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 2-story 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. There are massage and healing rooms and the hallways are roomy and airy. Room temperature is effortlessly regulated through modern heating and cooling. There is a large locker room changing area and showers. It’s the kind of place I could spend a whole day lounging in. For some yogis, my sense is that they may find this studio a bit too perfect and manicured; if you prefer the studios with “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, this studio is the opposite.
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, Cheryl, 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. Cheryl is the opposite and is very hands on with adjustments (I always hope that when she walks by, she is going to give me an assist!) Louis Jackson offers the most advanced physical practice here and his class is the 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
Avalon Yoga International
370 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306
I have taken class here with Irene Au, Helen Christine, Elena Milyukova, and Toni Cupal. While Irene’s class was a beginners level class, she offered creative ways to do common flows and I was inspired after her class to buy a 5-pack; plus, they have a new student special where you get 50% off any class package (up to 50 classes) which helped me make the decision to give them a try. I felt that Elena’s 8am on Sunday class and Helen’s Sunday Stretch class was still quite basic and accessible to newer yogis but Elena does offer some inversions and hands on adjustments. Toni teaches on Mondays and Thursdays at Avalon and she is one of the more advanced teachers. For those who aren’t familiar, Jivamukti classes do involve some singing. I really enjoyed how she gave everyone hands on adjustments and the warmth she brings to classes. She also founded a Jivamukti yoga studio in London. After taking Toni’s class, I decided to sign up for another 10 class package.
1.) Wide range of teaching styles and high quality teachers; the Thailand retreat (led by a Thai teacher) seems really wonderful
2.) Conveniently located on California Ave near a bunch of other retail shops (and a farmer’s market on Sundays)
1.) Studio space seems older (not much ventilation–I suggest you practice near the front doors on the left of the studio if you want more of a breeze, especially in the summer)
2.) No showers or changing rooms (just bathrooms in the back)
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
Turbo 26 Studio
240 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304
This best part of this studio is its heated yoga room. On a cold or rainy winter day in the Bay Area, practice at this yoga studio leaves you feeling like you are on a warm “high”. Your limbs feel stretched out and toned and you feel very calm. I haven’t felt this way after hot yoga practice in most yoga studios in the Bay Area. Turbo 26 Studio does tout its proprietary “healthy heat” heating system that is described in detail here. Having been to many heated yoga studios, I will say that the heat in this yoga room was just perfect. It was heated to 98 degrees with 38% humidity in the room. The room was on the smaller side and there were 15 people in the room but it wasn’t smelly at all. The style of exercise leans towards “fitness”–the room has a great sound system so the instructor blasted the music and it was a “get down to business” type of attitude on the mat. Jake also counted: “Meet in downward down in 3, 2, 1, and… ” I have never had a teacher who counted down the seconds to meet in a specific yoga pose. In Barre class, you do move to the beat and that was the closest thing I could compare it to. I also took a class with Kelsey who taught with the music on, but not pounding, and who had more of a flow-like feel (with no counting down.) The majority of the teachers here trained at the “cookie-cutter” CorePower chain.
Turbo 26 Studio also boasts 26 minute classes that are “stackable” so you can take two to make it a longer class or if you only have 26 minutes, you can get in and out of there. It’s an interesting model but it definitely felt like it catered towards busy professionals who wanted a “fitness” routine and cared less about the spiritual aspects of yoga. I stopped by the 1-hour advanced flow class with Jake and I thought it felt pretty introductory in terms of flow but I still enjoyed the class and left feeling refreshed. Because the style is “stackable” blocks of classes, the classes don’t have a traditional “beginning, middle, and end” feel because it has to accommodate people coming in and out every 26 minutes so the flow felt more like disjointed poses. I plan to stop by again to experience how the 26 minute classes are “stacked.”
1.) Heated yoga facility is one of the best I have ever practiced in (I have been to over 100 yoga studios, for baseline context); the temperature, air quality, and cleanliness of the floor is top notch
2.) It is conveniently located in Stanford Shopping Center (therefore parking is easy and there is food nearby,) although I also felt that being located in Stanford Shopping Center made it feel more commercial and tempted me to shop for luxury goods that I didn’t need (out of sight, out of mind, right?)
1.) I didn’t get a sense that the teachers there were yoga gurus. They seemed to have been teaching for a couple years but they aren’t the type have a local or national following. My instructor, Jake, didn’t give any hands on adjustments (I tend to mark teachers higher when they do give hands on adjustments)
2.) Their “Advanced” class didn’t feel very advanced to me; the most advanced pose suggested was eka pada utkatasana, (flying figure four pose). As an “Advanced” class, I would have wanted to be more challenged further.
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
Vibe Yoga [Now closed; relocating to a new location]
Old Location: 3750 Florence Street, Redwood City, California 94063
Rebranding as Baptiste Power Yoga Silicon Valley and opening January 2019
New Location: 2190 W. Bayshore Road (Suite 170) Palo Alto, CA 94303
[The review below is for Vibe Yoga in Redwood City, which closed as of October 2018]
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. I also enjoyed Rebecca Bara’s class–she gets down to business and focuses on alignment and the flow (according to LinkedIn, she is the owner of Vibe Yoga.)
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 and pleasant for heated yoga practice compared to many of the older practice spaces in San Francisco (those older studios have their own charm too and I have reviewed many of them.)
1.) Many amenities including showers (bring your own towels,) 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 if you do end up living nearby)
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
California Yoga Center
1776 Miramonte Ave, Mountain View, CA 94040
This yoga center is very technique focused. Its clientele is older and I was the youngest yogini by about 20 years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I have seen some very high performing yogis who are 60+ years old! But I just call that out because the style of teaching is modified to accommodate an older group of practitioners. For example, the practitioners who attended the level 2 & 3 class would be classified as a level 1 practitioner at some of the other studios I have been to, like Yotopia in London. They follow a strict Iyengar practice, complete with chanting and strict rules (like no drinking water during the practice because it is believed that drinking water during practice diminishes the heat you have built.)
1.) Strict Iyengar practice, strong focus on alignment (the strictness can also be a con depending on what you are seeking)
2.) Yoga teachers seem to all have several years of experience; I went to Miri Aloni Rivlin’s class and she was subbing for another teacher. It was clear that she had been practicing and/or teaching for several years herself
3.) If you don’t have your own mat, they do have thin mats you can borrow for free (they are like travel mats) and they are stacked with the props
1.) I love the dance-like, sweaty, vinyasa flow classes that leave your heart pumping and your body sinking into the ground during savasana; Iyengar practice is not like that–there is no music and you won’t feel like you’re dancing. You move from pose to pose without transitions. Depending on what you want from your practice on a particular day, Iyengar may not be the right style for you
2.) The bathroom is behind the yoga studio; the yoga studio itself is plain and the check-in area is very small