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March 5, 2013
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Grass Valley Yoga gears classes to all levels

Throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, Annie Hopper was living life at full speed. A successful television actress in bustling Los Angeles, Hopper’s life was in constant motion.

“I was just so busy,” she said. “It was a crazy time.”

Witness to the frazzled nature of her everyday life, Hopper’s sister-in-law suggested she try a yoga class. As it turned out, the class would eventually change the course of her life.

“The first time I got on a yoga mat, it was 1993,” Hopper said. “It was love at first sight.”

After her yoga classes, Hopper found she could re-enter the hustle bustle and still hold onto a feeling of inner peace.

“It was the way I felt afterward — so calm — as though I’d had a massage, body stretch and workout all at once,” she said. “My mind became so much calmer and clearer.”

That first class began Hopper’s yoga journey, she said. Although she continued to work in the entertainment business, yoga had become a constant in her life.

Finally, in 1997, after the birth of her first child, Hopper realized she was ready to leave the world of acting.

“I was done — it was no longer for me,” she said. “More than anything, I wanted to embrace yoga and work toward certification. The practice spoke to me deeply — it helped me be the kind of mother I’d always wanted to be.”

Five years ago, Hopper and her husband, Scott, opted to leave the congestion of Los Angeles and moved the family to Nevada County.

A trained instructor by then, Hopper began teaching private yoga lessons out of her Alta Sierra home.

“I knew I didn’t want to teach in a big studio with 30 people,” she said. “I wanted to take it slow, and get acclimated. Individual attention is such an important part of instruction because everyone is unique. Teaching huge classes was not where I wanted to take this.”

So pleased were her clients that soon they requested that Hopper teach small groups, and things began evolving from there, she said.

In 2010, Hopper opened the doors of Grass Valley Yoga, now situated on the corner of Highway 49 and Alta Sierra Drive.

“For the first six months, it was just me teaching,” said Hopper. “Then it organically began to grow — these incredible teachers found me and wanted to share their gifts.”

Today, Grass Valley Yoga has seven instructors, all of whom are dedicated to getting to know their students and maintaining a serene, intimate feeling within the studio, Hopper said. The studio offers a broad range of classes, seven days a week.

“Our students seek us out because of the love and the attention we pay to every one of them,” she said. “Our mission statement is, ‘Come as you are, leave feeling better in some way.’”

The intimate, boutique-style studio is meant to be non-intimidating and accessible to all levels of ability, said Hopper, who regularly offers “Yoga 101,” designed to take the mystery out of the practice for newcomers.

“There are so many benefits of yoga,” she said. “It can build bone density, keep arthritic joints lubricated, help relieve chronic pain and help sciatica and back issues. It also helps with balance so we can avoid falls.”

Alta Sierra resident Jennifer Craig, now retired, said she thought yoga was just “standing on your head and meditating” prior to attending Hopper’s Yoga 101 workshop. That was two years ago, and she’s been hooked ever since.

“I just felt so comfortable and non-intimidated by the classes,” she said. “All the teachers really look out for you and are aware of any limitations a person may have. Students in my class range in age from 30 to 80. Six weeks after starting classes, I really started to notice a difference in flexibility and strength. Over the years, it’s easy not to notice that you’re gradually losing your muscles. These classes have changed my whole attitude.”

Comments like that make instructor Janet Rankin smile.

“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing I’m helping people,” she said. “My students are very warm and open with feedback, so I know I’m on track. If a student has specific needs, I always try to learn something new to accommodate them.”

Rankin teaches special “donation-only” class for cancer survivors, which she has found especially rewarding, she said.

All the 14-plus classes and workshops at Grass Valley Yoga — geared for all levels — focus on integrating breath with movement, developing awareness and alignment and increasing strength and flexibility, said Hopper.

“That crazy life in L.A. feels like a lifetime ago,” she said. “Yoga allows us to feel calm and strong at the same time. It teaches us patience (with ourselves and others), compassion and how to go with the flow. Yoga gives us the tools to be able to handle all that life throws at us, so we can live in a place of peace and ease. This is what I love sharing with the community. This is what I adore about yoga.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.

“Yoga gives us the tools to be able to handle all that life throws at us, so we can live in a place of peace and ease.”
Annie Hopper


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The Union Updated Mar 6, 2013 10:00AM Published Mar 5, 2013 12:54AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.