Kory Sheffer, owner of Ekam Yoga and Wellness, has opened her second studio in Napa, marking the valley’s newest studio – and one dedicated to Ashtanga yoga.
The new space, Ashtanga Yoga Napa Valley, which opened in early December 2017, focuses solely on the practice of Ashtanga yoga, and more specifically, the Mysore method.
Sheffer had been teaching the Mysore method at Ekam since she opened there in 2015. For the first four to five months, she said, there were only two to four students who came regularly. Now, she has more than 60.
Despite the growth in attendance, Sheffer said a second studio wasn’t something she was actively pursuing.
“We really weren’t even looking at expanding,” she said. “It just kind of manifested naturally.”
The studio, which she often refers to by the Sanskrit word shala, is a standalone building on Solano Avenue that happened to have a collection of earthy elements like exposed brick, skylights, and a rock wall, that Sheffer felt perfectly complemented the grounded nature of the Ashtanga practice.
After seeing the space, she said her only pause was wondering whether or not there were enough practitioners to fill a studio dedicated solely to Ashtanga while also expanding other types of classes at Ekam. It turns out there are and, “All around, everyone is very happy because more yoga,” she said.
The Mysore practice, in which the sequences are taught to each student individually at their own speed, allows for anyone of any age, body type, or experience level to participate.
“In the beginning,” Sheffer said, “there is a lot of repetition. Moving in this way allows the body and mind to open up without any pressure.”
She said the age range in her classes is from 19 to almost 73, and the man who is soon to be 73 just started taking yoga two years ago. Classes are taught by one instructor and a few assistants, all of whom work with and make adjustments to each student one on one.
The room is void of music or noise, other than the sounds of breathing and movement. Although students are working autonomously, by practicing alongside one another, Sheffer said they benefit from the energy and support of the community around them.
“This really is a practice of looking in the mirror and cultivating a deep relationship with yourself. That can be very scary but also very therapeutic and healing,” she said.
She described the experience of the Mysore method as transformational, saying that it has completely changed people’s lives, including her own.
Whether someone is getting sober, going through a big shift, or just feeling lost, she said the practice, as well as the people, help to get through that time, which can be very lonely. She described the community as “a very safe, very uplifting place to be.”
Mysore is traditionally taught early in the morning before one’s day gets hectic. Students are asked to commit to a minimum of three days per week, but Sheffer said most come four to six.
She opens the doors of the shala at 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday and teaches from 5:30 to 10:30 a.m. Students are welcome to arrive any time between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. on these days.
The typical practice takes 45 minutes for a beginner and about 90 minutes for somebody who is working through the entire Primary Series, also called Yoga Chikitsa, meaning Yoga Therapy.
On Fridays, the class practices in unison, following the guidance of the teacher, and on Saturdays they rest.
Sunday hours are a little later, welcoming students’ arrival between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.
Now with a dedicated Ashtanga space, Sheffer is able to offer evening classes as well, which she couldn’t do at Ekam. Students practicing in the late afternoon and evening arrive between 4:30 and 6 p.m.
According to Sheffer, Mysore is taught the same way all over the world without any changes or modifications.
“We keep it very simple, very traditional,” she said. “I think that’s what makes it so potent.”
Sheffer studies under Tim Miller, who is the first American to be certified by Sri K Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Mysore.
She also studies in Mysore, India with Pattabhi Jois’s grandson for a few months at a time. The opportunity to do so requires an application process to get in. Sheffer said although the time there is rewarding, it can also be challenging.
Committed to what she does, Sheffer said she loves the opportunity to share yoga with others. One way she does that is through working with the Trini Foundation whose mission is to bring Ashtanga yoga to those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
Ashtanga Yoga Napa Valley offers scholarships and support to students who are in recovery and cannot afford a yoga membership on their own.
She has also partnered with local nonprofit Teens Connect to provide a weekly yoga class specifically for teens for $5 per class as well as class cards that allow them to take any Ekam class for $5.
Scholarships are also available. Details about both programs can be found at ekamyogaandwellness.com.
More information on Ashtanga Yoga Napa Valley, as well as the Trini Foundation, is available at ashtangayoganapavalley.com.