A Brief Illustrated History of Morning Mysore Practice at YiY 1999-2019

With the occasion of the move of Yoga is Youthfulness (YiY) from Castro street to Middlefield street in May 2019, this is an opportunity to reflect on the past, and look at the evolution of the Mysore over the past 20 years.

It all started when Joseph Hentz went to his first Ashtanga yoga class at the Decathlon Club (nowadays Bay Club) in Santa Clara in 1998. That fateful day a yoga teacher called Mark Sierra was subbing for the regular teacher, Govinda Kai (then Russell). Joseph was hooked and Mark invited him to his regular Yoga Source class.

The rare Ashtangis of the Peninsula used to gather at the old location of the only yoga studio in the area, Yoga Source. It was mainly a Bikram yoga studio, located on Alma street, one block from University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto (Yoga Source has since moved to Hamilton Street and the Alma location has been replaced by a Patagonia store). In any event it seems there was only one ashtanga yoga class per week south of San Francisco at the time, but what a class it was: Mark Sierra’s Monday night led primary. He taught the class for charity and had a core of regulars. That class was the most popular on the schedule, and always packed, to the point where there were even students practicing on the slanted slope that was in the middle of the room. We used to go out for dinner afterwards and that’s how us rare ashtangis got to know each other. That’s where I met Joseph too.

Mark Sierra at Burning Man 2001

Joseph was inspired by his yoga practice and how it helped his back pain from rowing. He decided to open a studio to spread the word of yoga and was looking around in Mountain View when he came across some empty office space at the back of the Wells Fargo bank. It used to be a loans division and had not been occupied in a few years. Mountain View was more sleepy at the time and it was a bit of a risky move.

Since Joseph was already an Ashtanga devotee, I remember him being keen to introduce Ashtanga classes right from the opening of the studio, in November 1999. However Ashtanga teachers were few and far between.

History of Mysore Teachers at YiY

Before there was a Mysore program at YiY there were a few led ashtanga classes taught by Shelly and Betty Lai (owner of ashtanga.com which she started in 1997). Then Anne Finstad, Dave Hamilton, Mojdeh and myself started a morning self practice group three mornings a week. On the schedule it was described as a $5 drop-in class with “Instructor: None”.

Ashtanga practice appearing for the first time on the schedule in January 2001

This situation lasted at least a year. As the self practice group grew and students attended regularly, we decided to start a morning Mysore class program, with one class a week and eventually growing to 5 days a week, which was split between Anne and I. After my twins were born in 2002 I got busier and Anne took over the program. In mid-2006 Anne decided to move to Portland and Adarsh Williams and Heleen Zontag took over for the next 2 years. Anne returned from Portland in 2009 and then split the program with Beata Skrzypacz. This situation lasted until February 2018 when Anne left again. Taking over from her to teach half of the Mysore program were Anne Namur and Meghan Marshall with Thoa van Seventer’s help.

This is a good time to mention all the assistants and helpers of the Mysore program – Erez Galil, Stu Warnsman, Hannah Marciniak.

Evolution of the YiY Website

Here’s the first iteration of the YiY website, from November 1999 to July 2002:

Note the Comic Sans font, Joseph’s favorite

The next iteration was much improved, and lasted until around 2011:

Note the new logo

Then for a few more years, 2012 to 2016 we had this layout:

And the most recent iteration, 2017-2019:

Visiting Teacher Workshop List

One of the things which made YiY special was the breadth and depth of teachers which came for special workshops. Here’s a non-exhaustive non-chronological list of the teacher who came to teach workshops at the studio:

  • Lino Miele (with Gwendoline Hunt and Elena de Martin)
  • Christine Hoar
  • Robert Brook
  • Lauren Peterson
  • Govinda Kai
  • Dominic Corigliano & Saisha Petersen
  • David Roche
  • Tim Miller
  • Nancy Gilgoff
  • David Swenson
  • Chuck Miller
  • Dr. M.A. Jayashree & Sri. M.A.Narasimhan
  • Peter Sanson
  • David Garrigues
  • Kirsten Berg & Mitchell Gold
  • Johnny Smith
  • Leigha Nicole
  • Petri Raisanen
  • Tim Feldman
Lino Miele teaching a workshop at YiY in November 2003

And then there was Chai

Another aspect which makes YiY special is our daily homemade chai. We have a 6 day a week rotation where Chai Wallahs make and bring chai to the studio, to the delight of thirsty practitioners. This tradition originated when Anne Finstad came back from one of her India trips with a chai recipe in 2004. From the http://morningmysore.com/category/chai-matters/page/2/ archives you can see the first chai recipes appear in the summer of 2005. Then in September we announced a daily schedule. This was the original line up:

  • Sunday: Daniel
  • Monday: Antonia
  • Tuesday: Drew
  • Wednesday: Ken and Elaine
  • Thursday: Mike
  • Friday: Anne and Einar

Only the Wednesday Wallahs are still bringing chai. Also note that the now established permanent fixture of the chai cabinet was purchased in February 2006.

The holy Chai on its pedestral

The Purple Carpet

When YiY first opened, it had a purple carpet which was not some students’ favorite feature of the studio:

Drew Plant and his band playing at a 2004 party

In October 2005 Sabina Hentz, the studio manager, decided to put in wood floors. Here’s a photo of the first day of practice with the new floor:

Kirsten and Mitchell were teaching the day of the new floor

Photos

I found a lot of old photos in my computer archives.

Here are some old pages, note that some links may be broken:

2001-2002 Galleries
2003-2004 Galleries

End Note

If you have more details to add to the story, or have photos/videos, please let me know at philippe @ nodiamonds.com.

Philippe Alexis, April 27 2019