ELEGANT YOGA STUDIO OPENS DOORS ... Palo Alto's Midtown neighborhood is about to become home to one of the city's more unusual projects. Spanning two floors at almost 7,000 square feet, Samyama is a notably large yoga center with unusual flair. The building at 2995 Middlefield Road gives an outsider few clues as to what goes on inside. Situated on a formerly weedy vacant site that once housed a gas station, the contemporary, artsy glass-and-metal structure took nearly three years to construct, said Samyama's founder, 54-year-old Menlo Park resident John Berg. Add one more year to transform the interior into two yoga studios, a lounge with tea service, a retail store that sells yoga-related items, a massage room and spa-style bathrooms, and the vision that Berg had comes to life. The entrance is graced with lighted wall sculptures that lead into a dramatically curved, bamboo-adorned hallway. "We are more than a yoga center. We are a healing center. We want to build community. We want to encourage people to hang out here," Berg said, adding that the lounge is one area where people may choose to linger. The lounge is sumptuously decorated with what Berg refers to as "Alice-in-Wonderland-type furniture," with chandeliers that are also wind chimes, a purple leather throne-like chair, a long sofa whose back reaches up to form a triangle up the wall, and several sets of sheer curtains that divide the room into small nooks. "I call it tented-Moroccan style," Berg said. Even the elevator is elaborate. It has mood lighting and plush deep-purple curtains adorning the walls for the short trip to the second floor. Berg is most proud of his large yoga studio, named "Ascension." The floors, walls and ceiling are pure white. "People are moved when they enter this room. The space feels sacred. Some people cry. It feels like you're up in the clouds," he said. A former animator for Pixar Studios, Berg was diagnosed with lymphoma several years ago. During the healing process, he said: "Yoga found me. It changed me from 'what can I get' to 'what can I give.'" That was 15 years ago and Berg has been involved in yoga ever since. As a teacher he has found prominence in the local yoga community. "But I don't look at other yoga studios as competition, and I don't want them to view me as competition. ... There's room for all," he said. Samyama's grand opening is scheduled for April 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Yoga classes begin April 8.
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