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New yoga studio opens on Santa Cruz's Westside

December 4, 2002

Santa Cruz County Sentinel

By KAREN KEFAUVER

Victor Dubin hates to turn away students when his yoga classes are packed to capacity.

That has been a problem for the popular instructor, who has taught yoga throughout the county for the past seven years. Dubin will have more space when he opens his studio, The Om Room School of Yoga, this weekend. A ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration will take place at the studio Friday at 6:30 p.m.

A downtown Santa Cruz resident, Dubin, 30, began his quest to find the perfect location, considering factors like quiet and parking. Eventually, he selected a Westside warehouse space on Natural Bridges Drive. He then designed a 1,600-square-foot yoga room with a 400-square-foot area for reception and retail sales.

Unlike many other local yoga studios, the new school will feature a variety of styles of yoga, including vinyasa (often called "flowing yoga"), Iyengar (a classic form emphasizing posture and alignment) and hatha (a discipline with greater focus on breath). They each have their own benefits, but all types are based on the 5,000-year-old principles of balancing mind, body and spirit through selfless devotion and helping others.

"I think this location will draw more students from UCSC and Bonny Doon," said Kelly Blaser, noting that there are no studios on the Westside (Fourteen yoga studios are listed in the Santa Cruz Yellow Pages).

"I wanted to see a certain type of yoga studio in Santa Cruz that wasn't here," said Dubin. "My intention was to create a place where people don't just show up for classes, then leave."

The reception area is planned as the zone for mellow socializing with a couch, tea, water and chai. It also will display yoga-related merchandise for sale.

Dubin said the hardest part of launching his own business has been finding the time in his schedule, teaching a full load of classes and serving as head track and cross country coach as Soquel High School.

Voted "Best Yoga Teacher" by a local weekly newspaper for the past two years, Dubin has generated quite a following by teaching classes at Gold's Gym, Spa Fitness, Pacific Cultural Center and seven other places. At some points, he led 22 classes a week, some attracting as many as 65 students.

When asked about the trendiness of yoga, with pop celebrities Madonna and Sting attributing their fitness to yoga asanas (poses) and two week's worth of ''Cathy'' cartoons poking fun at yoga's mass popularity just last month, Dubin explained the appeal is enduring and does not conflict with business.

"I think it is really easy to balance yoga and commerce," said Dubin. "We have reached a place where we think being a good business person and being a good person are two different things. I don't think so. I think a good business model will work -- if you invest money and energy, it produces growth."

The growth of yoga as an industry is difficult to pinpoint.

Business 2.0 magazine reported in November that an estimated 18 million people practice yoga in the United States today. Subscriptions to the leading yoga publication, Yoga Journal, have tripled to 275,000 in the past five years.

Dubin believes his business will sustain itself, but he also has a grander vision. At the Om Room, he wants to unite the community through classes, workshops and special events, such as the yogathon that will benefit Natural Bridges State Park.

"My intention is that the first day we are open to give something to the community. I want to represent that yoga is not just about yourself, but developing the world around you, and what better way to do that then benefiting a park?" he said.

Om Room School of Yoga
Where: 300 Natural Bridges Drive, Santa Cruz.
Owner: Victor Dubin.
Events: Friday, 6:30 p.m. ribbon cutting; Saturday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Yogathon Benefit for Natural Bridges State Park; Sunday, classes begin.
Teachers: Kelly Blaser, Samantha Matthews, Kate Single, Treea Clements, Teri Mehegan and Juliet Heizman.
Contact: www.omroom.com, victor@omroom.com; 429-YOGA.

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