Stretching it in Greenbank

"The Yoga Lodge is located at 3475 Christie Road Greenbank. Classes are held five days a week at 8:30-10 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. For directions or further information call Gail Malizia at 678-2120 or e-mail The Yoga Lodge is on-line at those who can't make it to the Yoga Lodge for regular classes with Malizia, a set of six videos is available. Produced from a program for the Port Townsend Public Television station, each tape features a one hour beginning yoga lesson. Cost of the set is $85 including postage and handling.By NANCY BARTLETTStaff reporterGail Malizia stands on her head a lot, which gives her an unusual point of view. So when she decided to move to Whidbey Island and start a home-based business she came up with something unique-The Yoga Lodge. The Yoga Lodge sits in the middle of ten acres of gardens and fir forest on the top of a grassy hill near Greenbank. The center of the main level is the wood floored yoga studio. The Yoga Lodge provides the essential ingredient of a yoga teaching facility - a comfortable open space and mirrors along one wall, but Malizia also makes use of some specialized equipment. An array of ropes along one wall are used by those with disabilities or injuries that make unsupported bending or balancing impossible. Shelves in an alcove hold a variety of items such as blankets for cushioning headstands.A unique feature of this particular facility is the bed and breakfast portion of Malizia's business. Around the outside of the studio are rooms which are available by the night, or as retreat cabins by the week. Each room is designed to accommodate two to four adults in elegant, minimalist style. This is not the typical bed and breakfast with puffy chintz armchairs and fluffy duvets. The decor is spartan and reminiscent of a European hostel. These rooms are a physical expression of the philosophy of simplicity on which the lodge was founded and are meant to enhance the guests' time away from the concerns of the world. Bare floors are covered with bright colored rag rugs, bunks are trimmed in unstained fir, and woolen blankets keep out the cold. But the ceilings soar to 10 feet, and skylights let in the sun, patter with the rhythm of rain and provide a view of the stars. In the morning a continental style breakfast of yogurt, fruit, cereal and home made sweet bread is served. Guests also have the opportunity to experience a wood-fired Finnish sauna. The Yoga Lodge got its start many years ago when Malizia fell ill while traveling in south America. Malizia took some time to recover in a cabin on the Olympic Peninsula and loved the rural life. While there she borrowed books on health from the public library and one of the topics she read about was yoga. On her return to Seattle she studied yoga more intensely and eventually became an instructor. Living in Seattle and working as a yoga instructor, Malizia longed to return to the country. But making a living meant staying in the city. When a friend suggested Whidbey might be a possibility Malizia visited the island and liked what she saw. Continuing to teach in Seattle, she rented a space in Langley where she held a few classes each week. The experiment was successful and she decided to pursue a full time arrangement.Malizia met with a Realtor and said, my dream is to teach out of my home, I'd like some acreage and I don't have a lot of money. They looked around and one day happened upon a piece of property advertised as a liveable apartment above a garage. Malizia says her first words upon walking inside were, Oh, what a lot of work. Yet she saw enough possibility in the structure to make an offer. The only trouble was, she didn't have the funds to finish the deal if the seller accepted. Armed with nothing but vision she started a campaign to make her dream take shape. Approaching banks, friends, relatives, students and colleagues Malizia put out word about what she wanted to do and what she needed. Bank funding was out of the question, but little by little she got what she needed to complete the deal as friends came forward with loans.Malizia admits the move sometimes seemed foolhardy, but says she had an invigorating sense of taking the right kind of risk at the right time. I just kept going for the first time in my life, she says. Her leap of faith paid off and the Yoga Lodge opened.Malizia says she chose the name lodge because its German root means a place of rest. The original idea was to provide a place where people could come, get away and relax. Malizia is quick to point out that this is not Club Med but a place of withdrawal from the busy world. But Malizia says, the lodge is not a retreat or a spiritual enclave.One of the most mistaken notions is that people think yoga is a religion, she said.At the same time, Malizia says, In our culture, yoga has come to mean a physical exercise, stretching. But she says when you do yoga, you're not just stretching, you are also breathing deeply, being quiet and still, and focusing your mind on something other than the rat race. According to Malizia Yoga can be thought of in a number of ways. It can be stretching for those who want only stretching, for others it can be a time for resting. For Malizia, it's a way of life, a way of looking at the world, based on five principles: non-violence, honesty, elimination of greed, moderation and not stealing. Daily guidelines provide personal goals for those who go into the practice: effort, cleanliness (including negative thoughts), contentment, self-study and service.Malizia does not teach these principles to new students. Most people come to yoga for physical reasons, she says, I don't sit around and talk philosophy with them. As the topic comes up she may offer the view point of yoga on an aspect of life.Occasionally she offers a special class at student request. Those who do go further into the practice, Malizia says, find big rewards. You're less anxious, less worried, less compelled to 'do.' It's such a nice state of being, you don't feel like you have to rush around trying to change the world. The only thing I can change is me. The benefits of yoga on body flexibility are clear from watching Malizia practice, at 60 she can bend her body in ways that would make a 20 year old wince. But just how can sitting or standing in a certain position help minimize worry? According to Malizia, the point of the positions, or asanas, is exercise for circulation, respiration and the nervous system. Sitting still in the various positions gives time for deep breathing which helps all those functions, and the stillness allows the student to concentrate and contemplate. It takes some practice to put modern life aside, says Malizia.It's hard to contemplate if the mind is always clamoring for movement, or for chocolate chip cookies. "

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