Better Living Yoga

Better Living Yoga, Aliso Viejo

Better Living Yoga fills a particularly unique niche in the yoga world as it is a studio that specializes in classes for the over 40 age group (although all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend too, of course).  The studio has a great community atmosphere and, I have to say, is probably the sweetest smelling yoga studio I’ve ever visited 😉

location  on a small mall off of Aliso Creek Rd in Alison Viejo  

parking  very easy.  shared with other businesses on the mall

welcome  excellent.  the welcome started when one of the studio’s regular students chatted to me outside the studio and kindly introduced me to one of the instructors.  I met two of the instructors and the owner who were all very friendly and welcoming.    The owner was particularly helpful and took the time to show me around the studio pointing out studios, restrooms and treatment room.  A few days after my first class I received a friendly, follow up call to check on my experience.

facility  2 yoga studios, 1 treatment room, restrooms.  water freely available in reception

studio environment  Light, bright and fresh, beautifully maintained and well organized.

props  Lots available.  blocks, blankets, straps & bolsters aplenty

schedule   morning classes 7 days a week.  late afternoon and evening classes every weekday.  class lengths range from  60 -75 minutes.

yoga styles and instructors  A mixture of gentle flow, restorative, yin yoga.  The studio also teach their own BLY signature yoga series, which is a set sequence of poses devised by instructors at the studio.  The foundations class offers Iyengar inspired hatha yoga instruction.

capacity  Two large studio spaces.  The classes I attended were not overcrowded and mat spacing was comfortable for the students.

other services offered   Mat pilates classes, and body treatments

workshops & trainings   A variety of great workshops across a range of topics including yoga, reiki healing, aromatherapy (at the time of my visit).  some workshops include a glass of wine – what’s not to like?

website    Very easy to use and understand.  lists links to some interesting yoga themed articles

retail  Retail area in reception

value  Single class $22 /  ten class package $180 / monthly auto renewal $148 autopay – $225 non autopay (Oct 2016)

deals   New student deal $49 unlimited month pass (Oct 2016) & $90 for a 10 class pass.  regular deals on groupon & similar deal websites.  you can also sign up online for a free class

8 great places to source a yoga mat

a yoga mat - the prop you'll need
a yoga mat – the prop you’ll need
The great thing about yoga is that it is such a portable practice.  Once you have a few of the poses down it’s easy to practice anywhere you have space to roll out your mat.

There are many accessories and props you can purchase to assist your yoga practice (which I would recommend investing in over time) but when starting out the most important yoga item to have is a mat and, for that, you have many options.

The key thing to bear in mind is that yoga mats need to be ‘sticky’ in the sense that they grip well when you are working on them.  Some mats have a texture to them which really helps with grip.  Initially, you may find the mat surface to have a light, slippery sheen but this breaks down with use.  You can always help break up the surface a little by rubbing with a cotton cloth.

Around 3-4mm is a great thickness for a yoga mat as it offers some cushioning to the body but isn’t so thick that it is like stepping on to a camping mattress.

1  Borrow one.  Most studios do have yoga mats available to borrow so if you are not too particular about using a mat other students have used then this is a good option to start.

2  Borrow one (again!).  From a family member or friend.  Another good way to check out a yoga class without committing to buying something you may use three times before it’s on the yard sale pile.  Which leads me to number 3

3  If you’re a yard sale, rummage sale or thrift store fiend, keep an eye out.  I’ve seen mats at yard sales with the cellophane wrap still intact – an unwanted gift for the seller but a gem find for you!

4 Look for a bargain.  Stores like TJ Maxx and Ross are both bursting with deals and it’s well worth a look here for a bargain priced mat.  Sometimes branded with a name you may recognise, sometimes not.  I’ve seen mats in both stores for twenty bucks and lower.

5  Target.  It doesn’t really matter what you’re looking for – Target will always provide!  They have a yoga section with a great selection of yoga gear.  Mats are in the $20 – $30 dollar range.

6  Sports shops.  Sports shops do stock yoga mats just be careful not to pick up the typical ‘gym’ type mat which is often much thicker, spongier and more slippery than a yoga mat.

7  Specialised Yoga & Fitness clothing stores. There are a few of these around now.  Some of them carry great quality yoga mats but you might want to be doing some deep yogic breathing when you read the prices!

8  The studio.  Many studios have a retail area where you can buy, among other things, yoga mats.  These are generally well established yoga brands which are great in quality but do come at a price.

Hatha Yoga Illustrated

Hatha Yoga Illustrated
Hatha Yoga Illustrated
Looking for an easy to understand yoga book?

Hatha Yoga Illustrated is a great book for any new student looking to find out a little more about yoga poses.  I was gifted my copy many years ago and have often referred to it since.

It is a great visual reference with clear photos of many of the poses, or asanas, you will discover in a class setting. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific group of poses like standing, twists and balances making it an easy to use yoga pose reference.

It is a great visual reference with clear photos of many of the poses you will discover in a class setting.

If you want to know more about yoga in a broader sense, chapter one outlines its history alongside other aspects of yoga such as breathing techniques and meditation.  All of the information in this first chapter is easy to dip in to if you’re interested but not critical to enjoy practicing the physical aspect of yoga

Here are some of the great things about this book…..

  • clear photos of several poses for beginning students to advanced
  • photos demonstrate the use of props i.e. blankets, blocks & straps to assist in poses and also illustrate alternative variations
  • each pose is accompanied by a list of its physical and mental benefits along with any contraindications (when to avoid or adapt the pose according to any injuries or conditions you may have)
  • at the back of the book you’ll find some easy to follow yoga routines
  • the index shows a small photograph of the pose along with the pose name in English and the yogic description in Sanskrit (the ancient language used in yoga).

Whether it is your first yoga book purchase or you are expanding your collection, Hatha Yoga Illustrated makes a great addition to your bookshelf.

Yoga Mind & Body

Yoga Mind & Body is a great book if you are interested in yoga and would like to learn a little more about the subject in an easily understandable way.

This is one of the first Yoga books I ever owned and I often refer back to it.

Despite the image on the front cover.  There is another more up to date copy which also shows an advanced pose on the cover but please don’t let it put you off!  This is a book for all levels of student offering something for beginners and advanced yogis alike.  As well as covering many poses there are also brief sections that describe some of the other aspects of yoga such as yogic breathing, relaxation, meditation and the origins of yoga.  There is also a section of recipes (all vegetarian) and some interesting nutritional information, again, small

Published by the Dorling Kindersley publishing house, more commonly known as DK, they have a reputation for publishing high quality, educational books and this one is no exception.


YogaWorks Costa Mesa

YogaWorks Costa Mesa

YogaWorks is the big cheese of yoga studios.  There are 5 branches in Orange County, many more in LA and beyond.  Lots of experienced instructors.  Lots of class choice.  If you prefer a larger brand to smaller scale independent then this could be the yoga studio for you. 

location   On a large, busy retail mall with easy access to the 55.   Steps up to the studio on the upper level but elevator available.

parking   Lots of it but time your arrival to dovetail with the end of the previous class – otherwise a longer walk across a busy parking lot 🙂

welcome    There are always one or two staff on reception to greet you.  With such a large number of students coming and going it is can be a little hectic and impersonal at busy times.  On my first visit I was given friendly verbal directions for the studio but not a guided tour.

  • 3 yoga studios & 1 pilates studio
  • varied schedule with lots of choice
  • lots of great instructors

facility  3 yoga studios, 1 pilates studio.  Changing cubicles available and large restroom.  Herbal tea & water freely available in reception

studio environment  Of the three yoga studios, 2 are very big rooms and the 3rd is smaller but works well for a smaller group.  All have windows with lots of light but due to it’s central location there is some traffic noise. The studios all share the same corridor which can get a little snug at class changeover time and if you are arriving directly after a hot, sweaty class the air can be a little, well let’s say, heavy!

props  Lots available.  More blocks, blankets, straps & bolsters than you can shake a stick at.

schedule   Very big and varied.  Lots of choice from a 6.30am  to 7.30pm, 7 days a week.  Class lengths from 60 minutes – 90 minutes

yoga styles and instructors  Lots of YogaWorks method classes (a style of yoga devised by YogaWorks) as well as vinyasa (flow style, fast moving), gentle, restorative and prenatal.  Other styles include Iyengar yoga, Yoga Tune Up, Kundalini yoga and Yin yoga.   Lots of choice for instructors.

capacity   The two large studios are big spaces that can accommodate many students.  I’ve attended classes with large numbers of students and the room is filled to capacity which may, or may not, appeal!

other services offered  Mat pilates, pilates with equipment, barworks & sculpt works (other body workouts – pilates, ballet and fitness based, not yoga)

workshops & trainings   A variety of great workshops and several teacher trainings annually (across the YogaWorks studios)

website    Very polished.  Lots of information all on one site.  Can be tricky to navigate initially simply because there is so much material there

retail  Large retail area in reception offering mats, props, clothing, books, jewellery & skincare among other things.  Regular sales and occasional pop up shops

  • single class $25  /  ten class package $190
  • intro deal 2 weeks unlimited $25 (Sept 16)
  • regular Groupon deals

value  Single class $25 /  ten class package $190 / monthly auto renewal $100 – $135 month (Sept 2016)

deals   intro deal 2 weeks unlimited $25 (Sept 2016)  & regular deals on groupon & similar deal websites

loyalty scheme  Offers a loyalty scheme.  Points based on attendance.  Redeem for merchandise discounts or private lessons (Sept 2016)