My first Bird Rock Yoga class was neither in Bird Rock nor in a yoga studio. I wasn't even going to yoga. I was in the water north of Crystal Pier and noticed three yoga-clad people on the edge of the Palisades Park cliff - backs to the ocean, one at each end and one in the middle, all in a long distance conversation with each other.
Having the attention span of a dog chasing a shiny thing, I raced up the hill to investigate and ended up on a borrowed mat in one of three yoga sessions running side by side.
The class was so much fun that I waited afterward to ask what studio was responsible for the amazing, accidental class. The instructor said many local studios offered these classes for local charities, and that they were all great classes.
It was one of the other students who filled me in that our really awesome instructor was from Bird Rock Yoga (BRY), which is on Grand Avenue and Bayard Street in Pacific Beach .
From that introduction to BRY, it came as no surprise to hear that it is hosting free, guided meditations every Sunday. It also came as no surprise when BRY owner and director Heather Grisco shared with DiscoverSD that the meditations would be guided by Kevala founder Keith Donohue.
"Our intention at BRY in PB - and at our downtown location, The Little Yoga Studio - is to support our San Diego community in their own transformation," Grisco said, "first by making it accessible with beach and city spots, and by keeping it affordable and offering donation-based yoga and free meditations. Partnering with Kevala is just amazing. It's such a great organization and Keith is totally supportive of what BRY and LYS want to do - give people the opportunity to deepen their practice by sharing the traditions of yoga and meditations."
Yes, the pairing of an athletic apparel line with meditation and pranayama breath work does seem a bit odd. Until you get behind the scenes at Kevala.
My first encounter was a lot like my first BRY class. I had seen the tank tops with the affirmations written backward so that the words - love, strength, breathe - would reflect forward on yoga studio mirrors.
Then while I was attending a charity yoga class, the guy on the mat next to me was introduced as Kevala founder Keith Donohue. When I asked him about his work, he responded by pointing out colleagues in the room who were equally dedicated to giving back.
And again, it was another student who filled me in. Donohue had volunteered at organizations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico and selected 50 nonprofits to benefit from sales at Kevala.
When DiscoverSD caught up with Donohue at a Sunday meditation, he explained the connection.
"BRY is always looking to bring mindful events into their space, and that's exactly what Kevala aims for is to be mindful," Donohue said. "It's the same intention as these guided meditations. The backward affirmations inspire others to live at their highest potential. Our sustainable production methods and giving back are all about waking up, forgetting the sense of self, and living for others, which includes the planet and recognizing we are all the same."
No experience is necessary to join the meditation gatherings, and it's a great space to feel at home with yogis and non-yogis from all over SD. It's a guided practice with dharma talks based on Tara Brach's teachings and "The Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer.
"When you come in here forget whatever you've heard about meditation because the best way to free yourself is to step back and observe," Donohue said. "In 'The Untethered Soul,' Singer writes, 'The day you decide you are more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves - that is the day you will find your way out.' What we find on the other side is fearless love."
Free meditation and dharma
Where: Bird Rock Yoga, 910 Grand Ave., Suite 206, Pacific Beach
When: 7 p.m. Sundays
More info: BirdRockYoga.com, KevalaWear.com
Anna Mueco has been a student of hatha and kriya yoga since 2003. Mueco became a yoga instructor in 2006 and currently teaches in Pacific Beach. Send your thoughts about the yoga world to her at anna@HyperNinjaYoga.com.