Yoga for You: Insider’s view of La Jolla’s varied yoga studios

People joke that La Jolla has more than its share of yoga studios. With several in the Village, one in Bird Rock, retailers dedicating space for community yoga classes, a bevy of Pilates studios that also offer yoga, private instruction, and community centers with classes for seniors, it’s easy to see why.

But did you know each program offers something different?

“It’s just like the gym, there are going to be a ton of fitness places — especially in a place like La Jolla — but there are going to be things that set you apart,” said Carolina Vivas, co-owner of La Jolla’s newest yoga studio, Buddhi Yoga, which opened Nov. 7. “What that says is a lot of people are doing yoga, so that’s not a bad thing if there are a lot of studios. The more options for people the better, and if people go around and try new places, they will find what fits for them.”

For those who don’t think they’re flexible enough to do yoga, Colleen Bourgeois, studio director of Bikram Yoga La Jolla, said, you won’t know until you try it. “I tell people to have no expectations. Go into the room with an attitude of ‘I’m trying something new.’ Going in with the right attitude, anyone can do it,” she said.

According to Wikipedia, the term yoga is derived from the literal meaning of “yoking together” a span of horses or oxen, but came to be applied to the “yoking” of mind and body. Yoga and meditation are components of religious practices with Hinduism and Buddhism. Benefits include increased flexibility, reduced stress, increased muscle strength, cardiovascular health, and more.

Turn it up

Bikram Yoga La Jolla is the only studio in La Jolla specializing in heated classes.

“Bikram is a combination of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, and we do every posture twice. The room is heated to 105 degrees with 45 percent humidity,” said Bourgeois. She explained that every class goes through the same sequence in the same order, and the heat is conducive to deeper stretching and is comforting for those with arthritis. The heat also encourages sweating, a natural form of detoxification.

Further, Bourgeois said the heat adds another level to the exercise, which is part of the purpose. “When people work out, they want to be challenged, so that’s what they get here,” she said. Bourgeois said some people think they

can’t handle the heat, but with the right attitude, they can (but drinking lots of water is encouraged). “Everyone can do this series to some degree,” she said. “New people who have never done yoga in their lives, as well as seasoned practitioners, really enjoy it.”

If you go: Bikram Yoga La Jolla, 565 Pearl St. (858) 454-8642. Established: 2003. Cost: $20 drop-in, with introductory specials and class packages.

Go with the flow

Buddhi Yoga co-owners Vivas and Amanda McCarroll formerly taught at La Jolla Yoga Center, a prominent studio in the Village until it closed in August. They decided to open their own practice and found a small space, suitable for one class at a time, and began teaching.

“We mostly practice vinyasa (movement based flow yoga) and hatha (stretch based slower yoga),” Vivas said. “But we also teach a class called Buddhi flow, which is a vinyasa class with our spin on it that focuses on creative flows — stuff you won’t see at other studios.”

McCarroll added that classes are kept fairly consistent to give beginners sufficient practice, but they offer classes at varying levels of difficulty. During a beginner class, transitions between poses would not happen as quickly and something “challenging” (like standing on your head) would not happen as often. During a more advanced class, participants would engage in more challenging postures more often.

The studio offers 5-7 classes a day to reflect the schedule taught at the old La Jolla Yoga Center.

If you go: Buddhi Yoga, 7843 Girard Ave., Suite F (upstairs). (858) 886-7580. Established: November 2014. Cost: $18 drop-in, with introductory specials and class packages.

Every stage of life

At Prana Yoga, a fixture in La Jolla for over a decade, classes are tailored to one’s needs and skill level.

“We recognize that there is no ‘one size fits all class’ and therefore we offer a large variety of classes — from a strong vinyasa flow class, to hatha, healthy back, restorative, meditation, prenatal, teen and even senior chair yoga,” said Gerhard Gessner, owner and founder of Prana Yoga.

Alexandria Gessner, wife and co-owner, said when practitioners come looking for what class might be right for them, she asks about their lifestyle, other forms of exercise and what they hope to accomplish.

Further, Prana Yoga’s website offers detailed descriptions of what to expect from each class. The studio offers three flow classes, conducted in a slightly heated room (80-85 degrees); two gentle classes (one special to healing the back); three relaxing classes (one deemed appropriate for those affected by cancer); and specialty classes that are age-specific.

Gerhard Gessner taught in La Jolla out of his home for 30 years, and taught many practitioners who are now instructors.

If you go: Prana Yoga, 1041 Silverado St. (858) 456-2806. Established: 2001. Cost: $18 drop-in, with introductory specials and class packages.

Groove on it

Riffs Studios in Bird Rock, formerly the Yoga Yard, offers classes outdoors, and takes advantage of the adjoining guitar shop.

“We do live music with our classes every day,” said owner Steve Hart. “The time changes depending on the musician’s schedule, but we generally have live music during our 5:30 and 7 p.m. classes Monday through Friday, and Saturday morning at 9 and 10:30 a.m.” The space has a 30-person capacity.

The musicians, Hart said, “vibe with the teachers and students to create a cool atmosphere.” The classes are held in a natural setting for “an ocean breeze and birds chirping.”

“We try to bring in more than just the physical component of yoga,”Hart said. “We have classes that engage the mind, body and soul. Having the live music adds an extra connection.”

Riffs also offers yin yoga, a slow type of meditation-oriented yoga. Participants are seated the entire time, and hold a pose for three to five minutes.

If you go: Riff’s Studio, 5510 La Jolla Blvd. (858) 456-2477. Established: 2012. Cost: $14 drop-in, with class packages available.

Take it to new heights

At Trilogy Sanctuary, another new studio in the Village, the unique offering is aerial yoga, during which participants are suspended in hammock-like silk cloths. Trilogy Sanctuary studio manager Karina Gerschler said with the aerial classes, there

is an added level of support, encouraging participants to hold poses longer than they might have been able to without the support, and most feel a deeper stretch thanks to the element of gravity.

“The instructors are certified (in aerial yoga) and monitor participants’ alignment and ability,” she said. “So in the end, it’s up to the student to see how far they want to take a certain pose.”The aerial classes are conducted on the rooftop deck, from which there is an ocean view, which Gerschler calls “amazing,” and offered in levels based on how strong a participant feels.

For beginners, there is a slower paced class called gentle healing. Other types of yoga held in the indoor studio include vinyasa, hatha and yin. There is even an aerial class for children!

If you go: Trilogy Sanctuary, 7650 Girard Ave., Suite 400. (858) 633-3893. Established: June 2014. Cost: $18 drop-in for regular classes, $20 drop-in for aerial, with class packages available.

Girl Power

Women’s Elite Yoga in La Jolla (as the name suggests) has classes primarily for women, although a handful of classes are open to both sexes.

“The idea behind the studio was to create a space for women to come and have a healthy wellness place to do yoga. We are all very supportive,” said Kristen Crawford, studio manager.

Part of that support system is to offer classes just for those who are new. “Our Yoga Basics class is the absolute beginning level,” Crawford said. “You learn alignment and how to use props, and can ask questions.”

In keeping with the needs of its female clientele, the studio offers a tone-up class that integrates weights, and a prenatal class. Other classes offered include heated classes at varying levels and non-heated classes in hatha, vinyasa and yin styles.

Also unique to the studio is the yoga for runners class, in which participants go for a 30-minute run through the Village followed by a 30-minute yin class for some deep stretching.

If you go: Women’s Elite Yoga, 7514 Girard Ave., Suite 3. (858) 551-9642. Established: April 2014. Cost: $15 drop-in, with class packages available.

Part of the process

At least two retailers in La Jolla offer yoga classes in their space, and one studio offers yoga as one of its eight healing components.

■ Lululemon offers a free class at 7835 Girard Ave. every Sunday morning at 9 a.m. said Calli Mechem, product educator. “It’s an all-level class, we pick instructors from across the community ... and the type of yoga practiced is dependent on the instructor, but generally it’s a slow vinyasa because the instructors understand there are people of varying levels.”

■ At Lorna Jane, an active wear retailer located at 7840 Girard Ave., two unique yoga classes are offered. One is called Butti yoga, and focuses on leg and gluteal muscles. Another is called Buddhi yoga, which focuses on the spiritual aspects of yoga. There is a dedicated space in the back of the store for these free classes. They are offered at 9:15 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. daily.

■ At Eight Elements West, yoga is used as a healing method, and joins Pilates, nutritional counseling, herbal remedies, massage, acupuncture and more in Eight Elements’ program at 6830 La Jolla Blvd. However, practitioners do not need to commit to the entire program to attend a yoga class.

“We want students to walk away with better awareness of their musculoskeletal system and physiology (organs) to improve their basic health,” said founder Gloria Gonzalez. “We also promote pranayama (mindful breathing) to reduce stress and develop higher consciousness.”

Community resources

Although not maintaining a studio, several local yoga instructors use community centers to offer yoga classes. To name a few, La Jolla’s Riford Library, Community Center, Woman’s Club, Rec Center, Eagle Martial Arts, the Cove Bridge Club and several churches, offer yoga classes as part of their programming, many targeted to seniors.

Some instructors offer beach-view classes in local parks, like Calumet Park in Bird Rock.

For the last 15 years, Jaruska Solyova has taught yoga at the Cove Bridge Club, on top of the private classes she runs. She said her classes focus on asanas (poses) for flexibility and pranayama (mindful breathing).

Solyova said when it comes to breathing techniques, different types of breath (short inhales and long exhales or vice versa) will produce different results.

She also tailors her class based on the needs of its participants. “Yoga is about mind, body and breath,” she said.

Tips for picking a yoga class

■ Know what type is being offered (see below).

■ Consider what the class is called. Want something mellow? Look for words like “gentle” and “slow.” Want something more active? Look for words like “flow” and “power.” Some classes will say both, so you’ll get a little of each.

■ Look at the time it’s scheduled. After-work classes tend to be busier, classes during the day, less busy.

Key yoga terms

■ Vinyasa: Movement-based flowing yoga that practices connecting one breath to one movement.

■ Hatha: A practice in which postures are held longer and transitions are slower. More gentle than vinyasa.

■ Yin: A very slow practice, where postures are held for minutes at a time, that focuses on the meditative aspects of yoga.