Most of us do them in January – make goals for the rest of the year. More often than not, fitness is usually on that list, especially if you’ve overindulged during the holiday season. But one thing about fitness and weight-loss goals, they don’t really target healing from within and can quickly become monotonous. That’s one reason why the practice of yoga is so popular. Not only can you achieve great flexibility and lose your unwanted pounds, but you are also practicing wellness for your mental and emotional health.

I started my yoga journey six years ago in Santa Monica. My first teacher, Ashley Turner, started out our practice by having us sit quietly with our legs crossed and eyes closed as she instructed us that to allow ourselves to forget about was going on around us for just 90 minutes and focus on ourselves; it would be worth it. As we bended and twisted in ways I had never experienced, she came around and gently adjusted our postures. I was so happy with my first yoga experience that I signed myself up on her e-mail mailing list.

Fast-forward to January 2011, Turner is now in her 10th year of yoga instruction, working at three studios, including Exhale Spa in Santa Monica. Turner’s background includes a specialization of Yoga Psychology, the practice of yoga, spirituality and the implementation of modern science. Turner has also created a series of DVDs: Element: Yoga for Beginners, Yoga for Weight Loss, Yoga for Stress + Flexibility and Power Yoga. Turner’s method is Vinyasa, or “synchronized breath movements,” which improves joints and promotes balance.

She has organized yoga retreats overseas, snowboarding trips to Mammoth and most recently has teamed with premier hotel the Montage in Laguna Beach. Her newest workshops and retreats at the Montage Spa feature a day of fiery yoga during the morning hours and a restorative class in the afternoon.  

The Montage Spa is one of the most beautiful venues I have practiced yoga in. Overlooking the blissful blue of the Pacific, Turner’s yoga techniques in the morning have you paying close attention to the beautiful nature that surrounds you – the lull of the ocean, the soft seagull “soundtrack,” the calming sound of the wind. All of the elements give the class the energy needed to perform the stretching, balancing and twisting poses that Turner flows through.

One thing she had us do in the workshop, appropriately titled “Resolve to Evolve,” was write down what we wanted to release during the class – be it anger, anxiety or stress – and what we wanted to embrace – love, compassion, understanding, etc. We put that paper under the yoga mat, and during our floor practice we “pushed” all the things we wanted to get rid of, and in our rest state we welcomed all that we wanted to embrace.

After our two-hour practice, I thought I’d be way too sweaty and exhausted, but the opposite happened. I felt refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the day. But before I departed, the workshop included use of the Montage Spa’s wonderful facilities, including the state of the art pool, cold dip, sauna, steam room and fitness center. My friend and I sat in the sauna for about 15 minutes with our water, grazing on fresh fruits, and we just took in all the surroundings of the spa.

Ashley will be conducting a few more workshops at the Montage Spa (“Reclaim Romance” on Feb. 12 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-4 p.m. and “Change Your Mind. Change Your Body. Change Your Life.” on March 12 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-4 p.m.). She is also conducting a “Spring Detox: Clear Your Body, Mind + Soul” Retreat April 16 and 17.

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