more present on this occasion.

The second event noted, which was like a light being switched on, was whilst in downward dog Lindsey mentioned that if the index finger and thumb were pressed into the floor rotation in the upper arm would be felt. I would have been told this before on many occasions, however it was as if this was the first time I had actually heard the words, and I really felt the rotation 🙂

During the class with Lindsey she read a poem, which I loved, and I would like to now share it with you…


Many thanks to Cindy and Lindsey, and Ishta Yoga


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