Fri08292014

Magazine

A yoga class a day keeps the stress away


Van Houtte/Town Crier Yoga of Los Altos hosts a variety of classes, including Strong Flow Vinyasa, above, taught by Doron Hanoch. Yin Yoga instructor Janya Wongsopa guides a student in the practice, below.

It’s nearly 9 a.m. on a Monday morning at Yoga of Los Altos. From the outside, the First Street studio appears quiet. But inside, enthusiasm abounds.

Although the class doesn’t begin for 15 minutes, several early birds trickle in. After stowing shoes and socks in cubbies and spreading out colorful yoga mats on the polished wooden floor, a few begin warming up with asanas, or poses. A hush falls over the outer vestibule.

Lauren Anas, a former ballet dancer, teaches Vinyasa yoga to the regular crowd that pays for a package deal as well as drop-ins who pay $18 per class. Anas described her classes as "challenging."

Can’t live without it

Los Altos resident Laura Mori agreed. As she pulled her thick platinum hair back into a barrette, she explained why, despite the rigor of the class, she has attended for more than 10 years.

Mori started attending classes to "settle and sense myself" when her children, now 18 and 14, were young. She keeps coming back because of the "exercise and the community, Andi (Bruno, the owner), the teachers and the regulars."

"I started when my daughter was 2, because a friend of mine was taking classes," Mori said of her first brush with Iyengar yoga, which concentrates on breathing. "You stand for a really long time."

Los Altos resident Mary Penix, a regular who has attended classes for six years, said she practices yoga for the same reasons Mori mentioned.

"I never don’t want to do it," Penix said. "I love the exercise and the meditation - it’s just a relief to come here."

"I can’t live without yoga," said Suzanne Bell, who began taking classes to alleviate back and neck pain 10 years ago.

It’s "amazing" how yoga helped with her symptoms, including headaches, Bell said, adding that yoga also serves to release tension and increase overall flexibility.

"It just gets me through the day," she said.

Los Altos Hills resident Mari Hwang sang the praises of yoga.

"There are excellent fitness benefits," she said, in addition to "peace of mind" and doing something she loves every day.

Changing hands - but not customers

Owner Andi Bruno, who leads Sunrise Yoga from 6:30-7:45 a.m., beams from behind the reception desk. The picture of health, she radiates a sense of well-being, though she’s retiring from running the studio.

She launched the business in 2003, because she thought "yoga would be really good for Los Altos." Bruno was a pupil of Laura Foley, a former yoga teacher at Spa of Los Altos, and also trained in Yin yoga with Sarah Powers and Paul Grilley. She has undergone intensive training in yoga philosophy as well, and taken "lots and lots" of other classes, she added.

Because "everyone in Los Altos is really smart and they have big responsibilities, with that comes pressure," said Bruno, the mother of two sons.

Bruno reported that up to 45 percent of her students are men.

"Our goal is to serve the community, and helping the men of the community is a really important part of this business," she said. "Men benefit because yoga helps them to be better fathers."

With 50 students a day, seven days a week, business has been "pretty dang steady," according to Bruno, especially given the many people who use Yoga of Los Altos classes to decompress.

"You know the mix of Los Altos - people fly in on their jets and the car drives up in front with a driver," she said.

Jochen Kumm and Toni Adams are set to assume ownership of Yoga of Los Altos, with an eye to developing the business and refining their yoga philosophies to start a chain of yoga studios in South Africa.

In the meantime, Bruno will continue leading the Sunrise Yoga class and teaching therapeutic yoga to private clients. She also leads yoga classes at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

"I’m always first on the docket," she said of the all-day Stanford course. "The administration wants to take a whole-life approach and stress a balanced life to these executives who come from all over the world."

Yoga of Los Altos Manager Pai Venegas noted that many people end up buying packages, like the 10-class pass for $140, a sign that "they like to be committed." The prenatal classes tend to fill up fast.

"This is a loyal community, from my experience here," Venegas said.

Yoga of Los Altos is located at 377 First St. For a class schedule and more information, call 941-9642 or visit yogaoflosaltos.com.

Los Altos Yoga - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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