It takes me at least 40 minutes to go from Isla Vista to downtown Santa Barbara and back in order to attend a 90-minute yoga class. What college student has that kind of time?
This spring, a program called The Art of Exercise is bringing yoga, Pilates, and circuit training, at reasonable prices, to prime IV locations. And there’s little that evokes a feeling of Isla Vista spring fever better than bending and flexing cliffside, right? I think it’s a great idea.
Nikki Heeren, a UCSB alumnus and former I.V. resident, founded The Art of Exercise. Heeren has achieved a B.A. in psychology at UCSB, a M.A. in education from Antioch University, is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and has 20 years of outdoor fitness experience. She is joining forces with two other qualified instructors.
Inspired by Isla Vista’s breathtaking natural beauty, Heeren created The Art of Exercise as a nature-based fitness program, focusing on inner beauty and self-empowerment. “The thing that I love most about it is that there are no mirrors,” she said. By being outside, Heeren commented, the focus “shifts from ourselves to the beauty around us.”
This past Tuesday I took the yoga class offered by The Art of Exercise to check it out for myself. Approximately 10 other girls and I gathered in what residents fondly refer to as “Dog Shit Park,” located at the end of the 6700 block of Del Playa. We rolled out our mats on the park’s wooden platforms while Anya Pokazanyeva, the powerflow vinyasa yoga instructor, set up below us, on the sand.
Anya has been teaching yoga for three years, is a grad student at UCSB, and is writing her PhD on yoga. For 45 minutes, Anya instructed us in a series of classic sun salutations, balancing poses, and core work. I must admit, I was hesitant to openly do “down dog” and other poses that require limb flailing and butt-up movements in the center of I.V., as I usually practice behind closed doors. But within two minutes of the class, I was focusing on nothing but my breath, the sound of the ocean, and the sun on my face. It was amazing.
As the yoga class ended, I looked to the distant right, spotting Coal Oil Point, and to the left, seeing students walking, biking, and running. Working out outdoors definitely makes you appreciate Isla Vista, our one-of-a-kind home. Heeren lived here for four years, the last two in a house on Del Playa, and even met her husband here! “I feel so connected to Isla Vista,” she said.
But yoga is only one of the classes The Art of Exercise offers. The class schedule also includes Pilates with certified instructor Kendra Sarna. Pilates focuses on controlled movements designed specifically to improve abdominal strength, flexibility, and posture. Sarna’s class is sure to inspire you to get naughty with your Pilates body and kick that core into summer shape.
And if the yoga-Pilates world isn’t quite your cup of tea, Heeren teaches three circuit-training classes each week. Attendees will shake it to music, rotating through eight different stations, including resistance-training exercises, weights, cardio exercises, jump-roping, dancing, and even hula-hooping!
I think an inexpensive yet inspiring yoga studio, especially one that celebrates the outdoors, is the one missing element in our fair town. With thousands of students all crammed together, many of who are environmentally friendly and definite yogi material, one wonders why it hasn’t been done before.
I’d definitely recommend dropping in one of the yoga, Pilates or circuit-training classes for an exercise fix. “I want the Art of Exercise to grow as much as it can. It’s my baby,” Heeren said. And from the looks of last week’s classes—so far, so good. For info on class schedule and prices, check out The Art of Exercise website or contact Nikki@TheArtofExercise.net.