Tag Archives: Thrive Yoga

Loosening the grip on my shoulders

Photo: Bloom against a tropical backdrop
An Anusara teacher traveling all over the world

I had a great inversion workshop Jordan Bloom at Thrive Yoga today. Jordan is a gifted Anusara instructor who’s based in the DC area, but travels around the world. I can tell why he is such a popular teacher. He spent a lot of time dealing with the basic truths of alignment, building gradually so that when it came time to “invert,” it was relatively easy to take the plunge. For me the key was working on my shoulders. One of the first pose that he had us do was a deep lunge with arms stretched above the head. Jordan then had us repeated take our shoulders further back and then reach the arms higher and toward the back. Each time, I got a little deeper back bend. But then, Jordan came behind me and gently pulled my shoulders back even further. It was not a forced pressure, more like the touch used in breaking an egg shell. I could feel the knot of muscle between my shoulder blades dissolve. Once I knew where to focus my efforts, I was able to work on bringing my shoulders back in other poses, like downward-facing dog. The three-hours of the class went flying by.

Another adjustment that Jordan made was for me to widen the placement of my hands on the mat in poses like downward and updward dog, chataranga and other prone poses. He said that the middle of my hand should be even with the outside of my shoulder. That put the little finger of my hand of the edge of the mat and my ring finger running parallel to the edge. They don’t make yoga mats wide enough for many men. This adjustment also helped me broaden my shoulders.

Jordan will be coming back to thrive for a three-day workshop in February next year.

Yoga — or rather life — gets messy

Rodney Yee used to have a blog at Yahoo Health. I checked it out a couple of times a while back, and then forgot about it. Yee has moved up in the online world. His new on-line home is at Lime.com’s Yoga section [MLS: Lime.com has apparently gone bust and disappeared from the web, and Yee moved on to Gaiam Yoga Club]. He has a TV show, as part of Lime’s ambitious project to bring healthy living to the big time, and has been doing short video blogs [no longer available].

Of course, Yee has been in the news a lot recently because of his marriage to NYC yoga studio owner, Colleen Saidman, which got covered in the NY Times (sorry, but the story has already been archived). But you can get a bitchier version of it at New York Magazine. Souljerky has another take on the mess. Yee divorced his wife of 24 years. A few years ago, he had an affair with a student, which became an example of how to betray the student-teacher relationship.

I bought Yee’s most recent book, Moving Toward Balance: 8 Weeks of Yoga, because it’s beautifully illustrated and laid out. And I still take classes at Thrive Yoga.

Studio politics

In my own home yoga studio, Thrive Yoga, we’ve gone through a stretch that calls into question of incarnating the yogic ideal : the two owners of Thrive Yoga have parted ways. Kim Groark was the more advanced teacher while Susan Bowen had the good business mind. Over the past two years, they lost their shared vision of what they wanted to make of the studio. I don’t know any of the details, just that at the end the tension hung like incense in the air of the studio. Susan bought out Kim’s share of the business, and Kim “decided to leave Thrive Yoga to pursue a different path,” as the announcement stated. More experienced yoga entrepreneurs have told me that studio partnerships rarely work out. Yoga teachers who strike out on their own, setting up their own shops, want to have full control over their business and practice so there’s going to be an innate contradiction in a joint venture.

I felt disconcerted by the whole shift: I had gone to Kim’s classes more frequently because I was drawn to her flair for teaching (influences of Kundalini, Shiva Rea) and the classes fit my schedule in the evenings. I was also concerned about the long-term viability of the studio because I get classes (2-5 times a week) at no charge, in exchange for hosting, maintaining and updating the website. I would find it had to pay for a year unlimited pass, which is what I would need for the same privilege. The split took me out of my comfort zone on the mat.

Thrive Yoga lives up to its promise

I got up early today and dropped into Thrive Yoga for my first class. The photos on the web site do not do the studio justice. The place is dropped dead gorgeous. Kim Groark and Susan Bowen have gone all out to make an attractive and welcoming environment for practicing yoga in Rockville. What flattered me is that they had visited this blog and they immediately said, “Oh, you’re Michael! So glad you could finally make it.”

What’s the most striking feature? Space, space and space. I am used to taking yoga classes in DC where most studios are converted narrow townhouses. The owners are in a quandary — giving studios the priority for space means that clothes changing, waiting and customer service areas are tight, even claustrophobic. The transition between classes in the busy evening time lots can seem like a Chinese fire drill. At TranquilSpace, the mats are separated by 9 inches, at most. At Flow Yoga, it’s better but the non-studio space is congested. When a yoga center is successful, it means it gets more crowded and frustrating.

At Thrive Yoga, the two practice rooms are huge, with high ceilings and natural light. There are spacious dressing rooms for men and women, and the hallway is wide, airy and adequate for holding crowds during class transition. There’s lots of space at the entrance, where students sign in and pay, and also a commercial area.

I took a Vinyasa class from Susan, 90 minutes. There were about 15 people in the session, and we have plenty of space to maneuver. She kept us moving through the poses at a good pace. I worked up a sweat. She did a nice job of managing the disparate skills levels among the participants, showing modifications and adjustments. I went into the class feeling tired and aching because of my home practice and gym work yesterday. I came out feeling energized.

Kim and Susan started up Thrive Yoga because they could not find a good place to practice in this neck of Montgomery County. They will have a challenge of ramping up business to be able to pay for the space and let’s hope that success does not spoil the great environment.

When I finished by yoga sessions, I went by Bally Fitness where there’s a free yoga session on Sunday morning. I usually took it with my wife. The practice floor was the fullest I have ever seen it, shoulder to shoulder, and there were even people spilling out onto the weight lifting area. I said to myself, “After Thrive, how am I going to go back to this.”

Thrive Yoga

Washington Post Tranquility in a strip mall?: “Transformed by carved Buddhas, earth-toned walls and even a trickling indoor waterfall, the 4,000-square-foot center focuses on the practice of Vinyasa Flow, a form of hatha yoga that integrates breath and movement in a fluid meditation, and targets the practitioner for whom yoga is more than just a gym activity to fit in between the elliptical machine and weight training.”  This neighborhood studio in Rockville got a mention in a big time paper. Bravo! Even though they’ve been open less than a month.

I also got flagged by Rachel, alias YogaRachel, who is going to Thrive for her regular injection of vinyasa. She liked this blog and decided to start her own, Mindfulness / YogaRachel. She also encouraged me to drop by Thrive. I probably will have to — maybe, this week.

Yoga coming to a shopping mall near me

I woke up this morning and found some good news in my Inbox. A new yoga studio is opening up in my town, a couple of miles from my house. Because Susan Bowen made a comment to a previous entry in my blog, I’ve been unable to find it quickly so I am reposting it here as a full-blown entry:

Thrive Yoga is opening in two weeks. Vinyasa yoga will give you the more strenuous yoga that you are looking for. I am one of the owners. We are located at 1321B Rockville Pike. Check us out. I know the gym yoga gig and it is time to Thrive! We created Thrive because Rockville needs a yoga community and a great place to practice. So for the last year, me and my partner Kim put our blood, sweat and tears into creating Thrive.

Susan makes reference to my frequenting Bally Fitness for yoga sessions. Unfortunately, Susan and her partners can’t offer one part of the Bally experience — it’s free for members. But she is right that yoga studios are scarce out here in the suburbs and especially in Rockville, and the convenience of having Thrive Yoga just five minutes from my home may win me over.