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 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. Room temperature is effortlessly regulated through modern heating and cooling. There is a large locker room changing area and showers. Despite all of this, my sense is that some yogis may find this studio a bit stale because everything is too perfect and looks manicured or manufactured; it doesn’t have 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.
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, 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. Louis Jackson offers the most advanced physical practice here and his class is the only 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.
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
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
Yoga is Youthfulness
590 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041
Yoga is Youthfulness specializes in Ashtanga and Mysore. My favorite class here is the handstand clinic on Thursday nights with Julianne Rice. 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.
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
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.) Facility is retrofitted for yoga (not designed for it); there are only two bathrooms and they are in the back behind the studio so you cannot access them if you are early to class and there is another class before yours; no real changing rooms or showers
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 is a single-occupancy bathroom. 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.
1.) My teacher Eden gave a shoulder massage and neck alignment during Savasana
2.) Good popular music, relaxing atmosphere
3.) 1 week free for new students
1.) Teachers aren’t the most experienced (they aren’t super inexperienced either, e.g. some studios like Core Power churn out teachers through their 200-hour teacher training sessions so the majority of their classes are taught by novices)
2.) No showers / changing area; facilities are more antiquated
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.
1.) “Get down to business” attitude from the moment you step onto your mat
2.) Good selection of props (yoga blocks, mats, straps)
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
3750 Florence Street, Redwood City, California 94063
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.
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 to pleasant heated yoga than many of the older practice spaces in San Francisco (they have their own charm too and I have reviewed many of them.)
1.) Many amenities including showers, 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
1.) Far away from major metropolitan areas (although I hear Redwood City is an up and coming neighborhood)
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.
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
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