Samadi Yoga in Westlake Village

yoga pose on city corner

Mahnaz Jahangiri uses yoga to help tune out the busy world.

Samadi Yoga is easy to find…if you know where it is. In an office plaza at the corner of Thousand Oaks Blvd. and Via Colinas, Samadi actually faces the road, but if you’re concentrating too intently on the address, you might drive around a bit before you locate this colorful gem hidden among the gray offices.

Mahnaz Jahangiri, owner of Samadi Yoga, has just expanded her business and opened a second location in Koreatown. Both locations offer a variety of classes, many taught by Jahangiri herself. When I asked to come and try a class that seemed suited to my comfort level, she talked me into trying one of her “hot yoga” classes, which are simply referred to by their levels (I, II, and III) and go through different series of postures. Since I often push the boundaries of my comfort level for this site, I accepted.

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This is not what I look like when I attempt this pose.

Obviously, I survived. I had told Jahangiri that I tried hot yoga a few times before and I didn’t like it, but this class was very different. Yes, it was hot, but the flow of Level I, a 90-minute class, was at a pace that I could handle. In fact, it was rather slow, relative to the yoga I’ve been practicing elsewhere lately. We started with pranayama breathing exercises, and I thought “Piece of cake.” There was a woman in the class who was recovering from a recent surgery, and it was clear that Jahangiri would allow her to modify postures and play along.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult! At times I felt my heart beating as hard as if I was running! (To be fair, that wouldn’t take much, since I hate running so I never do it.) The heat in the room made my body loosen up and I felt my stiffness melting away, but at the same time, this made my ability to keep up even at a slow rate of movement more of a challenge. However, the mindful pace allowed me to focus on each pose, correcting when necessary, and going deeper than usual. I found myself reflecting a lot about other things, but able to bring my mind back to my breath, which I could really feel because of the humidity.

Note to self and you: do not bring a metal water bottle to this class. Also, bring a towel. There is much sweating.

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Mahnaz Jahangiri poster in Samadi Yoga’s lobby

Jahangiri is a gentle and knowledgeable instructor, and she clearly practices what she preaches. There are posters in the lobby outside the studio of a woman striking the most incredible yoga poses: the woman is Jahangiri herself. “I turned to yoga 20 years ago as a way to quiet the noise, unplug the world, and reconnect with myself to find the person that somehow got buried,” she says.

Other students in the class I attended had been coming to Samadi Yoga regularly for a while, and they seemed very happy there. One was a friend I know from my kids’ school; running into people you sort of know happens a lot in the bubble, and I was glad to see her. She was beside herself about Samadi, giving the practice credit for getting her through a divorce and coping with the craziness in her life. In fact, she was practically in tears with gratitude. I can’t think of a better endorsement, besides, perhaps, that this friend’s body is amazingly in shape and strong, too.

Samadi Yoga classes are offered on a drop-in basis with a per-class fee of $20, or you can sign up for several pre-paid levels of access to classes by the month. There is currently a special called Wind Down Wednesdays, in which all classes after 4:00 PM on Wednesdays are offered at $10 per class.

Samadi Yoga
31300 Via Colinas, Unit 101
Westlake Village, CA 91362
(818) 879-1477

From Thousand Oaks Blvd, turn south on Via Colinas and turn right into the first driveway on the right. At the first opportunity, turn right up the hill, drive to the second building and follow the parking lot around to the left. Samadi is in a unit halfway down the building on your left. There is plenty of free parking.

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(Photos courtesy Samadi Yoga)

 

Soulcycle Is Here! Calabasas and Westlake

Soulcycle has arrived in The Bubble – two new locations in Calabasas and Westlake Village allow you to “tap it back” and sweat your bottom off.

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Apparently I’ve been under a rock for a very long time, or at least successfully avoiding spin classes at all costs, because when Molly led me into my first Soulcycle class (indeed, my first ever spin class, period), she warned me that it would be “dark and loud,” but that still wasn’t enough to lessen the shock. Since I was late, I entered the class after any chance of being eased into it gently, after the warm-up, and right in the middle of the instructor’s ramp up to full speed. Basically, I was walking into a nightclub at full pulse, but the people were all dancing on stationary bikes, and there was no chance of a cocktail to take the edge off.

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Image courtesy of Soulcycle

The Obsession

Turns out, about a trillion people are completely obsessed with Soulcycle, a specially-designed indoor cycling class set in a candlelit room and led by “rockstar instructors” who shout commands and affirming mantras throughout the 45-minute workout. The music is loud, and mostly full of driving beats to accompany your pounding feet. The first studio opened in New York in 2005, and the craze has grown throughout the country. Once a studio gains a foothold in a community, you have to pounce on the computer or the smartphone app to get a spot in the most popular instructors’ classes. (Apparently at Calabasas it’s Franz, who I am told is just like the name sounds.)

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You can reserve the exact bike you want

I didn’t know about the obsession before I took my first class, which is good because I might have been more intimidated than I already was, considering I’m out of shape (always) and I abhor cardio workouts, preferring nice happy yoga and hiking. But like I’ve said before, I am always up for trying something new, especially when invited by the happiest fitness staff on earth.

Although I plunged into the experience mid-class, I managed to follow along well. Well, just okay, but I didn’t vomit or pass out or fall off the bike, which I consider a win. And you can’t really fall off the bike, because you’re clipped in on special shoes. So I would have just sort of slumped over onto the woman next to me. The bikes are very close together.

The people in this class were all invited to brunch nearby at The Six, a Calabasas restaurant that serves up delicious brunchy salads and flatbreads, even a vegan version of the delectable goat cheese avocado flatbread – both were amazing, as was the company. That’s where I learned about how popular SoulCycle is in general, and how great it’s doing in Calabasas.

Soulcycle Calabasas app

Soulcycle Calabasas’s Alyssa demonstrates how to reserve a bike using the mobile app

The Workout

Next up, I tried out the Westlake Village studio, which is new in the plaza where Le Pain Quotidien, Pitfire Pizza, and CorePower Yoga are (Lots of fitness and food options in that plaza!) at Townsgate and Westlake Boulevard. This location seems a little bigger, but maybe that’s because I got there early for a change, and I was able to check out the place and ease into the experience with my guest Michelle.

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USB charger port inside the free locker!

We were fitted with fancy clippy shoes, led to our bikes (you actually reserve a specific bike), and shown how to clip in and adjust the resistance on the bike. The resistance wheel plays an important role in the class: the instructor will often command you to “add another turn!” and “come on, Westlake, give yourself one more turn!” increasing the difficulty of your pedaling as she urges you to “pump it faster!”

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Locker hallway outside the studio, where you wait for the previous class to end

The bulk of a SoulCycle class goes on much in this way, and a lot of it is in the dark, until the music builds to a crescendo and the lights flash and illuminate some of the room, especially the instructor so you can see what she is doing. You’re either standing up pumping the pedals as hard as you can, or sitting in the seat and doing pushups on the handlebars, or pumping little hand weights along to the music. Cool down stretches are done right there on the bike, too.

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Image courtesy of Soulcycle

The Verdict

Bottom line: I loved it. Have you ever heard me say that about cardio workouts? (Spoiler: no, no you haven’t.) Despite the fact that my heart was pounding and my face was bright red (but nobody could see me so who cares?), I enjoyed the music, the life-affirming script, the fact that I was actually able to pump it for like 5 seconds at a time before giving up and resting in the seat instead of barfing (but I couldn’t actually tap it back yet, because my back is still healing from a recent tweaking).

I was able to keep up, but with lots of resting, and I learned something I will share with you: if you’re totally pumping the pedals and you need to stop, it’s NOT like riding a street bike where you can just coast. If you stop, your feet will keep going with the bike because your shoes are clipped in! So you have to slow down gradually.

After each class, I was pumped up. Yes, I got sore, especially where I sit on the bike seat, because it’s been a while since I regularly biked. But it was good sore otherwise.

The Community

If you’re the kind of person who’s always looking for a new workout, I recommend trying SoulCycle. One great side-effect of the weird obsession people get about it is the sense of community.

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The rules

I guess it’s the way I imagine CrossFit and other branded exercise phenomena to be: full of people who are obsessed with their workout because it makes them feel so good and gives them a sense of accomplishment. At my first class I ran into my friend Julee, and I didn’t realize she was in the class because it was dark. She was so excited to tell me all about her love of the spin studio because she finds great joy in riding. If that’s what SoulCycle can give you, why not join that community?

SoulCycle Calabasas
23500 Park Sorrento
Calabasas, CA 91302
Parking is underground around the back of the building – just keep right. Yes, it’s really there.

SoulCycle Westlake Village
966 S. Westlake Blvd.
Westlake Village, CA 91361
Enter from Townsgate as if you’re going to Le Pain Quotidien. It’s on the right near Pitfire.

First class is $20 and includes shoes, after that they’re $30 each plus $3 for shoe rental. Discounts apply to bulk class packages. Once you buy a class, you can reserve your bike.

I attended the classes as a guest of SoulCycle – all opinions are my own.

Get a Taste of Wellness at Four Seasons Westlake Village

The Taste of Wellness package at Four Seasons Westlake Village is a great one-day immersion into the spa and wellness experience at the property’s California Health & Longevity Institute.

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Yoga class on the lawn at Four Seasons Westlake Village

Did you know that at the Four Seasons Westlake Village there is a whole wellness center? It’s called California Health & Longevity Institute (CHLI) and it’s one more very big reason to visit Westlake and the Four Seasons. CHLI offers medical and dental treatments, nutritionist consultations, healthy cooking classes, dermatology, fitness classes, and so much more that I wasn’t even aware of. People travel from all over to experience their services with top medical professionals in the serene and luxurious surroundings of the Four Seasons property.

Taste of Wellness

Working in partnership, the hotel and CHLI have introduced a new package for guests that introduces you to what the center has to offer. It’s called Taste of Wellness, and it only takes a half a day – or longer if you can spare the time to chill out in the spa or pool when you are done. You can choose from three different themes: Detox + Disconnect, Relax + Recharge, or Shape Up + Slim Down.

Relax + Recharge

The center and hotel invited me to try out Taste of Wellness, and since I was between a long trip and back-to-school coming up, I chose the Relax + Recharge package, which includes:

-Life Strategies Consultation
-Somadome Meditation
-Tranquility Massage

Those words all look great to me, but I didn’t know exactly what it all entailed, so I arrived and checked in near the spa (which is already my happy place) with curious optimism. I had no idea how blown away I was about to become.

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Check into CHLI in the south wing of the hotel, across from The Spa

Life Strategies Consultation

Dr. Ilana Kukoff is a fixer. She’s not a therapist, there to listen to you vent and cry and walk out of her office with puffy eyes, feeling like you got hit by a train, but so much better since you unloaded your problems. No, Dr. Kukoff is there to give you action steps to make your life better. I hadn’t prepared myself for meeting her, since I hadn’t known it was coming. After she introduced herself and described her background (she runs The Center for Child & Family Wellbeing at CHLI, grew up on the east coast like me, and has two grown and successful children, plus a book coming out this fall, etc.) she asked me what I needed help with.

After a moment of thought, I told her about my current crossroads: my older son is going to middle school, my duties as PTA president are over so I have time to work more, but I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up! Dr. Kukoff didn’t miss a beat. She immediately gave me a pad and pen, and said “Write this down. Number 1…” and gave me two pages of action steps that covered not only my career path but also my children’s school challenges, the name of an agent I should meet when I finish my novel, titles of books and magazines I should read, and some quotable bits I’ll have to use in another post!

My head spun pleasantly with all the new ideas in the wake of Dr. Kukoff’s personable energy. At that point I could have used that buzz to work out, because in addition to the services I experienced, the package includes access to daily exercise classes offered by CHLI, like yoga, pilates, cycling, barre, and “Aqua Blast.” Since I had to get back to my children in a few hours, I skipped the exercise. At least, that’s my excuse. Besides, it was time for lunch.

Ahi Poke Bowl

Ahi Poke Bowl

Sustained Living Lunch

The Taste of Wellness naturally includes lunch from the Wellness Kitchen, served in the main dining room at Four Seasons. Menu items were designed by Paulette Lambert, the nutrition director at CHLI and author of the cookbook by the same name (which is really fantastic – I went home with a copy and already made 2 dishes from it, which my whole family loved).

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For lunch during my day at Four Seasons I had the 1, 2, 3 Lunch! entree and chose tomato & burrata salad, the quinoa garden bowl with pistachios and blistered tomato, and, not exactly super healthy but it has fruit, the most incredible peach melba I’ve ever had. The Taste of Wellness package includes non-alcoholic beverages only, but I had to go outside the box and try the Antioxidant Mojito. It’s for the story, right? Conclusion: I heartily recommend.

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Somadome Meditation

After lunch I checked into the spa, which is really just the best place on Earth, and got a locker, a robe, and slippers. The spa clerk showed me to the Somadome, which is a giant futuristic egg stationed in a classically decorated wing of offices around the corner from the spa. The juxtaposition of the plush, cozy room and the new-agey egg was striking.

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What followed was a 20-minute suspension of reality. Inside the egg, there’s no visual stimulus except for the glowing white interior. I donned headphones and chose the “Success” meditation, during which a calm female voice uttered motivational mantras, echoing herself, over thrumming electronic beats.

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About to meditate in the Somadome

It was super trippy at first, and I had to take photos, too, but after a few minutes I relaxed into it and completely zoned out. Just as the meditation track was ending, the clerk returned and knocked on the egg to transition me back to the ladies’ spa for my massage.

Tranquility Massage

You’re going to get the top of the line at Four Seasons’ Spa no matter what service you choose, but the Tranquility Swedish massage is what comes with this package. It’s a 50 minute relaxing massage with pressure as you like it. I added a foot scrub to it, too, since I’ve been traipsing around in flip flops all summer and my feet needed a little tune-up. My therapist, Roe, was a total pro and I left there feeling relaxed and ready to soak in the spa or lounge by the pool…

…except that whole parenting thing. My time was up and I had to head home. But the food for thought I got from Dr. Kukoff, the meditative state of mind from the Somadome, the relaxed muscles after my massage, and the nourishing food I put in my belly all conspired to give me a peaceful, slightly energized feeling when I got there.

Book Your Taste

I absolutely recommend this experience, especially as you’re gearing up for a change in your life, or you want to kick-start a fitness program or come down from some hard summer partying. If you’re a parent and you can set aside some time once the kids go back to school, a Taste of Wellness day will be perfect!

To book, call 818-575-3000 or visit the hotel’s website here.

The day package is only $299 per person, and it includes everything I mentioned above. That is a slam dunk amazing deal, considering the spa services alone! It would be a really nice gift, too. You can schedule your day as you like with the people who make the reservations – and I would even go so far as to say get your massage before lunch to avoid any unpleasant digestion noises that might embarrass you.

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This package is available to overnight guests, of course, so make it a staycation and keep that pleasant buzz with you all day and night and into the next morning. The Four Seasons Westlake Village feels like a world away from the rest of the area. A stay there is restful and good for the soul.

I experienced Taste of Wellness as a guest of Four Seasons and CHLI. All opinions are my own.