For a refreshing spiritual oasis, try The Yoga Garden in San Anselmo. Founded in 1998 by Janice Gates and Amy Cooper, The Yoga Garden offers classes and workshops with skilled local and international teachers. After Amy left the studio, Janice continued to run The Yoga Garden, holding steadfast to yoga as a practice for waking up, not as a business for making money. (There is no retail store in the studio.) Her book Yogini, published by Mandala, was released in September 2006.
The Yoga Garden fills its studio with sweet yet powerful reminders of one's spiritual nature. Gentle breezes gently waft through crimson sheers that frame a devotional patio garden, with greens and blossoms framing a serene statue of the Buddha. At the entrance to the practice room, an earthy Kuan Yin stands, an avatar of compassion and love. Sunlight reflects softly off of the polished wood floor, illuminating the saffron faux-finished walls. Plants and flowers are everywhere, as are smiles and support. A sanctuary from the stresses of the material world, The Yoga Garden is truly a place you can grow.
YT How would you describe your philosophy?
Janice Gates Yoga is about relationship; it helps us increase our awareness of how we relate to ourselves, each other and the world around us. Although The Yoga Garden offers a variety of levels of classes, the reality is that different things are happening for each of us every day, regardless of whether we are proficient in handstand or have been practicing yoga for twenty years. We may wake up with a stiff neck, find that our mind is incessantly chewing over a seemingly impossible problem, or that our hearts feel heavy. All of these are going to influence what is most appropriate for practice that day. The teachers at The Yoga Garden are skilled at not only seeing and understanding bodies, but communicating with students. Students themselves are encouraged to reflect on where they are beginning from, what is happening today? The teacher's work””and creative edge””is to adapt the practice to who shows up rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. They do this by offering alternative postures when needed, modifications of the pranayama practice and meditations that give the students an opportunity for self-reflection.
YT Is The Yoga Garden associated with any particular yoga lineage?
JG: The yoga taught at The Yoga Garden is primarily within the Krishnamacharya lineage. Most of the teachers have studied with students of Krishnamcharya or Desikachar. Other teachers are Iyengar-trained. The classes are also influenced by each teacher's own interest and experience: Patricia Craves studies regularly with Baba Hari Das at Mt. Madonna, Nubia Teixeira has a background in Bhakti yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. We also have a strong Buddhist influence at the Yoga Garden, I have been practicing insight meditation for many years, teach at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and lead silent daylong yoga and meditation retreats at Green Gulch Zen Center. Lynn Weinberger, another teacher at Yoga Garden, lived in India for 12 years and has studied Tibetan Buddhism for over 30 years…Another teacher, Lyn Genelli, is also a practicing psychotherapist.
YT What is The Yoga Garden best known for?
JG: We are known for our focus on therapeutic yoga. We get many referrals from healthcare practitioners in the area and offer continuing education for teachers who are interested in deepening their understanding of yoga for healing. This is in part a reflection of my own interests [Janice is Vice President of the International Association of Yoga Therapists] and what I see as a growing need in the yoga community for education in the therapeutic applications of yoga. I think many come to the Yoga Garden for the sense of community…as one of my teachers says, “Yoga heals the disease of disconnect,” ””disconnection from each other and from our own inner nature. I think for so many, yoga helps to restore that.
Also, The Yoga Garden is probably one of the few studios that doesn't have a retail space. I made a conscious decision when all the yoga accoutrements hit the market that I didn't want my studio to be a place where people were encouraged to buy things they don't need, or to feel like they had to have a certain outfit to practice yoga. While I appreciate art and beauty, for me yoga is about waking up and becoming free, not getting further entrenched in the trance of our consumer culture.