Y’know what I’m discovering as I travel round? That every Sivananda run centre and ashram is unique in it’s own special way, and yet somehow upon entering they all seem as familiar as whichever one you may call ‘home’.
The San Francisco Centre was in one of the city’s many old fashioned, tall, town houses. I was curious how the layout was going to be, as you had to go up some stairs to the first floor to reach the reception (I have no idea what was on the ground floor). It was… snug, shall we say. A small room at the front of the house was the reception/shop. You left your coats in the hallway at the top of the stairs, and you got changed in either the bathroom or toilet (being separate rooms) which both men and women shared (though not at the same time, obviously).
The asana ‘hall’ itself appeared to be three small rooms running the length of the house that had been knocked through into one long room (I’m guessing, judging by the support architecture and the three entrance doors). All the students (about eight of us) lay their mats side by side along the length of the room, with enough space in front for the teacher to walk, and just enough behind for the plough to happen.
Y’know what, rereading all of that, I hope I’m not making it sound like somewhere you wouldn’t want to go? It was a beautifully sunny day when we went there. The quiet street by Golden Gate Park (which put it in easy walking distance of my hotel) meant we could have the windows open without too much traffic noise (there was some, but it’s America, so what can you expect?). The people there were warm and friendly, and the atmosphere was calm and peaceful and intimately welcoming.
Our teacher, whose name sadly escapes me, had just completed her Teacher Training at Grass Valley, and had simply decided to come to San Francisco and stay as staff immediately afterwards (that had not been part of her original plan, as I recall). Put it this way, when I spoke to her afterwards she was on the computer looking for somewhere to get her hair cut, and she was still trying to organise getting her stuff shipped there from Texas, where she used to live.
She gave an excellent class, full of gentle enthusiasm, and I felt quite refreshed at the end of it, ready to start the day! I even got a few bargains in the shop, which always puts a smile on my face. 🙂
Visiting the centre in Los Angeles was a different experience entirely. For a start I went at the end of the day, just before my flight to Australia, as opposed to first thing in the morning.
I’d spent the day in Santa Monica, where the centre is located, and I’d decided that before flying 15 hours to the other side of the world that I needed some stretching out. Like in San Francisco, I decided to walk to this place too, but unfortunately, due to a combination of the suburban setting and my poor map making skills, it turned out to be a longer trek than I’d anticipated. At times I was worried I might not make it, but thankfully I managed to find the somewhat discreet, ivy covered building, in time for the 5:30pm class.
Whereas the SF centre was a former residence, as so many of them often are, I have no idea what the LA centre used to be. It appeared to be a large, high-ceileing, open space that had been separated into two halls and a reception, which was partitioned from the large central hall by a wall that didn’t quite reach the ceiling.
The lady on reception was very sweet, and even offered to give me the customary first free lesson, even though I was quite familiar with Sivananda elsewhere (I thanked her and opted to make the $14 suggested donation instead). I also got to meet and chat with Parameshwari, a happy, smiley woman who was waiting to teach the class as it turned out. She, like the lady at reception, was warm and welcoming, to the point of being kind enough to offer me a lift to the airport after the class, once she found out what I was up to. I’m telling you, no matter where you go, Sivananda yogis are kind and generous the world over.
The class itself was small. Only about half a dozen people. This was probably a relief to Ting Ting (I think that was her name, though I’m not entirely sure) the unsuspecting assistant teacher who suddenly found herself teaching the whole class from the beginning. Bless her, the look on her face was priceless when she realised what was going on. But, fair play, she rose to the challenge and just got on with it, and as far as I’m concerned see she did a great job. Ok, she rushed the relaxations a bit, as we all do when we teach for the first time (the hardest part of teaching sometimes is just standing and doing nothing while your students lie there in Sivasana. The urge to do something, anything, is quite overwhelming!), but ultimately it was a good class, even quite challenging in places.
Parameshwari was there of course, to help keep things on track, and the little moments where she helped out doing adjustments were invaluable. I learned a few things I need to work on, and how to work on them as well. I got some stretches in places I haven’t stretched much before, and I came away wishing I could have more classes with her. But, alas, I had a plane to catch.
I got to the airport in plenty of time (and significantly less stressed than I might have been), thanks to the lift from Parameshwari (both the lift by car, and the lift from the yoga), and I have to say the flight was one of the easiest I’ve been on, despite also being one of the longest. Whether that was down to the yoga who can say, but I think it’s certainly something I’ll be trying again before traveling half way round the world. What the hey, it couldn’t hurt eh? 😉
NB: I know so far I haven’t done any other kind of yoga other than Sivananda. I promise, now I’m in Australia, I’ll be trying some other types as and when I can (I have to, there’s no Sivananda centre in Australia yet; lol). They might not be as extreme as Naked Yoga (WARNING! clicking that link will show take you to pictures of people’s naughty bits!) but they should be different at the very least. Hey, I might even have a go at Bikram, though I’m not promising anything. I’m not a big fan of getting barked at like a squaddie. 😛