Yoga Sanctuary Rises in Palo Alto

retail at entry

A cancer survivor builds a sumptuous yoga studio in Palo Alto


By Neil Gonzales

[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ohn Berg’s new ultra-luxurious yoga studio in Palo Alto was never the property owner’s expectation.

Completed in 2010, the new building replaced a vacant gas station. It was ready for stores, restaurants or maybe a bank, befitting the commercial vibe coming from the popular shopping plaza nearby in the tree-lined neighborhood known as Midtown. The sleek structure at 2995 Middlefield Road with its green-tinged, glass-wall windows and a latticed appearance from the heat-reducing louvers around the second-story exterior has many environmentally friendly elements.

Then Berg popped his idea on the landlord: Why not lease the entire two-story, 6,500-square-foot building to a high-end yoga studio consistent with the technological and cultural sophistication of Silicon Valley? Erik Corrigan, a real estate investor and broker, was intrigued. “He never thought he was going to get so lucky and have one guy take it for 10 years,” said Berg, 54, who became deeply committed to yoga after being diagnosed with lymphoma a number of years ago.

[quote]“Every choice I made for the center I tried to think of what would be inviting and comfortable but also respectful to the environment and beautiful.” John Berg, owner & founder, Samyama Yoga Center[/quote]

“But the owner is thrilled,” said Berg, cancer-free and looking fit and trim. “He has given me essentially carte blanche. He says, ‘What you’re doing to this building is so far beyond what we ever imagined.’”

It’s true, Corrigan said. The building shell, now owned by a Corrigan family partnership, is the handiwork of Palo Alto architect Ken Hayes of The Hayes Group. It has 22-foot ceilings on the first floor and 16-foot ceilings on the second that “allow dramatic open spaces,” Corrigan said. “As I broker I knew that tenants gravitate toward interesting properties.”

Work on the Samyama Yoga Center began last summer. Its design sits head-and-shoulders above the strip-mall studios that have popped up across the country. Expected to open in April, Samyama features ultramodern amenities that belie the ancient practice it embraces. The first floor has a dedicated retail shop, spa-quality restrooms, a massage-therapy area and a lounge. Upstairs, a stunning main studio and a smaller, more intimate one await practitioners of yoga, a spiritual discipline involving stretching, breathing and meditation that originated more than 5,000 years ago on the Indian subcontinent.

Throughout, the center boasts state-of-the-art mechanical systems, including lighting and sound that can be controlled by iPad or iPhone. The energy-efficient systems follow standards established by the building’s shell construction, which earned LEED Gold certification. The center also incorporates renewable and alternative materials such as bamboo, a hardy and sustainable resource.

“Every choice I made for the center, I tried to think of what would be inviting and comfortable but also respectful to the environment and beautiful,” said Berg, Samyama’s founder and lead instructor. He worked closely with design firm Brick LLP in Berkeley and San Francisco-based BCCI Construction Co. to realize his vision for the interiors. The luxurious appearance ultimately is supposed to help yoga enthusiasts find true inner healing as well as a sense of communal harmony.

“I wanted this thing to be breathing with energy, life, art and beauty because what it’s about really is the experience,” said Berg, whose background in music (playing keyboards for 1990s band The Spent Poets) and technology (jobs at computer-animation studio Pixar and other firms) permeates Samyama’s design.

“If it’s a place that’s unpleasant, or if it isn’t kept up, or if it doesn’t have the facilities, or if it doesn’t provide a nice place to relax and hang out, [it’s just] a hole-in-the-wall,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve studied at them. But there’s nothing ever been done to really create community as the main focus.”

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